Jakarta asks tycoon not to leave country

THE Indonesian authorities have asked prominent business tycoon Sofyan Wanandi to remain in the country pending an official appeal to ban him from travelling overseas because of his possible involvement in a bomb blast last month.

Immigration Directorate spokesman M. A. Ghani was quoted by Antara national news agency as saying that the request was issued by the department head last Thursday as a “proactive measure” while waiting for an official request from relevant government agencies to ban him from travelling.

He said: “We have asked him to postpone any planned departures from the country. We are not imposing a travel ban on him yet.”

He added that the directorate-general had no legal power to bar a person from travelling abroad without a request from either the country’s Attorney-General, armed forces chief, Justice Minister or Finance Minister.

The Attorney-General would issue requests for a travel ban on criminal suspects, while such requests from the military chief, Finance and Justice ministers concerned security and unpaid debts.

Mr Ghani did not indicate which agency had sought to impose the ban on Mr Wanandi, who met intelligence officers last week to clear allegations that he had links with the banned People’s Democratic Party (PRD) suspected to be behind moves to destabilise Indonesia before the presidential election.

Military sources told The Straits Times that while the Gemala Group head was “cleared of the allegations for now”, he would still be a suspect in connection with helping the PRD make a bomb which went off prematurely in an apartment in Central Jakarta.

Jakarta military commander Syafrie Syamsuddin warned that the longtime associate of President Suharto would be taken to court if new evidence was found implicating him in the plot.

The security authorities said it had so far found a copy of an e-mail message at the blast site, which mentioned Mr Wanandi and claimed he would provide funds to the PRD.

His brother, Jusuf, who chairs the board of the independent Centre for Strategic and International Studies think-tank, was also mentioned, as were Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation chief Hendardi and Mr Alex Flor of the German-based Watch Indonesia Group.

Meanwhile, relatives of Amir Biki, a Muslim figure who was shot dead in a military operation here in 1984, rallied at the House of Representatives on Monday to demand the prosecution of Mr Wanandi and another Indonesian-Chinese businessman, Mr Liem Sioe Liong.

The group’s leader, Mr Rusly Biki, said that the two were responsible for the country’s current economic woes.

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