Graft Convict's Jakarta Lunch Sparks Fury in Indonesia

Arie Firdaus

2015-09-25
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150925-ID-gayus-620 Anti-corruption activists kick a ball at a placard bearing portraits of graft convict and tax official Gayus Tambunan, after he was caught on an illegal jaunt outside prison, Dec. 9, 2010.
AFP

Activist and legal experts are demanding that the Indonesian government get serious about prison reform after a notorious embezzlement convict was photographed at a Jakarta restaurant earlier this month.

It was not the first jaunt outside jail by Gayus Tambunan, a former employee of Indonesia’s tax authority who was sentenced in 2012 to 30 years in prison and was supposed to be serving his term at Sukamiskin Penitentiary in Bandung, West Java.

His day of freedom shows that money still talks, Muhammad Isnur, an activist from Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) Jakarta, told BenarNews.

“The rich ones can easily get out of prison. Gayus Tambunan’s case is proof,” Isnur said.

Isnur questioned Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly’s pledge at the start of his term in October 2014 to reform prison management.

“Didn’t he say that there would be no difference in treatment between rich and the poor prisoners?” he added.

Arief Sidharta, a legal expert from Parahyangan University in Bandung, also questioned whether the minister would follow through on his promise.

“Where’s the reform that the ministry always boasts about?” he told BenarNews.

Yasonna should not take the case lightly because upon it rests the Indonesian people’s faith in rule of law in the country, he said.

“This is an indication that there should be a total reform in prison management. Not just its facilities but also its human resources,” Arief said.

Repeat offender?

This was not the first time that Gayus, a disgraced former tax officer convicted on four graft cases to do with taxes, had been spotted roaming freely in public since his March 2010 arrest.

In November 2010, he was photographed sitting among spectators at an international tennis match in Bali. Gayus was disguised in a wig and pair of glasses.

He was also found to have travelled to Macau, Thailand and Malaysia. In court in 2011, Gayus said he took the trip for medical reasons, but also did some gambling.

Officials at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry said Gayus was allowed out of Sukamiskin prison to attend a court hearing for his divorce.

Arief called that a flimsy reason.

“For a civil case such as divorce, he could have sent a representative; there was no need for him to attend himself,” he said.

Under a 1999 government regulation on granting convicts a furlough from prison, he said, an inmate is only allowed out for a death in the family, an ailing child or when serving as guardian for a marriage.

Arief urged Yasonna to investigate allegations that prison wardens took bribes from Gayus.

LBH Jakarta’s Muhammad Isnur compared the case with that of another inmate who was barely permitted to attend his child’s funeral.

“He had difficulties getting permission to leave prison, he was even handcuffed during the funeral,” Isnur said.

“But Gayus? It’s like he was mocking the law by popping up in public places. Even if he had permission to attend his divorce hearing, he should not have gone to the restaurant, he

should have returned directly to prison and he should have been closely guarded,” Isnur said.

Risking his remission rights

Directorate General of Penitentiaries spokesman Akbar Hadi said his office would take firm action against Gayus and prison wardens found to have let him out.

“There will be administrative sanctions for the wardens,” Akbar said, though he didn’t elaborate what those penalties would be.

Gayus has now been transferred to the maximum security Gunung Sindur penitentiary in Bogor, West Java, a special prison for drug kingpins.

He could also lose his right to have his sentence shortened, Akbar said.

“His remission will be reconsidered,” he said.

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