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Suharto assets - Letter from the Indonesia Human Rights Committee

20 April, 2000.

Rt Hon Mr Phil Goff,

Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Parliament Buildings,


Dear Phil Goff,

I am enclosing a copy of the speech of Dr George Aditjondro to our "Towards Democracy in Indonesia" conference. As you know Dr Aditjondro is the leading international researcher into the Suharto family's world-wide wealth.

We share Dr Aditjondro's view that the issue of the Suharto wealth is an international issue, and we hope that you will give serious consideration to the request to conduct a Parliamentary Select Committee enquiry into the assets of the Suhartos in New Zealand. Indonesian investigators looking into the Suharto family corruption scandal have said that Suharto's bank accounts and other internal assets may be frozen. We should do everything we can to support this proposal, especially by undertaking to freeze the known Suharto assets in New Zealand.

Dr Aditjondro describes how President Suharto gained his wealth through a system of setting up monopoly companies in strategic economic sectors, setting up 'yayasans' -ostensibly charitable foundations - and merging private companies with state institutions. It is well know that in the Suharto era all major businesses had to contribute shares or positions to Suharto family members if they wished to be successful. The Suharto oligarchy also relied on the support of key sections of the Indonesian military and military style gangs and vigilantes such as the Pemuda Pancasila or Pancasila Youth.

Suharto family financial interests are globalised through a vast network of overseas based companies which have been used to hide the capital which was acquired domestically. There are also many Suharto family bank branches operating in the money laundering centres of the Caribbean and South Pacific.

The United Nations estimates that half of the children in Indonesia are malnourished and millions do not have enough to eat. The Government is proposing new austerity measures and removal of subsidies on basic commodities such as rice and fuel - poverty must escalate. Dr Aditjondro estimates that in total the Suharto wealth may amount to as much as US$100 billion. The Suharto billions should be repatriated and used to ease hardship and suffering.

The previous government gave permission to Suharto family and cronies to buy land here and to invest in New Zealand businesses. Although these investments were acquired legally, the Suharto fortune that paid for them was obtained corruptly. Now that the Suharto regime has been exposed as anti-democratic and unscrupulous, it is our responsibility to the Indonesian people to investigate the extent of these ill-gotten gains.

This investigation should not wait until there is a request from the Indonesian Government because it is constrained in its efforts to bring Suharto to account by powerful business and military interests beholden to the Suharto family. The pervasive influence of these crony connections serves as an insurance for the former dictator, and as a very effective brake on any investigation which would cause too many heads to roll.

Suharto is now subject to a travel ban but many believe that the corruption investigation lacks teeth, and Suharto repeatedly fails to show up for the hearings. President Wahid has said that if Suharto is found guilty he would pardon him. In the last week hundreds of students have been protesting outside Suharto's residence and defying police gunfire to demand that Suharto be brought to trial,

Murray Horton of the Campaign Against Foreign Control in Aotearoa points out that the Suharto family wealth in Aotearoa is not limited to their probable continuing interest in the South Island properties of Lilybank and the Queenstown Goldfield chalets purchased by Titiek Prabowo Suharto's daughter. There is also the issue of Suharto family involvement in major corporate holdings in this country. Brierleys is linked through its 20% owner Delham Investments to the Camerlin group which in turn is owned by Indonesia's Salim Group which is controlled by Suharto crony Liem Sioe Liong. Tommy Suharto son of the former dictator is listed as a director of a Brierley's subsidiary Mandala Nusantara Ltd.

New Zealand has a reputation for taking independent foreign policy initiatives. An enquiry into the Suharto assets here would be a catalyst for similar investigations elsewhere, and would be a significant step along the way to returning the wealth to the people who have the most right to it and the most need of it.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater

(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

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