- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2001

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The nations new justice minister has won praise and even a comparison to legendary FBI agent Eliot Ness for his initial efforts to clean up the countrys corrupt court system.
The minister, Baharuddin Lopa, has been on the job for just over three months, but the influential newsmagazine Tempo already has compared him to Ness, the incorruptible Prohibition-era federal agent who brought gangster Al Capone to justice.
Amid the dashed hopes of President Abdurrahman Wahids administration, Mr. Lopas efforts to establish the supremacy of law stand out.
"Over the past year the appointment of Lopa might be the best thing that the Wahid administration has had," a Western diplomat said.
When Mr. Wahid became the countrys first democratically elected president 19 months ago, he carried with him the hopes of reformers who trusted that the fight against corruption was one of his major goals.
But reformers complain Mr. Wahid and his attorney general, Marzuki Darusman, have failed in their efforts to bring to justice members of the former Suharto regime and its cronies, who siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of state funds during Suhartos 32-year rule.
At the same time, legislators have accused Mr. Wahid of financial irregularities totaling $6 million.
Even though Indonesias attorney general last week halted investigations into those financial scandals, legislators appear undaunted.
They are to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to begin formal impeachment proceedings against the president after issuing two earlier censure motions.
The first censure, on Feb. 1, prompted Mr. Wahids government to step up its fight against corruption.
Mr. Lopa, 65, has a broad portfolio that includes human rights.
" needs to show to the people … that his government has a commitment to combat corruption, so that he can recover his power," said Teten Masduki, of Indonesia Corruption Watch, a nongovernmental organization.
Aside from his anti-corruption efforts, Mr. Lopa met with leading legislators in late April in an unsuccessful attempt to ask them to call off plans for the second censure of the president.
Mr. Lopa was ambassador to Saudi Arabia when Mr. Wahid called him for Cabinet duty. But it was during his earlier years as a district attorney on Sulawesi island that he earned his "untouchable" reputation.
According to Tempo, Mr. Lopa once bravely jailed a crook with close ties to senior officials in Jakarta and Sulawesi.
In 1986, he tried to get rid of a judge for taking bribes, but the Jakarta bureaucrats got in Mr. Lopas way. They fired him.
In his new post, Mr. Lopa wasted no time in living up to expectations. Since taking office on Feb. 12 he has warned judges and other officials against accepting bribes and forbidden judges from meeting with lawyers and their clients.
He has also transferred Bob Hasan, the first Suharto crony to be imprisoned, from a Jakarta jail to an island prison known as Indonesias Alcatraz. Mr. Hasan was earlier sentenced to six years for a $243 million forestry funds scam.
Also, he fired, demoted or otherwise punished 12 senior judges and 15 other ministry officials.
H.S. Dillon, a member of the attorney generals Joint Anti-Corruption Team probing judicial wrongdoing, said Mr. Lopa faces an uphill battle. "He will not be able to do much, but its good to have him there. Hes up against the entire system," Mr. Dillon said.
Mr. Dillons team was investigating two Supreme Court justices over complaints they each received $5,000 bribes. The court responded in March by essentially ruling the team illegal.


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