The death toll from the car bombing and fire at the Jakarta Stock Exchange rose to 15 today as speculation mounted that supporters of ex-dictator Suharto might be responsible.
Frustrated that escalating violence is destabilizing his year-old reformist administration, President Abdurrahman Wahid demanded quick arrests.
‘No One Is Above the Law’ “I want the police chief and the attorney general not to hesitate to act against suspects regardless of their position or status,” Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simanjuntak quoted Wahid as saying during an emergency Cabinet meeting. “No one is above the law in this country.”
Wednesday’s blast rocked the capital’s downtown financial district — the day before a court resumed its hearing into charges of corruption against the former president. And bombings have coincided with every major stage of a state investigation against Suharto, who ruled Indonesia for 32 years until violent demonstrations forced him to quit in 1998.
The latest bombing “could be a terrorist act because the way it went off was similar to other bombs that exploded moments before or after the former president’s investigation and trial,” National Police Chief Gen. Rusdihardjo was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.
Suharto’s lawyers refused to comment.
Is He Fit for Trial? Meanwhile, the proceedings in Suharto’s case resumed today in a south Jakarta court, with a five-judge panel asking doctors whether the former leader — 79 years old and the victim of three strokes — is fit for trial.
Suharto’s 23-doctor medical team was in court, all in white hospital coats. Three of the physicians testified that the strokes had damaged the former autocrat’s brain. He also suffers from hypertension, kidney stones, heart problems and diabetes.
“The next threat to his health, which could include any stressful event, will worsen other previous ailments,” said Teguh Ranahkusuma, the head of Suharto’s medical team. “The next threat will be fatal.”
Government physicians say Suharto is fit enough to face court. The former president’s attorneys have suggested that if the courts cannot decide which medical opinion is correct, they should seek the opinion of independent foreign physicians.
Across town, Jakarta police spokesman Lt. Col. Nur Usman said rescuers had recovered all the bodies from the stock exchange building’s burned-out underground garage.
In addition to the dead, at least 27 people were injured, some critically. The blast damaged or destroyed 400 vehicles in the three-level garage filled with cars and drivers waiting for their stockbroker bosses to finish work.
No one has claimed responsibility.
Most of the dead suffocated in thick black smoke. Some were found in the charred remains of their vehicles. Smoke filled the exchange’s trading room and other offices, forcing the evacuation of about 1,000 workers.
The attack occurred without warning 45 minutes before the markets closed. Hours before the afternoon explosion, the stock market’s main index hit a 12-month low. After the blast, trading was suspended until Monday.
The bombing was a major blow to Wahid’s efforts to restore confidence in Indonesia’s crisis-ridden economy and end violence across the world’s fourth-most populous nation.