M. Taufiqurrahman and Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
A witness testified on Monday in the trial between well-connected businessman Tomy Winata against Tempo magazine that the city administration strayed from its original plan to modestly renovate the Tanah Abang textile market after the fire on Feb. 19, but instead embarked on an ambitious plan to build an 18-story shopping center.
Councillor Dani Anwar of the Justice Party faction with the City Council Commission B on economic affairs told a hearing at the Central Jakarta District Court that a construction consultant had come with a proposal to build a four-story market building long before fire razed the market.
""Governor Sutiyoso liked the proposal and agreed to renovate the market based on the scheme. He also agreed to finance the renovation from the city budget,"" he told the courtroom.
For unknown reasons Sutiyoso suddenly changed his mind and decided to invite four other private companies to bid for the market renovation days after the fire.
When asked to identify the four companies, Dani only said: ""I can't recall them, but I have them on my files.
Dani said he got all the information from frequent meetings on the issue with relevant agencies of the administration.
The city traditional market operator PD Pasar Jaya named developer PT Priamanaya Djan International (PDI) in December for the first phase of the renovation estimated at Rp 600 billion (US$71.4 million) but was silent when asked about PDI's background and performance.
Tempo magazine's report on the fire brought chief editor Bambang Harymurti and journalists Ahmad Taufik and T. Iskandar Ali to court after Tomy filed a lawsuit because of the article 'Is there Tomy in Tenabang?' that hinted at his involvement in the fire.
The three were charged with publishing a report that could provoke public disorder and could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Presiding judge Andriani Nurdin adjourned the trial on Feb. 24 to hear other witnesses.
In a related development, head of the National Police Forensic Laboratory Brig. Gen. Dudon Satiaputra said the investigation into the fire had to be terminated due to lack of evidence after almost a year had lapsed since the incident took place.
""The case is closed because we could not find any evidence as it has been buried under the rubble and debris from the fire,"" he told the press. ""There is no hope for the police to find out what caused the fire.""
He revealed that the fire started from the lower floor of the four-story building and the evidence was presumably buried under the rubble after the upper floors collapsed.