Wiranto denies Abri is still loyal to Suharto

Indonesia’s military chief, General Wiranto, yesterday brushed aside allegations that the armed forces (Abri) was still loyal and receiving orders from former President Suharto.

Slamming news reports as “exaggerated and inaccurate”, he maintained that there was “no secret relations between me and Pak Harto”.

“I want to clear any perception and rumours that Abri is loyal to him,” he said.

Gen Wiranto, who formerly served as Mr Suharto’s adjutant from 1989 to 1993, said that they still had personal links, stressing that the family-like closeness between Indonesians should be preserved.

“I cannot just refuse or be scared to see him after what has happened to him,” he said. “Our culture does not permit that.”

He added that he was not alone in having links with Mr Suharto and that “every official who had served and known him was also close”. He pointed to Cabinet ministers, senior Abri officers and President B.J. Habibie as examples.

He explained that such ties were different from formal organisational links.

He said: “Abri has no more links with Pak Harto. When he was Supreme Commander, he could give his views and orders. But now that type of relationship does not exist anymore.

“And Pak Harto is a good Indonesian. He understands that he is not in a position to do such things.”

The general’s comments take place against a backdrop of suggestions that the military was allowing “old political forces” to return.

Abri’s socio-political chief Lieutenant-General Bambang Yudhoyono said last week that the military would never allow such forces to make a comeback.

“It is illogical, unrealistic and antagonistic if old political forces want to run the state’s affairs,” he said.

Gen Wiranto also took the opportunity yesterday to clarify other controversial issues pertaining to Abri. He said that the recent military reshuffle had nothing to do with speculation that “it was unnatural”. They were routine transfers, he said.

“Abri is not a public company,” he said. “We have the authority to move officers and people should respect that without scrutinising every step we make.”

Turning to allegations that student leaders were abducted by the military, he admitted for the first time that “some military elements” were involved.

He said Abri would work closely with the National Commission on Human Rights to resolve the matter.

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