Wiranto criticised for doubts over rapes

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

ARMED Forces (Abri) chief General Wiranto has come under fire for casting doubt on allegations of mass rapes of mainly ethnic Chinese Indonesian women during the May riots in the capital.

Mr Marzuki Darusman, head of the government-appointed team investigating the riots, which claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, described the comments as “premature”.

He was also “shocked” at the remarks, given an earlier agreement between the team and the government that no comment would be made ahead of the panel’s report – scheduled for release on Oct 23.

“It must be made clear to both the international and the Indonesian communities that Abri’s latest statement over the rapes has been a premature one and it could raise questions that could cause trouble for all of us,” The Jakarta Post quoted him as saying yesterday.

Gen Wiranto said on Sunday that Abri had made “various efforts”, including checks at hospitals here and abroad, to find rape victims but to no avail.

But Mr Marzuki said that when the team’s preliminary report was given to Abri two weeks ago, there was a consensus that rapes did take place.

Human-rights activists and non-governmental organisations have claimed that 168 women, mostly ethnic Chinese, were gang-raped or sexually assaulted.

They also believe that at least 20 of the victims died.

Mr Marzuki said there was good “operational coordination” with the three Abri members in the team and with military units.

“So we are shocked because there has been some sort of ‘dualism’ within Abri itself – between its leaders and its members in the team … What is the point of Abri leaders making a statement that only confuses the public?” he said.

“I want to emphasise again that the rapes did occur. Now we are investigating their magnitude.”

He said Abri’s denial on its 53rd anniversary could mean the government and military had decided to announce a “final policy statement” on the issue.

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