Abri says ‘sorry’ in ads
THE Indonesian armed forces (Abri) in an unprecedented move took out advertisements in three major newspapers yesterday to express condolences for the 14 people who died during last week’s bloody crackdown by the military.
Aides of Abri chief General Wiranto said that it was also aimed at “diffusing tensions and trying to regain the confidence of society in the military and its commander”.
The half and quarter-page advertisements which were carried in Indonesia’s leading daily Kompas, Media Indonesia and Jawa Pos read: “With deepest sincerity, we express our condolences for the deaths of students, members of the public and security apparatus during the special session of the People’s Consultative Assembly.”
A two-star army general said the main aim of the advertisement, which he said was a reflection of “new thinking” in the military, was to “share in the sorrow” of the people killed on Friday.
“It is a humane act. But a desired by-product of this could be to calm nerves.”
Students, university lecturers, some Islamic leaders and the local media have launched a mounting campaign against the military after the crackdown.
Thousands of students in nationwide demonstrations have called on Gen Wiranto, who is also Defence Minister, to accept responsibility for the shootings and to resign.
Student activists contacted said “the advertisements did not mean anything unless the military states that it would carry out an investigation into the deaths”.
Meanwhile, about 2,000 students gathered in central Jakarta yesterday to mourn colleagues killed in the clashes. Some 30 troops looked on as 300 to 400 members of the Student Action Front for Reform and Democracy shouted slogans and sang songs.
President B.J. Habibie pledged earlier this week that the government would carry out a thorough investigation into “Black Friday”.
Separately, State Secretary Akbar Tandjung said that Gen Wiranto would “give clarifications of what happened in due time”.
Senior military officers, meanwhile, are standing firmly by their commander.
Abri’s Chief of General Staff Lieutenant-General Fachrul Razi was quoted in newspapers yesterday as saying: “I think that calling for Pak Wiranto to resign is going too far.”
Insiders said there was deep-seated concern within the powerful establishment that last week’s demonstrations and resulting violence were staged by “a third party” out to discredit the general.
Islamic leader Abdurrahman Wahid, head of the Nadhlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim organisation, said: “This is a calculated attempt by Muslim fanatics to undermine the political credibility of a general known for his moderate views.”
A senior presidential aide said Dr Habibie would not replace Gen Wiranto for some time yet given the alternatives offered by anti-Wiranto groups “are not appealing at this stage”.
He said: “Gen Wiranto is a tough and no-nonsense officer. Habibie cannot survive without him.”