Gus Dur to let the courts decide Wiranto’s fate

The President’s lack of support for the former military strongman, accused of human-rights abuses in E. Timor, signals army’s power base weakening.

INDONESIAN President Abdurrahman Wahid has refused to defend one-time military strongman General Wiranto against alleged human-rights abuses in East Timor.

In what political observers believe is an attempt to distance himself from the four-star general, he told reporters that he would allow the investigation into the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs to run its full course and let the courts decide his fate.

“I will not be swayed by any temptation,” news reports yesterday quoted him as saying in response to questions on whether Gen Wiranto would be discharged from his ministerial post if found guilty. “What is important is that we accept the decision of the court … Therefore, once Pak Wiranto is found guilty, he automatically quits.”

An Indonesian human-rights commission investigating atrocities in East Timor after the territory’s vote for independence, had demanded that Gen Wiranto, who was then commander of the armed forces (TNI), be responsible for the post-ballot violence carried out by military-backed, pro-integration forces.

The team, which is backed by the National Human Rights Commission headed by Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman, has sought the President’s permission to question the general and other senior officers they believe were responsible for the East Timor mayhem.

Its preliminary findings tally with that of a United Nations inquiry, which is looking into setting up a war crimes tribunal for Indonesian generals.

The TNI has lashed out at both commissions for their criticism of the military’s role in East Timor and accused them of bowing to pressure at home and abroad.

Noted Major-General Agus Wirahahikusumah of the South Sulawesi military command: “Now, it seems that the generals are being tried by the public. We should avoid a public trial.”

Senior military sources said that Mr Abdurrahman was trying to juggle domestic and international pressures on the issue vis-a-vis the beleaguered military whose credibility is at its lowest point in decades.

Said an army general: “It is not politically correct for the President to defend Gen Wiranto and the TNI. That could backfire and weaken his position, especially internationally.”

The source disclosed that the President could have calculated that it is possible to “sacrifice one or two generals to appease Western nations”, so that they would “owe us one” by supporting Indonesia’s Aceh policy.

“If Gus Dur does not handle this the way some countries want, then it will be very difficult for him to get their blessings if he needs to send in troops to keep Aceh part of Indonesia.”

But can the President afford to sideline Gen Wiranto and the TNI which were instrumental in propping up the ailing and semi-blind Islamic cleric so he could be Indonesia’s fourth leader more than two months ago?

Analysts are sceptical that he will, given the TNI’s continued, albeit weakened, hold on national politics.

But insiders suggest that this is changing gradually as the 30-million-strong Nadhlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organisation in the country that Mr Abdurrahman once headed, emerged as the new power centre in Indonesian politics.

A senior military officer conceded: “The President might have relied a lot on Gen Wiranto and the military in the first weeks of setting up his administration.

“We are no longer a factor because he does not bother to listen to what we have to say on Aceh or any other matter.

“He trusts his inner circle and religious scholars more. The military’s ties with the President are on a downward spiral.”

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