We stand by generals, says TNI

Chief Widodo pledges Indonesian military’s backing for top brass implicated in East Timor imbroglio.

INDONESIA’S armed forces (TNI) chief Admiral Widodo yesterday said that the military was standing by its beleaguered generals implicated in the East Timor imbroglio as the TNI began to flex its muscles against the civilian-led government.

Just days after President Abdurrahman Wahid said that he would not the support former commander, General Wiranto, and other senior officers alleged to have committed human rights abuses in East Timor after it voted for independence, the TNI chief vowed to extend “moral support” for those under investigation.

“TNI will give full moral support to the officers who will be summoned by the human rights investigation commission,” he said.

“I just want to say that TNI appreciates efforts to uphold the law. The summons of the generals should be done in accordance with the principles of presumption of innocence… They only implemented the state’s orders.”

Admiral Widodo, a close ally of Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Wiranto who propped up the former navy chief for the No. 1 job in the military, is said to have made the remarks in response to a reporter’s question.

Diplomatic sources said that he could have been influenced significantly after consultations with the four-star general, who was said to be “under great pressure and becoming increasingly restless” as charges – not just on East Timor, but also allegations of corruption brought to the attention of the Attorney-General’s Office – continued to be levelled against him.

An Indonesian human rights commission investigating atrocities in East Timor had demanded that he be held responsible for the post-ballot violence carried out by military-backed, pro- integration forces.

Its case appears to have strengthened after a United Nations team announced yesterday that it had received similar evidence that the TNI was involved in acts of terror.

If Mr Abdurrahman is attempting to distance himself from Gen Wiranto and other officers who were perceived as a “politicalliability”, the TNI on its part is closing ranks fast.

Noted an army general: “We don’t really have a choice but to come together when we are under pressure and blamed unfairly for what we were ordered to do by the state. We will have to respond if the civilians keep pushing us into a corner.”

Despite being replaced as military commander, Gen Wiranto can still count on the support of a number of generals holding key appointments for support.

Indonesian intelligence sources told The Straits Times that he had at least a “50 per cent grip” on the military, though that might grow tenuous with time.

Besides Admiral Widodo, Gen Wiranto is said to be still close to the chiefs of the Special Forces (Kopassus), Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad), and new heads of state intelligence and military intelligence.

Analysts said the military’s response of vowing to support the accused generals and, more importantly, pointing out that they acted on behalf of the state, was a clear sign that the TNI was flexing its muscles to recover its wounded pride.

But senior military officers said talk of a Pakistan-style coup making its rounds in Jakarta now was unfounded.

Said the Chief of Territorial Affairs, Lieutenant-General Agus Widjoyo: “There has never been a tradition of military coups in Indonesia because we are aware that having one will only ignite counter-coups.

“If there are going to be changes in this country, it’ll be done constitutionally.”

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