Australian Interview: Wiranto Comes Out Swinging
The Australian 12 February 2000
Wiranto defends Timor role
After a week-long stand-off with his President, Indonesia's former armed forces chief General Wiranto comes out fighting in an interview with MICHAEL WARE
Q: Will you continue to uphold your proven commitment to democracy and the constitution even though that may mean you have to sacrifice your position in the cabinet?
A: My commitment to democracy and the constitution has been proven over and over again during a number of very crucial times in the nation's recent history. This commitment I am most certainly going to maintain. Concerning my position in the cabinet, this depends completely on the President because he is the one who appointed me.
Q: Are you going to resign as the President requested? Does the President, without any real evidence or legal base, have the right to ask you to resign or is it only for political purposes?
A: I am sorry, but with something as sensitive as this I am not going to make any assumptions. Let's just wait and see.
Q: The academic Arbi Sunit hinted this week that a process of de-Wirantoising the military is taking place so as to limit your influence. Do you feel that your time of importance is coming to an end?
A: I have never tried to build up a powerbase to maintain my position or take over power. The officers I appointed to important positions are the very best. They were chosen by a process that was honest and open. They were chosen based on their morality, quality, acceptability and track records.
Q: How do you explain what happened in East Timor? Why wasn't TNI able to control the situation? To what extend did TNI personnel help or support those who were behind the violence?
A: The duty of helping to carry out the ballot put a tremendous burden on TNI's shoulders. This responsibility was very difficult because in a period of only three months we had to be able to ensure the safety and security during the ballot. The following proves that we did our very best to prepare for the balloting: Encouraging the signing of a peace agreement between the two factions (pro-independence and pro-autonomy) on April 21, 1999.
Facilitating the signing of the armistice in Jakarta on June 15, 1999. Unfortunately, only the pro-integration forces followed the agreement. Increasing the number of police personnel.
Insisting on the neutrality of TNI in the contest.
Accepting foreign police advisers and liaison officers.
Advising the pro-integration forces to turn their armed struggle into a political one. Receiving foreign observers.
Until the very moment that the balloting was carried out on August 30, 1999, the security situation was well maintained by Indonesia. Proof of this is seen by the fact that more than 4000 foreigners stayed in East Timor for up to three months without one single fatality.
The riots only started on September 4, after the announcement of the results of the ballot.
At this time, the riots were ignited by what the pro-integration forces saw as irregularities, or unfairness, on the part of the local UNAMET staff and how their complaints to UNAMET about this fact were ignored. This injustice is what inflamed the emotions of the pro-integration forces. TNI never predicted that this might happen. Our lack of foresight is what hindered us from taking quicker action.
On September 6 after martial law had been declared we were able to bring things under control.
We admit that though the riot only lasted three days the damage done was very great and most regrettable.
We also do not deny that a few members of the police and armed forces, especially indigenous East Timorese, were involved in the violence that took place. A number of them were arrested and punished. Some deserted and are still being sought by the authorities.
Q: Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim has said the Australian military was active in East Timor since before the Interfet forces arrived. In your opinion, is this true?
A:There is significant evidence that strongly indicates that secret flights were carried out over the southern part of East Timor between May and July of 1999. I would also like to mention that it appears that after such flights there was a build-up in Falintil arms in the field.
One thing is for sure, it cannot be denied that Australian personnel were actively supporting the Falintil.
Q: Major-General Zacky Anwar stated that a detailed plan was drawn up for East Timor. The Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation has described this plan as having been "carefully planned and orchestrated". How great was the scope of this plan? How much were you involved, if at all, in the preparation of this plan?
A: What Major-General Zacky Anwar was referring to was the contingent plan made by TNI headquarters in case of security problems. Such plans are in accordance to normal military procedures in any military operation. The main point of this plan was how to protect people, including UNAMET personnel, and facilities. The plan absolutely had nothing to do with murder or the destruction of public property.
It should also be noted that Major-General Zacky Anwar was outside the structure of the military at the time.
Q: Do you feel that TNI failed to carry out its duty to maintain security and protect the people and the property of East Timor?
A: What happened in East Timor on September 4, 1999, was caused by an angry mob. The anger of the pro-integration group was the direct result of what they considered unfair activity by UNAMET local staff and the fact that their protests fell on deaf ears.
TNI and the police did their very best to control the situation and maintain law and order, but still there were victims and extensive destruction. A number of homes were destroyed by their pro-integration owners. They were not willing to see their homes handed over to the anti-integration groups after they were to leave East Timor.
Q: It appears that there is no legal basis for directly associating you with the violence in East Timor. As TNI commander at the time, do you accept moral or political responsibility for what happened? If not, who should be considered responsible?
A: I am not going to comment on that for the moment. Conclusions are still being formed and it is better to wait. I tried to do my duty sincerely and wholeheartedly. Responsibility to maintain stability before and during the ballot was done well.
Don't forget the success of the balloting brought praise from overseas between August 31 and September 4.
It is extremely regrettable this success was tarnished by the unfair behaviour of local UNAMET staff, 99 per cent of whom were recruited from anti-integration groups. This is what triggered the riots and the fact the results were announced on September 4 rather than September 7, as planned.
Q: According to a number of media reports, President Abdurrahman Wahid has planned forming a Commission of Truth and Reconciliation. Do you accept such a commission?
A: Whatever is done for the good of Indonesia I will support. Moreover, I feel that the formation of some sort of commission of truth and reconciliation is in line with what was stated by Xanana Gusmao when he visited Jakarta. He said we should all forget the past and focus on forging a new future for Indonesia and the country of Timor Lorasac. I agree.
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