Subject: ST: Quitting Will Prove I'm Guilty: Wiranto

Transcript of the Wiranto Interview follows

Straits Times [Singapore] Feb 8 2000

Quitting will prove I'm guilty: Wiranto

But he leaves open the possibility that he may resign if the President demands it on his return


JAKARTA -- Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs Wiranto, rejecting any personal responsibility for the atrocities in East Timor, said yesterday he was not resigning his Cabinet post since it would be seen as an admission of guilt.

In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times one week after a government-backed human-rights panel implicated him in the violence that devastated the former Indonesian province, he said:

"In this country, if a person resigns from office, it can be interpreted as an admission of guilt, and admission of wrongdoing. I have performed my duty for my country to the best of my ability. I have never committed any kind of unlawful activity, and I am proud of my record."

But he left open the possibility he might resign if President Abdurrahman Wahid demanded it on his return this weekend, saying he did not want to talk about the issue in the media until he had a chance to discuss the "current situation" with the Indonesian leader.

Looking at times pained that the world saw him as a "barbarian", he blasted panel members as anti-military and biased and challenged them to find a "single evidence against me concerning unlawful activity".

He, on the other hand, had documentary proof that he did everything possible to ensure troops respected the rights of the East Timorese, including independence.

During the interview at his residence, he showed a video-compact disc, dubbed in English, of a ceremony last April when both pro-independence and pro-Indonesia Timorese signed a peace pact he brokered.

"Trust me that I always tried to create peace in all of Indonesia," he said.

And the former military chief took a swipe at Washington, commonly perceived as the main impetus behind an international commission of inquiry which also implicated him in crimes against humanity in East Timor.

"When one of the US officers in Vietnam during the Vietnam War killed a number of innocent villagers, the My Lai incident, I don't think the commander-in-chief of US troops in Vietnam, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked to be legally responsible."

Characterising the violence in pre- and post-ballot East Timor as "war between factions", he said he too would not accept legal responsibility for any crimes committed by his ground troops, refuting the "crimes of omission" charges levied against him by the panel.

The buck, he said, did not stop at the top where unlawful activities by soldiers were concerned, but with their immediate platoon or company commanders.

"Do you believe that if one State Attorney commits crimes or takes bribery, the Attorney-General must also be legally responsible for the unlawful behaviour of his personnel?" he asked in a dig at former human rights activist-turned-A-G, Mr Marzuki Darusman, who has insisted he will bring Gen Wiranto to trial.

As then chief of the Indonesian Defence Forces, he never ordered any soldier to "kill his own countrymen systematically". Clearly annoyed to find himself in the dock and the subject of speculation over coup attempts after standing firmly by two presidents in their darkest hours, he described his detractors as "those who do not comprehend at all about the TNI" but merely wanted to discredit him politically and the institution as a whole.

And there was a tinge of sadness at the way his military career was now ending after more than 30 years: "I really regret that everything has been politicised, including my retirement... I think the atmosphere is not good when the country is always preoccupied with the issue whether I am going to retire or not."

But enigmatic to the end, he hinted that his political career was not over although his main post-retirement activity would be to continue chairing Indonesia's bridge association.

"General Douglas MacArthur once said eloquently that 'Old soldiers never die, they just fade away'. All soldiers will keep this in mind."

Straits Times [Singapore] February 8, 2000

Transcript of the Wiranto Interview

A Straits Times Exclusive

GENERAL Wiranto wanted to explain to the people of Singapore what the real situation was in Indonesia, he told The Straits Times' Indonesia Correspondent SUSAN SIM.

"Help me to give information to Singaporeans. I want to secure the situation, to show that it's still cool in Indonesia," the general, who is Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs, said when he agreed to an exclusive interview one week after being charged with responsibility for crimes against humanity by the Investigative Commission on Violence in East Timor (KPP-HAM).

As usual, he looked composed, but was at times pained at being branded a "barbarian" in American and European media broadcasts.

They made him "very sad", he said.

Eager to prove that he was a peacemaker, not an abuser in the traumatised former Indonesian province, he showed her, during the interview at his official residence in Jakarta on Monday night, a specially-prepared video CD, dubbed in English, of a speech he gave to the pro-Indonesia and pro-independence factions after bringing them together in a peace pact.

Securing the consent of independence leader Xanana Gusmao, then in jail in Jakarta, took much patience. He had to wait till 2.30am on the eve of the signing ceremony in Dili for a fax from Jakarta so he could show the Fretilin their leader's signature, he recalled.

"Trust me, I have always tried to create peace in all of Indonesia," he said.

But other than making clear he was not resigning because he was innocent of the charges now levied against him, he did not want to be drawn into revealing what he planned to do when President Abdurrahman Wahid returned from his European and Asian trip on Sunday.

"I don't want to talk about the case now. Wait for the President to come back to Jakarta and I'll discuss the current situation with him. Ask me next week."

Nor was he inclined to talk about his relations with President Abdurrahman and the latter's accusations that he and his supporters were fomenting unrest in the country.

Exasperated at having to affirm constantly his loyalty to the Constitution and the President, he said his track record should make it clear that he was not interested in seizing power by force.

All that constant rumour-mongering -- he would never get any work done if he had to answer and clarify every piece of speculative gossip, he said.

The full transcript of the interview follows:

Q: You are now widely blamed for the destruction of East Timor. How do you feel?

A: The National Human Rights Commission blamed me for everything that happened in East Timor. They accused me and several other generals of being involved in genocide in East Timor.

Per definition, genocide means a deliberate and systematic action to eradicate certain ethnic or racial group. It's a standard word used by Jewish people around the world against Hilter. Yes, Hilter murdered Jewish people in Europe systematically through gas chambers and concentration camps. We did not have that kind of policy or activity in East Timor. Therefore, the accusation is baseless.

I never ordered my soldiers to kill our countrymen in East Timor. Remember that during that transition period, East Timor was still under Indonesian authority. It means that the East Timor people were also Indonesians.

Can you image that a person in charge of the Armed Forces would give an order to his troops to kill his own countrymen systematically? It never crossed my mind. Of course, I am very disappointed when the KPP-HAM accused me of doing such things.

Q: What were the contingency plans, your orders? Were they obeyed by troops on the ground?

A: Prior to the referendum, there was fierce fighting between various factions in East Timor, especially between the pro-independence group and the pro-integration factions. I had put all efforts to effect reconciliation between those groups and eventually they agreed to sign a peace accord in Dili before Bishop Belo and Bishop Nascimento, the spiritual leaders of East Timor, in April 1999.

The referendum itself was conducted in a fair manner. Only the pro-independence group was involved in the preparation of the referendum while the pro-integration faction was left out. When the pro-integration protested to the Unamet, they did not get a fair response. Then all of a sudden, the Unamet decided to announce the results much earlier than the expected schedule.

That generated angry reactions from the pro-integration group. They were in despair. Unfortunately nobody takes into consideration that kind of atmosphere during the transition period.

Contingency plans? No, we did not have any contingency plans. But we did have certain plans concerning the necessary action that must be taken on security matters. The principal objective of our plans was to protect all Unamet personnel and foreigners in that area if something wrong occurred. That was our main priority.

Secondly, we had to prevent bloodshed between varying factions in East Timor. Thirdly, the preparation of the necessary means and instruments for those who left their home because of chaos, and finally, to protect all refugees in the areas that had been prepared.

We did not have any plan concerning the killings and destruction of East Timor.

I gave orders to all my troops to comply with rules and regulations concerning the referendum and to respect people. I ordered them to support fully the process of referendum and to make it successful.

All these documents are available at my office. I have nothing to hide and I have already explained to the KPP-HAM, but they did not want to listen.

I firmly believe that their actions are highly politically motivated against the TNI and myself.

Q: Whose idea was it to create the militias? Why?

A: You should keep in mind that the so-called militia already existed before I was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

The militia was established long before, within the context of our doctrine in which the community can be mobilised and will mobilise itself when they have to defend the country. This is what we call the doctrine of Hankamrata.

The militia exists not only in East Timor but throughout the country. In fact, I offered the pro-independence group that they be involved, but they turned me down.

In Java, we call this kamra. The militia has been established since the late 70s to protect remote villages against insurgencies. So, there is nothing new here.

Q: Did you think it was impossible for the East Timorese to want independence from Indonesia?

A: It is our position to respect all kinds of aspirations among the people of East Timor. There, the referendum was conducted and we do respect its results.

Q:You appeared shocked when you visited Dili with the UN ambassadors on Sept 11. What was going through your mind when you saw the devastation? Was that when you realised that your troops could not handle the militias on their own and that you had to allow the UN forces to come in?

A: I was very disappointed and felt awful when I saw what had happened after the announcement of the result of the referendum.

The devastation was the result of the fighting between groups, not a unilateral action conducted by the pro-integration group. You must be aware that both groups had their own weapons and their own troops.

The TNI ordered them to give the weapons to the authorities but they did not want to. I ordered the TNI to take necessary actions. That's why we declared martial law in East Timor.

The burning was also a spontaneous action conducted by some people because their houses had been marked by certain groups to be taken over when the people from Java and other parts of the country left East Timor.

The decision to allow UN forces in could not be made by the Panglima TNI (Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Defence Force) alone. It must be made by the President and the President must consult with the legislature. Therefore, it was not my own decision.

I want to make it clear that we did not reject the multi-national forces in East Timor, but the atmosphere was not conducive to let them come in because there was a very anti-foreigners feeling among the pro-integration people. They had already made a firm decision to kill all foreigners in their homeland.

Therefore, I preferred to wait until the situation calmed down before letting the multi-national forces in. That was our position at that time.

Q: How did you feel when Interfet troops landed in East Timor? Was there regret, a sense of shame for the TNI?

A: The East Timor people had already made their decision and we must respect it fully. The TNI must respect and obey political decisions made by the government. This is not a matter of winner and loser for the TNI, but to comply with rules and regulations.

Since it was the transition period in which the Indonesian government no longer had the authority in that area, and therefore the Interfet took over. The TNI had done everything as required by the country.

I have done my duty for my country and I have performed to the best I could, and I am very proud of it. I have to make it clear that the Indonesian society and the TNI fully respect the aspirations of East Timor people as I mentioned earlier.

Q: Observers, however, find it hard to believe that the TNI could not control a ragtag group of East Timorese, that therefore they were merely proxies for the TNI. What is your response to that?

A: I think that's an ex-post facto analysis, and I do believe that observers only got one-sided information which was not necessarily true.

Do you believe that only the pro-integration group did the killings and burnings? Do you believe that only the pro-integration group has the weapons? How about those who joined the Fretilin?

Nobody took any close look at the activities of the pro-independence group and I think that's very unfair. Observers only believe the information they want to have and they got it from the pro-independence group. They did not want to listen to the pro-integration group and the TNI. And if that is the case, what else can I do?

Q: You were Pangab, Commander-in-Chief of the TNI. Shouldn't the buck stop at the top? Shouldn't you take responsibility regardless of whether East Timor's destruction happened because your soldiers were carrying out the orders of renegade officers or they and others disobeyed your direct orders?

A: As Pangab, I have fulfilled my duty to my country and I have done my job to the best of my ability. I was able to command those rival groups who were fighting each other to sign a peace accord before the two bishops in Dili.

I ordered my troops to support fully the implementation of the referendum and respect its result. Then we declared martial law. Can you imagine how many people would be killed if martial law had not been declared?

I would like to categorically deny that there is such a thing as renegade officers within the TNI. All officers have conducted their duty as expected. They have done their job to the best of their ability. They have performed their duty in accordance with the standard procedure of the TNI.

In a situation within which there was a war between factions in East Timor, do you expect the TNI to take sides? Of course not.

Shouldn't the buck stop at the top? Do you believe that if a civil servant in a certain province commits a crime, the governor must be legally responsible for that kind of crime? Certainly not.

Do you believe that if one state attorney commits crimes or takes bribes, the Attorney-General must also be legally responsible for the unlawful behaviour of his personnel?

The TNI has its standard procedure of responsibility. If a soldier commits unlawful activity, the commander up to the second tier must also be responsible, such as the platoon and company commander.

When one of the US officers in Vietnam during the Vietnam War killed a number of innocent villagers -- the My Lai incident -- I don't think the Commander-in-Chief of US troops in Vietnam, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were asked to be legally responsible.

I will fully support putting a soldier on trial if there is evidence he has committed crimes in East Timor.

Q: Even your own defence counsel, former Justice Minister Muladi, has suggested that it might be better for you to resign from the Cabinet. Will you do so, or consider doing so?

A: Mr Muladi told me that he was misquoted by the press and he has already clarified it.

Am I considering resigning from the Cabinet? In this country, if a person resigns from office, it can be interpreted as an admission of guilt, and admission of wrongdoing. I have performed my duty for my country to the best of my ability. I have never committed any kind of unlawful activity, and I am proud of my record.

Q: The last time I interviewed you (in October 1999), you were confident that you would not be indicted by any international tribunal for crimes against humanity. Are you still as confident?

A: Of course I am still confident. I did not commit any kind of crime. I never gave orders to the soldiers to kill people.

In fact I asked them to fully support the conduct of the referendum. I never gave orders to my soldiers to burn houses and public facilities in East Timor. There is not a single evidence against me.

In fact if the independent commission (KPP-HAM) had a clear mind, they would not have come to that kind of conclusion. The problem is that they have a predisposition against the TNI. This is not only against me but also against the TNI as an institution.

Those members of the KPP-HAM had been known from the very beginning to be very anti-TNI. What did I do in East Timor? I have done the best I could for the implementation of the referendum in that area, and we fully support the results. Therefore, I firmly believe that they cannot find a single evidence against me concerning unlawful activity. That's it.

Q: Let's talk about coups. There were suspicions that you were prepared to move against Dr Habibie because of disagreements over the East Timor policy. His aides even said at that time that you wanted him to give you a "Supersemar" (mandate to assume full control). Is any of this true?

A: This country is full of rumours and we are preoccupied by it because we have to deal with those rumours. Those rumours were baseless. Those who think about coups do not understand the TNI, they just have wishful thinking.

I believe that they just want to discredit the TNI. The TNI is very loyal to the country and the President. He is the supreme commander of the TNI, and therefore the TNI must be loyal to its supreme commander. If there is any disagreement between the President and the TNI, we have our method of solving the disagreement, not through coups.

Q: You've said you could have seized control of the government at least twice in the last two years. What were these two occasions and why didn't you?

A: The first occasion was during the critical period from May 18 - 20, 1999. The country was really in chaos.

The second time was during the Sidang Istimewa (special session) of the MPR from Nov 10 - 13, 1998. Again, the country was in a very delicate situation. Jakarta was in the darkest time because people went crazy. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (then chief of social-political affairs in the TNI, now the Mines Minister) asked whether the TNI has any plan to take over the country or seize power through a coup.

That was the first occasion. I firmly said no way. We, the TNI, must support the transfer of power through constitutional ways. The Constitution stipulates that if the President is not able to perform his duties permanently or if the President is incapacitated, then the Vice-President will take over the leadership of the country. The TNI firmly held this kind of position and therefore after Dr Habibie took the oath of office of the President, the TNI fully supported his leadership. No, it never crossed my mind to seize power.

During the Sidang Istimewa of the MPR in November 1998, the situation was very critical because the angry mob was very close to the MPR building at Senayan. The TNI firmly took its position to maintain law and order so that the Sidang Istimewa could be conducted peacefully.

Again, it never crossed my mind, the idea of conducting a coup. Those who think the TNI will seize power will be very disappointed because they are completely wrong.

Q: Do you have any regrets not accepting the Supersemar former President Suharto offered you?

A: No, not at all. The TNI has very strong commitment towards democracy and democratisation of this country. The TNI did not want to create a precedent of transferring power through an unconstitutional mechanism. The TNI can be a front-runner when it comes to democracy. That's our commitment.

Q: What about now? Why do you think there is constant speculation about coup attempts and even warnings from the United States?

A: As I mentioned earlier, the speculation about coup attempts is baseless and made by those who do not comprehend at all the TNI.

I suspect their motivation is to discredit the TNI by creating that kind of speculation. Even though I'm no longer within the leadership of the TNI, I do believe that the TNI does not have its own political agenda except to be fully committed to the reform movement in order to be able to establish a clean, good and responsible government.

When I was Pangab, the TNI took initiative in creating what we called internal reforms, and the repositioning of our dual function doctrine. I do believe that Admiral Widodo (current Pangab) still has that kind of commitment for the sake of establishing a democratic political system.

Q: You have been instrumental in ensuring stability in the transition from one president to another, from Suharto to Habibie, and now to the current government. Yet you're in this position now, accused of all sorts of things. What message do you think it sends to the TNI officers?

A: It should be evident to people that the TNI takes my stand in terms of Indonesian reforms and the internal reform of the TNI. I did not do anything to make any problems for my nation. The evidence is there that the TNI respects and secures the Constitution.

There are three instances that make my position evident. The first was when Suharto stepped down and Habibie was appointed President. I escorted him and secured the process without bloodshed. I had a letter of authority from Suharto to do anything to save my nation. I could have given my recommendation to the President to impose martial law at that time. But I didn't.

And during the Sidang Istimewa of the MPR in November 1998, when thousands wanted to take over the DPR, it was very easy to let them into the building. They announce a coup and I counter-coup. But I didn't do it. Instead, on my orders, the police and military prevented a takeover of the building. I got heavily criticised for doing this because there were victims not only among the people but among my police too.

Third piece of evidence -- I resigned from the vice-presidential election last year. The situation was not good because many people in the streets were ready to riot. I didn't want the presidential or vice-presidential election to be filled with bloodshed. So I chose to resign from the race.

I would like to give my people the conviction that the TNI would like to be consistent in upholding the Constitution.

Q: How does it feel to retire from the military after 33 years of being a TNI officer?

A: Retirement is a fact of life and I am ready to cope with it. I believe that every officer would be prepared for it. But I really regret that everything has been politicised, including my retirement. There was speculation whether the Chief of Staff of the army will propose to the President my retirement, whether the President will sign a letter for my retirement.

I think the atmosphere is not good when the country is always preoccupied with the issue whether I am going to retire or not.

I have served my country for more than 30 years. I have engaged in various kinds of military operations, and I do believe that I have performed my duties for the country wholeheartedly. I am very proud of it and no one will take it away from me. And most of all, I was involved in helping the country deal with crises and prepared our motherland to enter the era of democratisation.

Of course, I would like to retire in a normal situation, but it is also a fact that I must retire in a situation in which I have to answer a number of questions concerning East Timor which I believe are highly politically motivated.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: My future plans? Right now I do not have any future plans, to tell you the truth. It is too early to contemplate my future political activity. I do have a number of obligations especially in social affairs. I am still a chairman of the Indonesian Bridge Association and other sports organisations. I think I will continue my role in social organisations. General Douglas MacArthur once said eloquently that "old soldiers never die, they just fade away". All soldiers will keep this in mind.

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