Subject: AFR: Wiranto Baulks at Taking Blame

Australian Financial Review May 18, 2000

Wiranto baulks at taking blame

By Tim Dodd, Jakarta

Former Indonesian armed forces chief General Wiranto is under pressure from top military officers to take full responsibility for the destruction and human rights abuses in East Timor last year.

A group of senior serving generals wants General Wiranto to accept the blame in order to limit further damage to the army's reputation which will follow from the East Timor inquiry being conducted by the Indonesian Attorney-General's office.

But General Wiranto, whom investigators questioned for seven hours on Tuesday, has refused to take responsibility, claiming he was the victim of a conspiracy.

One general, who declined to be named, said yesterday it would be helpful if General Wiranto would take command responsibility and public accountability for the events in East Timor.

"That would help clarify and enlighten the perceptions and reputation of the TNI [Indonesian armed forces]," he said.

This represented the consensus of top ranks of the armed forces, he said, and was in line with the military principle that a commander takes responsibility.

"It is only with the commander where the responsibility rests and it ... cannot be detached from his authority to take decisions and the risks implied in those decisions," he said. "They only rest with the commander and with nobody else within the unit."

If General Wiranto were to take full responsibility for the East Timor violence it could help get off the hook 32 other military officers and civilians, including at least six generals. But the others could still face charges for acting beyond their orders or carrying out criminal actions.

A clean and credible conclusion to the investigation would also help the Indonesian military to rehabilitate its reputation internationally and assist in resuming its critical military ties with the United States.

But General Wiranto has refused to be a scapegoat for East Timor and has told his former colleagues he believes other factors in the case override the usual principle of command responsibility.

"He calls it a conspiracy to corner the TNI and to corner him as the [former] commander-in-chief of the TNI," the general said.

General Wiranto was stood down as Co-ordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security in February after a report by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission recommended further investigation into the part he played in the East Timor violence. On Tuesday he said he would not be seeking to return to the Cabinet. In reality, his formal resignation is a fait accompli because he lacks political support.

General Wiranto yesterday went to the presidential palace intending to offer his resignation to President Abdurrahman Wahid but, in a confusion of schedules, the president was not there to receive him.

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