Subject: ABC: Jim Dunn on Wiranto

Indonesian polls showing strong support for Wiranto

The World Today - Wednesday, 21 April , 2004 12:22:00

Reporter: Tanya Nolan

TANYA NOLAN: Indonesia's only two-thirds of the way through counting the ballots cast in this month's parliamentary elections, and as we just heard, the Golkar Party of former President Suharto is still leading the race with just over 21 per cent of the vote.

And it's been tipped as a similarly close race for the upcoming presidential elections on July the 5th.

But Golkar's presidential candidate, General Wiranto has been gaining popular support amongst Indonesians.

The Suharto loyalist and self-confessed karaoke addict, has been helped along by his new singing career, and his pledge to drive Indonesia back to prosperity with a return to strong leadership.

But while his past appears to be less of an issue for many Indonesians, it may affect his relationship with foreign governments. General Wiranto has been indicted on crimes against humanity, accused of failing to stop the violence in the lead up to East Timor's vote for independence. He denies the charges.

So if he does win the presidency and his party comes out in front in the parliamentary vote, what implications will that have for Australia's relationship with Indonesia?

To discuss this and other questions, I'm joined in our Canberra studio by Jim Dunn, who spent 45 years as a foreign affairs analyst, and who's regarded as a specialist on Indonesia.

And from Jakarta, Doctor Greg Fealy, a research fellow in Indonesian politics at the Australian National University.

Welcome, gentlemen. If I can start with you, Dr Fealy, do the charges against General Wiranto have any bearing on his eligibility to stand for the presidency?

GREG FEALY: No, not legally. There's nothing that's preventing him from continuing through to the presidential election, and I think in the case of the Golkar people who voted on this ­ the Golkar delegates who voted on this at their convention ­ I think they were largely driven by political concerns, domestic political concerns.

They thought Wiranto had the best chance of all their possible candidates of winning the election. And I think at the higher levels of the party, there would be some concern about the international perception of Wiranto, but down at the grassroots level, I think people feel that it's domestic issues which should take priority, and worry about the international opprobrium later.

TANYA NOLAN: Well Jim Dunn if I could put that legal question to you, because you actually served as an advisor to the UN on crimes against humanity in East Timor, and General Wiranto was on your list of alleged war criminals. Where does this indictment fit? Which legal jurisdiction will it be heard in?

JIM DUNN: Let's qualify that. He wasn't actually on my list.

I merely mentioned that he had a command responsibility, and it was inconceivable that that big operation involving destruction and deportation in September 1999 could have been carried out without the knowledge, and indeed the approval, for the operation approval, of the commander.

He wasn't on the list of those immediately responsible, in my view, for war crimes.

TANYA NOLAN: But you believe that there is no logical explanation for the fact that he couldn't be aware of what happened in East Timor and the violence in the lead up to the ballot?

JIM DUNN: Absolutely not. And in fact I can add to that. When I was carrying out this investigation, I managed to get my hands on a secret report by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission ­ a special report authorised by President Wahid.

And in that report, which was on events in East Timor in 1999, they made it very clear, I think to use their words, it was inconceivable that General Wiranto could not have had some responsibility for these crimes.

And they listed them as atrocities, as crimes against women, against forced deportation and so on. So I think from their point of view, he needed to be charged. I mean…

TANYA NOLAN: Sorry to interrupt you there… so are you aware at what stage this indictment is at, and where in fact and when in fact, these charges will be heard?

JIM DUNN: Well, it's in Dili at the moment with the Serious Crimes Unit, with the Prosecutor General, but there's a big problem now. You know, it's a very sad story, because many of us wanted this move for an international tribunal which was the only way to try people of this level, to be set up back in the year 2000.

Thanks to… really, opposition to the proposal, including from Australia, it never took place, and all that took place was a tribunal organised by the Indonesians, which, as we had anticipated, was a farce.

TANYA NOLAN: I want to come back to that issue about Australia in just a minute, Jim Dunn. But Greg Fealy, if I can bring you back into this, it's currently a close race for the presidency ­ the polls put former Security Minister and General, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the lead with 30 per cent. Do you think it's likely that Golkar will be returned to power in the presidential elections?

GREG FEALY: At the moment, the surveys, the public surveys ­ the reliable public surveys have Bambang Yudhoyono with a clear lead over Megawati and a much bigger lead again, over Wiranto.

But I think now that the general election is out of the way ­ even though the counting is still going on, the general election itself is out of the way ­ voters are likely to see these candidates in a somewhat different perspective, so it's quite possible that we could see a sharp rise in Wiranto's popularity.

But I also don't think that Bambang Yudhoyono should be taken out as the frontrunner at this stage. I think he's looking a very strong candidate and so far he's been very astute in the way he's played that.

And although Bambang Yudhoyono is a General, most of his service has been in the social political side of the Indonesian military, not in the types of military operations that Wiranto has been involved in.

So although Bambang Yudhoyono is a General, he has a rather softer public image than Wiranto. Wiranto is much more seen as something as a hard man.

TANYA NOLAN: Jim Dunn, three decades of Golkar led by President Suharto… do you think voters will be attracted to the relative economic prosperity they enjoyed under his regime and will therefore return the party to power?

JIM DUNN: Well, as Greg and others have pointed out of course, Golkar's gained a new popularity among people who are rather nostalgic for the stability of the past.

So I think it has a good chance, but of course, it's not a party with a majority. I understand… I think the figures are around about just over 21 per cent, with Megawati's PDIP running at about 19-and-a-half per cent, and then there are other parties.

So what's going to happen is there'll be a lot of bargaining, though these two candidates stand out. What is very interesting is that they are really both (inaudible) officers ­ they don't really come from Kopassus.

And I must say I once briefly met Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono, and I did get the impression that he was a reformist. And even though he actually also played a role in relation to East Timor, he had some responsibility for the military command back in 1998/1999.

But unlike Wiranto, I think… the really important thing to remember about Wiranto is two of his leading Generals in Jakarta in the middle of 1998, planned the setting up of the militia. That never came from the Timorese… the army of the militia, with the aim of sabotaging progress towards independence and towards a plebiscite.

His responsibility begins very heavily there. I always got the impression he kept a distance from it, tried to keep a distance. But every now and then he had to make decisions which were essential.

And I think that one of the last important decisions was in August, I believe, 1999 ­ he made a considerable sum of money available to enable the TMI to carry out that operation of destruction, of deportation of 250,000 people; of the destruction of 73 per cent of all houses and buildings on east Timor, and not least, an operation of violence in which hundreds of East Timorese were killed.

TANYA NOLAN: Well, indeed, General Wiranto says it's impossible that he could have led the militias in East Timor, but if we get back to the implications for Australia/Indonesian relationship, the relationship in particular, if General Wiranto is installed as president ­ would they be better, given the relationship is exceptionally strong between Australia's police force and Indonesia's military?

JIM DUNN: Well, it's very hard to judge at this point. As the Minister says, we can't… we just have to accept the democratic process in Indonesia. But I can't see how they can be stronger.

Except of course, it's just possible that Wiranto's gone through a change, and I've been given some indication that he has changed a lot. He's now… as it were, he's been reformed as a much more democratic figure, a figure who would never become involved in the events of the past.

Like Yunus Yosfiah, the man who commanded the troops in Bali Balibo back in 1975, who did that same sort of change. So maybe he's a changed man.

But you know, the important reason for having an open and thorough tribunal investigation, was to establish exactly what was the role of officers like Wiranto and others, and who was responsible, most responsible for crimes against humanity and of course not least, who was not responsible.

Who were the officers who really, by their behaviour, are the Generals who ought to be leading the Indonesian military today, if they're really going to have a serious democracy, which they don't have yet.

TANYA NOLAN: Well, let's talk about this issue of the pro-Jakarta lobby that's been talked about widely in the past week. Do you, firstly Greg Fealy, believe that it does exist?

GREG FEALY: No, not as such. Not in the way it's being described by some of the critics of the Foreign Affairs department and the intelligence community. I think there was… for a time, there certainly was a type of mainstream thinking among diplomats that it was in Australia's best interests not to antagonise Indonesia unnecessarily. I don't think that type of thinking exists now in DFAT.

I also think that in the Australian intelligence community ­ and I've had two-and-a-half years at the Office of National Assessments ­ and certainly in my time there, I never once encountered someone saying that we should change our line of analysis because it might antagonise Indonesia.

I think the shots… we always were told to call the shots as we saw them. And I think it's grossly overstated. I think it's possible in hindsight to criticise the attitudes, that mindset that said that, you know, we had to always… there was no benefit for Australia in confronting Indonesia. It could be with hindsight that that was perhaps… times were necessarily accommodatory.

But I don't think there was some tightly knit group even a plot to ensure that Australian Government policy was hijacked. And certainly for the life of the Howard Government, I don't think that the Department of Foreign Affairs had that degree of influence over the Minister.

TANYA NOLAN: Well, Jim Dunn, in your latest opinion piece, you say: "our diplomatic accommodation has helped those TNI commanders, responsible for atrocities in East Timor, to escape prosecution." Do you believe that that pro-Jakarta lobby still exists?

JIM DUNN: Well I would never call it the pro-Jakarta lobby. I mean, it's been a mindset, I think, as Greg has said, and I agree not everybody holds that view. But nevertheless, it's been a very powerful mindset which has really produced the parameters of Australian policy toward Indonesia in many ways.

And I felt it very strongly. After all, in 1999 when I was in east Timor, even during the militia violence, some attitudes of officials, and again, certainly after UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor) established the UN mandate, we had this same attitude.

And what it was about… really, somehow, we have to accept this Indonesian political structure for what it is. National integrity is not only important to Indonesia, but it's important to us, so therefore we accept that it's not going to be very democratic because the country will have to be held together by the sword, as it were.

And this has favoured the notion of always understanding the special role of the military. They could get away with things that other military couldn't get away with. And I think he was a very good example at a time when Australia's been joining with other countries in pursuing war criminals in Serbia, in Cambodia and Rwanda.

In East Timor, I found a distinct disinterest in supporting… at least supporting what I was doing. In fact, a senior diplomat simply told me it's a can of worms and we don't want to get involved in it.

But really, when you think about it, it was immensely important to bring out what happened ­ not only in 1999 ­ but all those previous years where the Indonesian military had misbehaved atrociously and indeed, using that word, we mustn't forget that the worst atrocities were in the five years after the invasion, when as many as 200,000 people died.

Not all of them killed by Indonesian troops, but very many of them killed, as a result of Indonesia's intervention. And this sort of behaviour continued, as we saw, in 1999, a readiness of the military to use its weapons to kill and to intimidate, and destroy. And indeed, we've seen similar things happen in Aceh.

And I think it's really important… it's really important to Indonesians, and I have to point here, that when I was carrying out this commission…

TANYA NOLAN: If I can just speed you up a little bit, Jim Dunn, we're going to have to wrap it up here.

JIM DUNN: Well, I'll just say that several Indonesians came over to me in Dili and urged me to bring out the truth because we need to have this truth, so that we can reform the military, because until we really reform the military, the TNI, we can't have democratic reform.

TANYA NOLAN: And just a final word for you, Dr Fealy. Do you believe that democracy is well on its way to being fully entrenched in Indonesia?

GREG FEALY: I think these elections have seen some consolidation of democracy. Obviously a lot of foreign observers and quite a few Indonesian observers may not delighted to see that two of the strongest presidential candidates have military backgrounds.

But nonetheless I think voters have clearly expressed heir decision, they've expressed their dissatisfaction with the current government and with the current president, and they've also expressed their disillusionment with some of the older political faces that are going around the political system.

And I think within the next year, we'll see some significant… it's quite possible we'll see some significant changes in the leadership of the political elite here.

and I think it's made the political parties now much more aware of community opinion, and they can no longer rest assured that communities will vote along primordial lines or that once they have a political affiliation, they will stick to it.

The electorate is now more volatile and they're making decisions based on rational political conditions as they see it.

TANYA NOLAN: Dr Greg Fealy thanks very much. Greg Fealy was joining us on the line from Jakarta, and he's a research fellow in Indonesian politics at ANU. And Jim Dunn, before him ­ 45 years as a foreign affairs analyst in Australia, and an Indonesia specialist. Thank you gentlemen.

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