Subject: Wiranto, Susilo Should Speak About the Past [+E. Timor: Victims Without Justic

The Jakarta Post Friday, May 7, 2004


Wiranto, Susilo Should Speak Out About the Past

Aboeprijadi Santoso, Amsterdam

Two former generals both have a strong chance of becoming the nation's new leader, even if they have blood on their hands. The rise of these generals-turned-party-leaders, however, rests on the shaky assumption that military leaders are more capable of providing stability than civilian leaders.

"A retired general, reflecting on his brilliant past, had forgotten how many souls he'd sent flying up to heaven -- Now, he realized that he had also spilt quite a lot of blood... (He) was still swimming in the rain. The water -- turned red. The general was swimming in a sea of blood. The blood is red, general, he said to himself."

This powerful passage from Seno Gumira Ajidarma's anthology Eyewitness (1995, orig. 1994) reminds us that some generals, while proud of their dedication to the nation, are acutely aware of their painful past.

It is particularly poignant in the lead up to the presidential election, as it refers to a generation of soldiers who were ideologically raised by Soeharto's New Order, and lived through two of the country's most bloody episodes i.e. the mass killings of 1965-1966 and the situation in East Timor.

The story pointedly refers to East Timor -- a territory that was occupied and almost single-handedly managed by the Army for almost a quarter of century (1975-1999). For many officers, this period was a rich source of experience and served as a key steppingstone. Not all Army members should be burdened by this legacy, but some are likely to have been involved in abuses.

However, given the lack of transparency of the military as an organization, few details have emerged on "who did what, and on whose instructions" in particular cases of atrocity and abuse, including those possibly related to the two contenders for the presidency, Gen. (ret.) Wiranto and Gen. (ret.) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Sources provide a more complete picture of Wiranto than of Susilo. Masters of Terror (2002) -- a profile of key suspects of the 1999 violence in East Timor -- includes both men and concludes that Wiranto was "ultimately responsible for everything his soldiers did" as his men in the field "crop up in numerous reports of abuses."

Early in 1999, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) named Wiranto a main suspect. "Not just because of sins of omission," Helmy Fauzi, a former staff member of Komnas HAM insisted.

In Feb. 2003, the UN-sponsored special panel in Dili indicted Wiranto on charges of war crimes against humanity. An international warrant for his arrest "may be issued shortly," Dili prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian told Radio Netherlands recently.

The case of Susilo is less clear. The timing of two of his three missions in East Timor was crucial. In 1976 to 1977, he led the Yonif-305 battalion to the district of Lautem to consolidate the conquest of the territory following the Dec. 1975 invasion. In the end, the conquest amounted to Indonesia's second biggest massacre -- locally known as the "annihilation campaign" in Matebian, Central East Timor -- which claimed about a third of the local population. This was the result of several months of military campaigns, confounded by bad harvests and an epidemic.

Another disaster happened in 1979, the year Susilo started his second mission (1979-1981). As the Fretilin guerrilla collected its supporters and their families, but were forced to evacuate them to the mountain, the Army decided to launch a big campaign to exterminate them.

In one case, up to 800 to 1000 guerrilla fighters and civilians were killed in Lautem alone. However, according to researcher Douglas Kammen, it has not been confirmed as yet that the Susilo-led battalion of Yonif-Linud-330 was directly involved in the atrocities.

Similarly, it was not clear exactly what Susilo's role was as chief of staff of the regional command at the time of the military assault against the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) headquarters in Jakarta, on July 27, 1996. Susilo's darkest role, however, may be connected to Wiranto's controversial involvement in East Timor, and it is particularly important to explain how the scorched-earth campaign and mass deportation of 1999 were organized.

By then, as chief of Territorial under Wiranto, Susilo was formally responsible for the actions of regional and local commanders. Analysts, however, view that two chains of command -- the formal i.e. territorial one, and special intelligence links -- seem to have been at work. In any case, Wiranto and Susilo should clarify the matter.

Susilo's career has generally been viewed in mixed terms as the architect of both war and peace in Aceh, and of peace in Poso and Ambon. But critics say, while the 2002 ceasefire in Aceh was historic but short-lived (the rebels should be blamed too in this respect), the war and martial law have been too costly in terms of civilian lives, political and budgetary consequences.

Interestingly, the two former generals have successively been at the helm of the security apparatus during the most critical period post-Soeharto. No period since the 1960s killings has been as continuously tense and bloody as the post-1998 series of social protests, ethnic, political, religious, secessionist warfare and independence struggles in various places across the archipelago.

As chief of security in 1998-1999, Wiranto was not able to halt the escalation of urban riots and violence in the capital.

Then, his failure to maintain peace in East Timor in Sept. 1999 embarrassed the nation, humiliated the corps and forced him to allow foreign troop, the Interfet, to intervene in order to help President B.J. Habibie save his credibility and the economy.

Susilo, in turn, has achieved more in Eastern Indonesia, but not in Aceh.

In both cases, though, the impact of the war and social dislocation has been tremendous. Sociologist Thamrin Tomagola has argued for Maluku, that peace could have been more durable if it incorporated local civil society instead of a state-imposed accord. Indeed, peace and non-violence have often been characteristic when civil elements hold sway.

This has been clearly manifested in the wake of the downfall of Soeharto in Aceh during the two years of massive pro-referendum rallies up to late 1999, and in Yogyakarta, when people led by the sultan demanded changes. Non-violence was also reported during that period as numerous village heads in Java were forced to step down.

Violent upheavals in post-independence Indonesia mostly involved Army elements, or were linked to intra Army rivalries at national or local levels -- rather than characteristics inherent to civilian leader. In other words, contrary to the popular myth today, ex-military leaders do not automatically guarantee stability. Instead, what matters most is the principle of civilian supremacy, control and reform of the Army's territorial structure.

That said, in the lead up to the presidential election, the two ex-generals must confirm their records and accountability. If they, unlike Seno's general, have the courage to speak out, that would be a relief for the nation.

The writer is a Radio Netherlands journalist.

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