Subject: ABC: Wiranto continues to attract controversy
INDONESIA: Wiranto continues to attract controversy
Indonesian presidential candidate, former armed forces chief Wiranto continues to attract controversy. United Nations prosecutors in East Timor have issued an arrest warrant against General Wiranto for alleged crimes against humanity. Questions are also being asked about the general's choice of Vice Presidential running mate - the brother of former President Abdurrahman Wahid, Solahuddin Wahid.
Presenter/Interviewer: Karon Snowdon Speakers: Asmara Nababan, former Secretary General of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, now Executive Director of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights Studies in Jakarta; Karna Lesmana, campaign worker for Wiranto.
SNOWDON: With just weeks before serious campaigning starts, former General Wiranto has described the latest legal move against him as a "character assassination".
Despite the allegations against him, Wiranto was chosen as the candidate for the Golkar Party in Indonesia's first direct elections for president.
Golkar won the most seats in the recent parliamentary elections and according to a member of his campaign committee, Karna Lesmana, the Party isn't worried about any public backlash.
LESMANA: No actually we, the Golkar Party understood what's happening, so they are actually really 100% solid behind Mr Wiranto. Because they know they actually from all the track record that he is a real statesman and Indonesia needs him, so that's why I think Golkar Party is solidly behind him.
SNOWDON: The arrest warrant had been flagged in March by Deputy Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian of East Timor's Special Crimes Unit.
He took the extraordinary step of publicly releasing the report of evidence accusing Wiranto of war crimes and of command responsibility for the abuses in East Timor after its vote for independence from Jakarta in 1999.
At first it appeared Koujian would get his desired result. But the indictment might end up stalling after a request by East Timor's chief prosecutor for a review of the case.
Senior investigators working on the special panel for serious crimes told the ABC they fear proceedings against Wiranto will be dropped because of concerns about the case by senior East Timorese leaders.
This was repeated by Karna Lesmana who accuses other Presidential candidates of stirring the issue up for political purposes.
LESMANA: And we even get some information from the Timor Leste (East Timor) government people who said they feel very sorry because people who are involved in this presidential candidate are playing this game you see.
SNOWDON: While Wiranto and Golkar can dismiss the arrest warrant as a stunt to discredit his election campaign, others are taking it seriously.
Asmara Nababan is a former Secretary General of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission. While in that role he believed an international tribunal was the only solution to Indonesia's failure to prosecute Wiranto and others accused of serious crimes in East Timor.
But he points out that Wiranto also stands accused of culpability over the military's role in inciting the May 1998 riots in Jakarta, sparked by the shooting of several anti-Suharto student demonstrators, and in which more than 12-hundred died and dozens of Chinese women were gang raped.
And his accuser was none other than his choice of Vice Presidential running mate, Solahuddin Wahid.
Mr Wahid headed the team from the Human Rights Commission which investigated the riots.
NABABAN: This is a question of the credibility of Mr Solahuddin Wahid. He was the head of the investigation team of the National Commission of Humnan Rights which investigated the May riots and came to the conclusion and recommended to the Attorney General that Wiranto is responsible for the gross human rights violations on May riots 1998.
SNOWDON: Can we clarify that? Its my understanding that the investigation issued a summons for Mr Wiranto t o appear as a witness during that investigation into the May riots. Was there a final report which accused him of responsibility for human rights violations during those riots?
NABABAN: Yeah. And the report came with a set of recommendations to the Attorney General's offcie to further investigate.
SNOWDON: With polls suggesting General Wiranto is running third in the race for president, Golkar is hoping Wahid will bring millions of votes from his famous name and from Nahdlatul Ulama.
But Asmara Nababan says the families still waiting for justice after years of military violence, including those killed during the May riots, wont be among them.
NABABAN: I got a call yesterday and today from many victims of several incidents, they're very mad, very angry that Solahuddin agree to become candidate for Vice President. The victims, the families of the victims are very upset.
Wiranto Cries Character Assassination
May 10, 2004 11:54 PM
Laksamana.Net Golkar Party’s presidential candidate, retired General Wiranto, says a warrant issued for his arrest in connection with crimes against humanity in East Timor is a form of character assassination aimed at thwarting his run for the presidency.
"This is character assassination, the killing of my character,” he was quoted as saying Monday (10/5/04) by detikcom online news portal.
“I have never been tried, never been a defendant and never been the accused. But this [allegation of crimes against humanity] has been made an issue and was launched at the time of my presidential candidacy and now continues. This is a form of character assassination,” he asserted.
While complaining about assassination, Wiranto expressed no sympathy for the approximately 1,400 East Timorese people who were killed during a campaign of terror unleashed by the Indonesian military and its militia proxies in 1999 when he was commander of the armed forces.
The Indonesian military has denied orchestrating the mayhem, claiming it was due to “spontaneous” conflicts erupting between the pro-Indonesia militias and the independence movement’s armed wing Falintil.
Wiranto, who will run for the presidency on July 5, has repeatedly insisted he did his best to prevent the violence.
A UN-backed tribunal in East Timor on Monday issued the arrest warrant against Wiranto for human rights abuses during the period surrounding the territory's decision to secede from Indonesia.
"The issuance of the Wiranto warrant is an important step in our continuing efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the violence against the civilian population of East Timor in 1999," UN prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Issuance of the warrant comes seven weeks after East Timor’s deputy general prosecutor for serious crimes filed a 92-page supporting court brief to the UN- sponsored Serious Crimes Unit. The brief accused Wiranto of individual criminal responsibility - under the doctrine of command responsibility - for the “crimes against humanity of murder, persecution and deportation”.
The brief states that Wiranto had the ability to control pro-Indonesia militias in East Timor but failed to do so.
“The fact that the Indonesian military had selected, formed, trained, funded and armed the militias leads to the inescapable conclusion that the top Indonesian leadership had the ability to control militia activities,” says the brief.
“Wiranto’s ability to control the pro-autonomy militias is patently evident from his own statement that he could disarm the militias.”
The brief quotes Ian Martin, special representative to the UN secretary general, as saying: "I clearly recall General Wiranto telling me that if Falintil was ready to surrender its weapons to the Indonesian Police, he could guarantee the militia would be disarmed within two days ... I believe this was not the only occasion General Wiranto said this."
Indonesia has refused to hand over any suspects for trial in East Timor, although analysts say Wiranto could now face arrest in certain countries.
Reports in January said the US State Department had put Wiranto and five other Indonesian officers on a visa watchlist barring them from entering the country because of their alleged involvement in crimes against humanity. The retired general responded to the news by saying he had no interest in visiting the US.
'I'm Clean' Wiranto on Monday named Muslim scholar and human rights activist Solahuddin Wahid as his running mate for the July election.
Wahid, better known as Gus Solah, is deputy chairman of the state-sponsored National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) but now plans on resigning from the body.
Wiranto said Gus Solah’s decision to become his running mate was proof of his innocence. “Gus Solah, as the deputy chairman of Komnas HAM, has investigated human rights, so he could not possibly want to be associated with anything dirty. This shows I’m clean.”
The former military commander said he is confident the arrest warrant will not affect his presidential candidacy. "I’m optimistic in the presidential race and will allow the people to make up their own minds.”
Nevertheless, Wiranto said he regretted foreign intervention in the Indonesian legal system.
"This [arrest warrant] constitutes intervention by the UN in the Indonesian legal system, as the ad-hoc court for East Timor has already resolved the case of human rights violations in East Timor,” he added.
In response to international pressure to bring those accused of responsibility for the East Timor carnage to justice, Indonesia in 2002 established a special human rights court to hear cases against 18 defendants. Activists complained that several senior generals suspected of responsibility for the carnage, including Wiranto, were not on the list.
The court ended up acquitting 12 members of the security forces and a civilian. Six defendants were found guilty and sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to 10 years, although all faced the death penalty. All six remain free pending lengthy appeal processes.
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