Subject: ST: Wiranto Victory Will Put U.S. in a Spot [+No.1 Isn't
The Straits Times May 28, 2004
A Wiranto Election Victory Will Put US in a Spot
Charges of rights abuses cause unease, but this may be allayed if he takes steps to show greater concern for human rights
By Roger Mitton
WASHINGTON - The possibility that Golkar candidate Wiranto may become the next president of Indonesia is causing concern in the United States.
The former Indonesian Army general has been accused of complicity in a notorious massacre of demonstrators in Timor Leste in 1999.
There has been talk of a United Nations indictment against him for human rights abuses.
Although the allegations remain unproven, they may cause severe problems in relations between Washington and Jakarta if Mr Wiranto wins the presidential election.
Mr William Liddle, a political science professor at Ohio State University, said: 'A Wiranto presidency will make it more difficult for the executive branch of the US government to deal with Indonesia, because there will be constant pressure from Congress and from human rights groups.'
That pressure could lead to Mr Wiranto being refused permission to enter the United States.
More likely in the short term, the US Congress could tighten the legislative restrictions on military ties with Indonesia that were put in place as a result of the Timor Leste atrocity five years ago.
Mr Larry Niksch, a specialist in Asian Affairs at the US Library of Congress Research Centre, said: 'Congress will not look upon a Wiranto presidency with great favour. And one cannot rule out specific legislative action in Congress to impose penalties or sanctions on Indonesia.'
But last month, US Ambassador Ralph Boyce said Washington could work with Mr Wiranto.
'We can work with anybody that comes out of a free election process,' he said. 'We're not involved in selecting individual candidates, supporting or opposing individual candidates...It's the election process that we care deeply about and it seems to be going very well.'
Any qualms about Mr Wiranto could be partly ameliorated in US eyes if he were to take steps showing a greater concern for human rights.
Some feel he has already started to go down that path by choosing Mr Salahuddin Wahid, a former deputy chairman of Indonesia's human rights commission, as his vice-presidential running mate.
Mr Donald Emmerson, an Indonesia expert at Stanford University, California, said: 'If Wiranto's Cabinet choices included individuals known as champions of human rights, that too may stimulate some second thoughts on the part of US legislators inclined to punish Indonesia for electing him.'
But many feel that what is more likely to stimulate such thoughts and thus neutralise US fears about a Wiranto presidency is his strong stance on security and counter-terrorism. That issue transcends all else in American eyes.
Mr Emmerson said: 'Given America's concern with security, including the pursuit and prevention of terrorism in Indonesia, Wiranto's military background and apparent willingness to crack down on Jemaah Islamiah are potential assets to be weighed against his debits on human rights grounds.'
But there is also another candidate who is viewed in Washington as having those same valuable assets, but without the negative human rights reputation that bedevils Mr Wiranto.
Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who propelled his fledgling Democratic Party to major gains in last month's parliamentary elections and who is another retired general, is seen by many in the US as the most desirable candidate.
Mr Niksch said: 'My guess is that within the Pentagon and the State Department, Bambang Yudhoyono is probably looked at with a fair amount of positive optimism.'
Others agree that in Washington, Mr Bambang is widely regarded as a cleaner and firmer candidate than either Mr Wiranto or incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
He is also perceived in the US as being the candidate who could do the most to restore economic growth and maintain public order in Indonesia.
As regards Mrs Megawati, the US views her presidency as having been defined by under-achievement, both domestically and in the fight against violent extremism.
'Certainly, for those who wanted a tougher stance on terrorism, she's been a disappointment,' Mr Liddle said.
Still, despite privately expressed preferences, officials in Washington have been careful not to publicly extol or disparage any of the candidates.
The official US position is that it is up to the Indonesian people to decide who is going to govern them and it is not the place of the United States to pick favourites.
Of course, Washington has vociferously supported Indonesia's democratisation process and its main concern is to see that process continue in the presidential elections.
Naturally, there is a desire that Indonesians elect someone who has the authority to tackle tough problems like reform in the military and pervasive corruption, as well as being a leader who will continue to drive forward political reforms.
Regardless of who is victorious, Washington hopes that Indonesia will be able to readopt a more decisive role in the affairs of the region.
'The US would like to see Indonesia playing the positive, moderate regional and global role that it played under Suharto,' said Mr Liddle.
'It is hard to see it happening with Wiranto, but it could happen with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.'
The Straits Times May 28, 2004
No.1 Isn't Unreachable Anymore for Wiranto
Support from Golkar and PKB gives him a major boost domestically while meeting with Timor leader will help on global front
By Derwin Pereira
THE political star of retired general Wiranto appears to be getting brighter.
The former military commander, who more than three years ago suffered an ignominious exit from politics, has now taken a big step towards clinching the presidency in Indonesia.
In a coup over his rivals, he secured the endorsement of the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) - the country's third largest party, which is linked to the 40-million-strong Nadhlatul Ulama (NU).
And in a charm offensive on the international front, he is plotting a meeting with Timor Leste leader Xanana Gusmao tomorrow. The ex-general is accused of complicity in the 1999 Timor Leste imbroglio.
Winning PKB's backing, however, seems to be more significant in terms of shifting the political balance in his favour.
It is a major boost for the retired general, who also has at his disposal the support of Golkar which won the most seats in Parliament in the April legislative election.
Golkar deputy chairman Marzuki Darusman, who led negotiation talks with PKB, told The Straits Times yesterday: 'This is a major turning point in Wiranto's campaign for the presidency. He has got the support of two big parties, which makes him a major force in Indonesian politics.'
PKB won 10 per cent of the seats in the parliamentary poll, most of the votes coming from the NU home base of East Java.
Mr Wiranto has picked as his running mate Mr Solahuddin Wahid, the younger brother of former president Abdurrahman Wahid who is PKB's chief patron. Both brothers are top leaders of NU which is Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation.
Mr Abdurrahman played a key role in getting PKB to endorse the Wiranto candidacy after having been disqualified by the General Election Commission last week from taking part in the race.
He told reporters: 'We've reached a decision to back Solahuddin Wahid as a vice-presidential candidate from PKB in a ticket with Wiranto. PKB needs someone in the race.'
The Wiranto camp is jubilant. But observers believe it is not going to be easy for him to galvanise total NU support. NU members traditionally do not vote in a single block. Part of the the NU vote could go to Mr Hasyim Muzadi and Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Indeed, at least one opinion poll last month indicated that the vote would split. However, former security czar Bambang remains the more popular candidate, recent polls have shown, with the support of 40 per cent of NU.
Mr Wiranto and Mr Abdurrahman are ranked very low on the list.
Mr Wiranto faces another problem. He also does not have the full backing of the Golkar machinery, with subversive elements in the party - led by chairman Akbar Tandjung - trying to block his chances.
But depending on whether he can strike a deal with Golkar and PKB - which is asking for several Cabinet seats, including a senior post for Mr Abdurrahman - Mr Wiranto has in effect the most potent machinery to deploy for the July 5 election.
The key is whether party machinery will count as much in Indonesia's first direct presidential poll. The Wiranto camp thinks that its huge infrastructure and network will do the job for it.
It is now moving on the international front which has long been the Achilles heel of Wiranto's candidacy.
Mr Marzuki disclosed that meeting with Mr Gusmao in Bali was aimed at 'mending ties' with the Timor Leste leader in the hope that the former Indonesian territory would back down on attempts to incarcerate Mr Wiranto.
A Timor Leste tribunal last week issued an arrest warrant for him over the violence, mostly blamed on pro-Jakarta militias backed by elements of the Indonesian military. Mr Wiranto was armed forces commander at that time.
At a broader level, Mr Marzuki said the goal was to project an image to the international community that the former general was taking the first step at reconciliation.
The key is whether such PR will have any bearing for the hawks on Capitol Hill.
Mr Wiranto's star is shining, but major hurdles remain that make his chances of winning the presidency still far from certain.
Wiranto's First Trip Abroad Since Timor Warrant
JAKARTA, May 28 (Reuters) - Indonesian presidential candidate Wiranto is expected to travel to Singapore on Friday on his first trip abroad since a human rights tribunal in East Timor issued an arrest warrant on May 10 against the former military chief.
He was due to have lunch with Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and possibly Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, a senior official of Wiranto's party said.
Another official said it would be Wiranto's first trip abroad since the warrant was issued for crimes prosecutors say were committed during the tiny territory's bloody break from Jakarta rule in 1999.
If other countries chose to honour the warrant, it could create problems for Wiranto when traveling abroad.
That is unlikely to happen in Singapore, however.
The city state has strong geopolitical and economic interests in good ties with Indonesia, which has said it does not consider the East Timor court to have jurisdiction over its nationals and has no intention of arresting or extraditing those charged by the panel.
More than 1,000 people died in 1999 after East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for an end to Indonesia's occupation of the tiny territory.
Most of the deaths were blamed on pro-Jakarta militias backed by elements of the Indonesian military.
Wiranto was chief of Indonesia's military at the time. He has denied responsibility for any human rights violations and said he is interested in good relations with East Timor.
The ex-general, nominated by Golkar, the top party in Indonesia's April legislative elections, as its candidate for the July 5 presidential poll, is expected to meet East Timor President Xanana Gusmao on Indonesia's tourist island of Bali on Saturday.
Gusmao has repeatedly said his country's priority is rebuilding the economy and the welfare of its citizens, and that includes improving ties with former ruler Indonesia.
East Timor's attorney general has criticised the arrest warrant for Wiranto, but stopped short of annulling it.
Although Golkar was first in the parliamentary elections, its share of seats is far from a majority and opinion polls show another ex-general, former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, running well ahead of Wiranto, incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri, and his other two rivals in the presidential contest.
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