Subject: The Australian: Wiranto Looms As Poll Threat

The Australian

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wiranto looms as poll threat

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Indonesia Correspondent

IT has been an excellent week for General Wiranto, the former head of the Indonesian military. First, his political party drew the No1 spot on ballot papers for next year's general election, for which campaigning officially starts today.

And on Tuesday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta plan to smile and shake hands on a document that fails to identify Wiranto or his underlings as responsible for the violence that racked Indonesia's tiny neighbour as it broke away from Jakarta nine years ago.

The painstaking work of the bilateral Truth and Friendship Commission (KKP) has been criticised at every turn, including by Wiranto himself, who, during his questioning, blamed the UN, Australia and anyone else he could think of for the 1999 violence he oversaw.

``I was only a policy-maker; I could not control what happened in the field,'' the suave general shrugged in the commission last year.

This was despite clear evidence of an Indonesian military-sponsored rampage on Jakarta's withdrawal from East Timor.

This and other evidence has been assessed in four separate inquiries prior to the latest toothless body, whose only real achievement has been to give Indonesia a chance to catch up with world opinion on its East Timor sins.

However, neither side -- not Jakarta, and certainly not Dili -- was interested in seeing individual prosecutions emerge from the commission's 2 1/2 years of work. Indeed, both countries have been hard at work overturning the few convictions that have been made.

In the end, the investigation interpreted its mandate as being about using individual transgressions to prove institutional responsibility.

While it concluded that ``murders, rapes other forms of sexual violence, torture, forcible transfer and illegal detention'' were part of a systemic policy carried out by pro-autonomy militias, the Indonesian military, the Indonesian Government and the Indonesian national police, there was no reason to take matters further, it ruled.

The report does not recommend any sanctions, but in a crowning insult it also explicitly rules out granting amnesty to any participants who might later be convicted of crimes.

The irony lies in the fact that it was the commission's refusal to state this amnesty position at the outset that prompted a UN boycott of the process.

The UN, which retains a strong commitment to rebuilding East Timor, will doubtless feel that it has been toyed with monumentally. However, one of the happiest outcomes of its investigations, the commission found, would be developing ``an environment of friendship (in which) there is the real potential for trade to increase, security to improve and cultural and educational exchanges to enrich the lives of the nations' peoples''.

This will certainly be music to the ears of former general Yudhoyono, who needs as little campaign noise and as much good news as possible going into next year's polls.

As well as rising prices, he'll be fighting an uphill battle against resurgent Muslim and nationalist groups that are eating away at the tenuous gains he made in the 2004 election.

Opinion polling had Yudhoyono falling well behind his predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, who was also drawing ahead of Golkar, the former ruling party of long-time strongman Suharto. But it could yet be a quicksilver character such as Wiranto who streaks past them all when punters finally go to the polls from next April.

``There was a power vacuum that produced SBY as though from nowhere in 2004, and the same thing could conceivably happen next year,'' one extremely well-placed Western diplomat speculated this week.

``But what if the outcome in that case wasn't to propel forward someone unknown, but rather one of the darker forces already in the race, like Wiranto or Prabowo (Suharto's former son-in-law, a former special forces commander with extensive East Timor experience, who many believe played a firm hand in the dictator's downfall)?

``There's no reason for them to fund campaigns as well as they are without some expectation of success, and there's no reason to believe they won't play dirty -- because they always have in the past.''

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