Subject: Prabowo, Gerindra Fight Accusations of Past Rights Abuses

also Prabowo Asked to Explain 'Counter-Coup' Plot Claim

The Jakarta Post

March 19, 2009

Prabowo, Gerindra Fight Accusations of Past Rights Abuses

Halida Hatta, daughter of Muhammad Hatta, the co-founding father of Indonesia, remembers her father's words: Politics is dirty, but politics can be the only way to improve people's lives.

Her father's wisdom encouraged her to step into politics by joining the newly-established Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra,) although according to Gerindra Deputy-Chairman Fadli Zon, "it took two dinners to convince her to join the party."

"I believe the party and I share the same vision of how to build Indonesia. It offers a platform that seeks to directly make people prosper, just like what my father had dreamt of," she said during a visit to The Jakarta Post's headquarters on Monday.

Gerindra was established on Feb 6, 2008 as a political vehicle for former Army Special Force Command (Kopassus) Chief Lt. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto's (the party's chief patron) presidential campaign.

Halida's inclusion "softens" the party's face as Prabowo is frequently associated with human rights abuses during his tour of duty in East Timor and involvement in the kidnappings, torture, abuse and murder of anti-Soeharto intellectuals and activists during the turmoil of 1998. His deputy, Maj. Gen (ret) Muchdi Purwoprandjono, former deputy-chairman of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), was previously put on trial for the murder of human rights campaigner Munir Thalib; the court declared him innocent.

"The biggest obstacle for Prabowo and Gerindra is the ex-gerneral's notorious records in dealing with human rights cases. But the party has tried hard to change its image by recruiting the likes of Halida and the *victims of Prabowo's kidnapping', such as Pius Lustrilanang and Andi Arief," analyst Mohammad Qodari said.

The party's manifesto on human rights upholds "cultural particularism and national interest" as opposed to universal human rights. The party "rejects the issue of human rights becoming a political instrument of foreign parties in domestic affairs."

Halida's presence has also strengthened the party's economic platform, as she is expected to take over Hatta's populist legacy.

In its manifesto, Gerindra promises to create prosperity, social justice, and political order based on Pancasila (Indonesia's state ideology) and the original 1945 Constitution. "We would like to rebuild Indonesia just like how it was in the past when people gained prosperity from agriculture and fishing," Fadli Zon, a founding member of Gerindra said.

To gain sympathy Gerindra has bombarded the public with a television campaign aimed directly at garnering grass-root voters, resulting in "97 percent" of eligible voters now aware of the party, Fadli said.

The party claims some 12 million card carrying members. (naf)


The Jakarta Globe

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prabowo Asked to Explain 'Counter-Coup' Plot Claim

Presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto needs to answer allegations that he masterminded a plan to kidnap a group of high-ranking generals as part of a "counter-coup" in the early 1980s, the governor of the National Resilience Institute, Muladi, said on Tuesday.

A recently released book written by retired Lt. Gen. Sintong Panjaitan, the former head of the Army's Special Forces, or Kopassus, claims that in 1983, when Prawbowo was deputy commander of the 81 Anti-Terror Detachment, the then-captain alleged that a group of generals was planning to stage a coup against President Suharto.

Sintong, a former high-flyer with the Indonesian Armed Forces, or TNI, until he was blamed for the Santa Cruz cemetery incident in East Timor in 1991, which left 50 dead, released the book, "The Journey of an Army Commander," last month.

Sintong, who was Prabowo's commander in 1983, wrote that he had successfully convinced Prabowo that there would be no coup and the counter-kidnap plan was aborted.

"Therefore, Prabowo must clarify [the issue] soon," said the institute's Muladi, who is also a senior board member of the Golkar Party.

"History is a history, but some people say it is 'his story,'?" Muladi said after a seminar at the office of the institute, or Lemhannas. "Automatically, we have to listen to the story from the accused person. Every accused person has the right to defend themselves, it cannot be accomplished in words or short lines."

Prabowo, who plans to run for president for the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, on Tuesday denied allegations that he had tried to conduct a silent counter-coup operation in 1983.

"What are the odds of a captain conducting a coup?" he said. He added that it would not have been possible for any soldier to conduct such an operation at a time when the People's Consultative Assembly, or MPR, was holding its general plenary meeting.

He said people could judge the legitimacy of Sintong's claims on their own.

Prabowo said he had accepted responsibility for the abduction of 24 pro-democracy activists in 1998. Thirteen of the activists are still missing.

"God willing, it's done. Let history speak for itself. Everyone has his own version," Prabowo said, adding that he intended to write a book giving his side of the story.

A military honorary council tribunal found Prabowo, the then commander of Kopassus, guilty of ordering his subordinates in the Mawar (Rose) Task Force to abduct the activists. He was charged to retire eight years ahead of the mandatory retirement age of 55.

JG, Antara

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