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Prabowo: You don't massacre civilians in front of the world press.

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SECRETARY OF STATE POMPEO Enforce Visa Ban on Indonesia's Prabowo

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)


Prabowo Subianto

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October 2020 - Prabowo Subianto is a serial human rights violator and authoritarian who has twice run for President of Indonesia (in 2014 and in 2020) and lost to current President Joko "Jokowi" Wibianto. In 2020, Jokowi appointed the Retired General to the civilian post of Minister of Defense.

Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto holds a bilateral meeting with his United States counterpart Defense Secretary Mark Thomas Esper in Bangkok on Saturday.  
Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, right, holds a bilateral meeting with his US counterpart Defense Secretary Mark Thomas Esper in Bangkok in Nov 2019. (Photo courtesy of Indonesian Defense Ministry)  
Prabowo was the first person denied entry into the United States in 2000 under the UN Convention against Torture. And until October 2020 was refused visas or discouraged from coming to the U.S. News reports say Prabowo has been granted a visa to come to Washington to meet with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

In 2000, Prabowo was blocked from attending his son's graduation Boston. Reuters reported that in 2012, he was again denied a visa by the U.S.

Despite the visa ban, Esper met with Prabowo during an ASEAN ministers meeting in Singapore, November 16 2019.

In December 2018, Prabowo reportedly made plans to arrests political opponents and even some current allies in an effort to please the U.S. should he win the election. The leaked minutes of the meeting "indicate that privately he has pledged to 'collaborate with the United States' by 'arrest(ing) the radical clerics' and other 'foot soldiers' of his campaign. These notes contradicted his public nationalist campaign rhetoric that harshly attacked "foreign lackeys" ("antek asing") who failed to stand up to foreign influences in Indonesia; foreigners who profited off of the nation's natural resources.

Prabowo is deciding whether to mount another Presidential campaign in 2024.

Prabowo spent much of his military career in Indonesia’s notorious Kopassus special forces, becoming its commander from 1995-1998. He now leads the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya, Gerindra Party), which is largely funded by his millionaire brother. Prabowo had close ties to Suharto during the New Order (he married and has a son with Suharto’s daughter Titiek). He received military training in the U.S. The Washington Post reported in 1998 that his "ties to the U.S. military are the closest of any among the U.S.-trained officer corps." Former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Gelbard described Prabowo as “somebody who is perhaps the greatest violator of human rights in contemporary times among the Indonesian military. His deeds in the late 1990s before democracy took hold, were shocking, even by TNI standards.”

Prabowo served several tours in Timor-Leste, where he “developed his reputation as the military's most ruthless field commander” (Joseph Nevins, A Not-So Distant Horror, Mass Violence in East Timor, Cornell University Press, 2005: 61). Among other actions he was involved in the 1978 capture of Fretilin leader Nicolau Lobato, who was shot and killed while in custody. In the 1990s, he organized gangs of hooded killers

“Prabowo being invited by the State Palace to assist them is a setback toward democracy and reform. Such in the past, human rights violators are able to position themselves in strategic positions and our government is insensitive with issues regarding human rights violators. This goes to show that we resemble the year 1998,” said Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) executive director, Asfinawati, Tempo on October 22, 2019.

 known as “ninjas” and the Tim Alfa militia in Los Palos to terrorize and cow the population. Prabowo is also accused of being involved in the September 1983 Kraras massacre, where more than 300 people were killed by Indonesian soldiers, and several East Timorese have accused Prabowo of torturing them. Prabowo denies involvement. Release of Prabowo’s complete military records, including his and his troops locations on particular dates, would clarify his role.

On New Years Day 2020, Prabowo honored veterans of Operasi Seroja (Operation Lotus) the 1975 invasion Timor-Leste. Prabowo's spokesperson "Pak [Mr] Prabowo invited the veterans of the Seroja Operation in Tim Tim (East Timor) and presented his respects to them all as an expression of thanks and respect for these fighters."

In 1996, Prabowo led a team to secure the release of environmental researchers taken hostage by West Papuan guerrillas. He aborted a planned Red Cross supervised release of the hostages to prevent his sister-in-law from getting credit. According to Ed McWilliams, a retired U.S. diplomat, “The aborted hostage transfer led to a brutal campaign of reprisal attacks by the Indonesian military (largely Kopassus) against highland villages.” This campaign began with an assault from “an Indonesian military helicopter disguised to look like the helicopter that ICRC mediators had been using” in violation of well-established international humanitarian law.

Prabowo As the tumult associated with the East Asian economic crisis in 1997-98 threatened the political legitimacy of the Suharto regime, Prabowo spearheaded campaigns to kidnap, arrest, intimidate and torture student activists. Protesting students at Trisakti University were killed and wounded by military snipers. Prabowo has acknowledged his role in the kidnappings, but has said his “conscience is clear.” Convicted by a court of honor for “exceeding orders,” Prabowo was forced to retire.

He is also accused of having a central role in sparking the May 14, 1998 anti-Chinese riots in Jakarta and other major urban areas. At the time, Prabowo was head of the Kostrad (the Army Strategic Reserve) based in the capital. In 2003, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) accused Prabowo of responsibility “for gross human rights violations that occurred during the extensive rioting in Jakarta in 1998.” The Komnas HAM report said that “security authorities at that time failed to curb the widespread riots that took place simultaneously.” The spread of the riots was a result of a specific policy based on the “similar pattern at almost all places where the riots took place, which began with provocation, followed by an attack on civilians.”

Shortly before Suharto resigned, Prabowo, backed by armed men, confronted the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Subagio at his home. The next morning Prabowo was removed as Kostrad commander. Later that day, B.J. Habibie succeeded Suharto as president, and Prabowo demanded command of the military. On May 22, he deployed troops around the presidential palace. Prabowo reportedly, “took his demotion badly – at one point strapping on a sidearm, summoning several truckloads of troops and confronting guards at the presidential palace as he tried to win an audience” with Habibie. Soon after he was forced to resign from the military. In a speech in late 2012 he said, "I am a retired lieutenant general who once attempted to overthrow a president. But I failed to do it, and I regret that I failed."  Recently, while campaigning in Aceh, Prabowo offered a vague apology for unnamed actions his troops took there.

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After leaving the military Prabowo went into business and has tried to remake himself as a populist, becoming president of the Indonesian Farmers’ Association (HKTI) in 2004, while often arguing that Indonesia needed a strong, guiding hand - his. The same year, he tried unsuccessfully to become the Golkar (Suharto’s New Order party) nominee for President. In 2009 he was Megawati Sukarnoputri’s vice-presidential candidate (a PDI-P/Gerindra split ticket).

Until recently, Prabowo led most opinion polls of declared candidates for President. Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (Jokowi), who officially entered the race in mid-March as the PDI-P candidate, is the current favorite.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) was founded in 1991. ETAN supports democracy, human rights and justice in Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. ETAN is non-partisan. It works on issues and does not support candidates or political parties in any country. Website: Twitter: @etan009.

See also

Subscribe to indonesia-act listservAllan Nairn on Prabowo


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The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66 The Indonesian Genocide of 1965: Causes, Dynamics and Legacies (Palgrave Studies in the History of Genocide)  Mechanics of Mass Murder: The Army and the Indonesian Genocide  Pretext for Mass Murder Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968