Connect with ETAN
Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest ETAN on Instagram Donate to ETAN!

Subject: RT: More heads to roll in Indonesia military
Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 09:26:59 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

ANALYSIS-More heads to roll in Indonesia military By Andrew Marshall

JAKARTA, Aug 24 (Reuters) - If Indonesia's military believes it can appease public anger over mounting evidence of past atrocities by casting out its most hated figure, it is mistaken, analysts said on Monday.

Armed forces chief General Wiranto announced earlier in the day that Lieutenant-General Prabowo Subianto, son-in-law of former president Suharto, had been sacked after a military investigation found him directly responsible for the abduction and torture of political activists.

But as evidence continues to emerge of army involvement in torture, rape and mass killings, the dismissal of Prabowo will not be enough to restore Indonesia's shaken confidence in its military, analysts said.

``I'm afraid that dismissing Prabowo will not be enough,'' said political analyst and military historian Salim Said.

``People will believe Prabowo is simply being made a scapegoat if the military stops here, without going further and responding to the demands of the people that all of these past brutalities should be uncovered.''

A human rights team investigating reports of army atrocities during a nine-year crackdown against a separatist insurgency in the province of Aceh unearthed scores of bones at the weekend at sites believed to be mass graves for hundreds of army victims.

Wiranto also admitted last week that troops were ``involved'' in the riots that ravaged Jakarta in mid-May, in which almost 1,200 people died, and more than 150 ethnic Chinese women were raped, say human rights groups.

The revelations further stained the image of a military already tarnished by its involvement in the kidnappings of anto-Suharto activists over the past year and by the fatal shooting of four student protesters in May.

Analysts say making Prabowo a scapegoat for past army abuses will not satisfy Indonesia's public and a thorough investigation into alleged atrocities will be difficult to avoid.

A diplomatic source close to the military said many serving and former senior officers would heave a deep sigh of relief that the investigation into army kidnappings had ended with the sacking of Prabowo and would not be taken further.

But like Said, he said the firing of Prabowo was unlikely to be sufficient to stem public anger.

``A lot of people may find it's not enough when you're talking of kidnaps, murder and torture,'' he said.

Few Indonesians doubt Prabowo had a hand in many past army atrocities. Until March he was commander of the feared Kopassus elite special forces, which is the focus of allegations of human rights abuses in the troubled provinces of Aceh in north Sumatra and East Timor.

Scores of Acehnese testified to Indonesia's official National Commission on Human Rights at the weekend that Kopassus troops had been responsible for abductions, rapes, torture and killings in the province until May this year, when Suharto resigned amid a crippling economic downturn and mass protests against his rule.

Wiranto has already acknowledged that Kopassus soldiers abducted and tortured more than 20 anti-Suharto activists. Human rights groups say 14 are still missing.

But although Prabowo's dismissal will be welcomed, pressure for a full investigation of the military will not abate and more high-ranking heads are likely to roll, analysts said.

``The army must reveal more. Who was responsible for the brutality in Aceh? Where are the missing activists? The families of victims want to know what has happened to them, or where their graves are,'' Said said.

``The army has investigated Prabowo, but they must also dare to do that to other officers who are responsible for brutality.''

Revelations of abuses come as the army struggles to maintain its traditional ``dual function'' which gives it a significant role in Indonesia's politics.

Many opposition figures want to see the army removed from politics and stripped of the quota of seats it commands in Indonesia's legislative bodies. The skeletons being uncovered in the army's cupboard gives such critics further ammunition.

But Said says that despite the army's battering in recent months it remains well-entrenched enough to resist any attempt to remove it from Indonesian politics.

``The roots of the army's political involvement are very deep,'' he said. ``Everybody involved in politics in this country knows that real political power lies with the military.''

``The brutalities uncovered will be used as a bargaining chip by those who want the army's role reduced. But I don't think they will succeed in confining the army to the barracks, because the Indonesian army has never been confined to the barracks. They have been in politics from the beginning.''

Back to August Menu
Back to Main Postings Menu