Subject: Indonesia "dangerous'' as general hangs on

Indonesia ``dangerous'' as general hangs on

By Tomi Soetjipto

JAKARTA, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The Indonesian army on Friday warned that the showdown between the country's first democratically elected president and a defiant ex-military chief was becoming dangerous, but ruled out a coup.

General Wiranto has refused to bow to President Abdurrahman Wahid's demand he quit the cabinet after being named in a report on last year's atrocities in East Timor when he was armed forces commander.

``In principle, the situation is getting more dangerous and uncertain,'' the official news agency Antara quoted army chief of staff General Tyasno Sudarto as telling reporters.

He said the military as an institution would not launch a coup though he added he could not supervise each officer.

A defiant Wiranto appears ready to hang on to his post as coordinating minister for political and security affairs until Wahid returns from an overseas tour on February 13, triggering fears of a coup.

Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said earlier he had formally asked Wiranto to comply with Wahid's order to quit, adding the general had not replied.

``We have agreed to wait until the president returns,'' Juwono said, without explaining. ``I urge everyone to be patient.''

MILITARY SAYS NO COUP

But military spokesman Air Vice-Marshall Graito Usodo played down coup fears.

``I don't think it's dangerous,'' he told. ``In fact, I can give you a guarantee that while...(Wahid) is away there will no be coup, or any sort of trouble.

``The TNI (Indonesia's military) as an institution or as individuals will not launch a coup. I can assure you of that,'' he said.

A face-to-face showdown is likely to be damaging to Wahid -- currently in Germany -- as he tries to cement his own fragile position and keep the lid on a fractious military angry at efforts to get it out of politics and back into the barracks.

``It's not that he can't fire Wiranto, but he doesn't want to expend political capital,'' said political analyst Wimar Witoelar.

Wiranto has defied calls by senior politicians to leave for the good of the country and its fledgling democracy.

Wahid said this week he wanted Wiranto to resign before he returns home.

The president's order shook the country, sparking fears it could trigger a coup and topple Indonesia's first democratically elected president after just three months in office.

The stand-off also rattled financial markets, driving the rupiah to a three-month low.

DAYS IN POLITICS APPEAR NUMBERED

Although Wiranto refused to budge, many analysts said the once-powerful general's days in politics appear to be numbered, just three months after he was a strong contender to be Wahid's vice-president.

Wiranto has denied any wrongdoing and has made no public comment or appearance since a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

U.N. investigators in East Timor said on Friday they believed Indonesian soldiers and police were involved in the massacre of more than 50 East Timorese men in the bloody days after the territory voted for independence on August 30.

The slayings, in which the men were hacked and beaten to death at Passabe in the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi, is the worst uncovered so far since U.N.-mandated troops moved into the territory in September to restore peace.

While the military was unhappy with Wiranto's treatment, it lacks the strength or will to launch a coup, analysts say, adding Wiranto's stand is aimed at increasing pressure on Wahid to give him immunity from prosecution in return for a peaceful departure.

``He wants to make a point... and he wants to cut a deal,'' said a Jakarta-based western diplomat. ``But he will go.''

Although junior to Wiranto in the cabinet, Juwono was chosen over vice-president Megawati Sukarnoputri to deliver Wahid's quit order because he is close to the military and seen as having no personal political agenda to push, analysts believed.

After a mysterious secret meeting of top military brass, including Wiranto, Wahid on Thursday warned his generals to watch their step and insisted he remains in firmly in control.


Back to February Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/