Subject: Prabowo Salutes, Hugs Xanana Gusmao

Indonesian commander embraces Timor hero, admits army excesses

JAKARTA, April 20 (AFP) -

A former army commander Friday admitted excesses in the Indonesian military in its handling of separatist movements, and publicly embraced East Timor's independence leader Xanana Gusmao.

Retired Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, the former leader of the feared Kostrad special forces, saluted and hugged Gusmao, who commanded East Timor's Falantil guerillas for 21 years, before an audience of foreign businessmen and diplomats.

"Between warriors we have mutual respect," said Subianto, sharing the platform with Gusmao and other panelists discussing Indonesia's separatist movements at a conference here.

"I think I was chasing Mr Xanana Gusmao for many, many years and he eluded us, and so as warriors, we salute and we respect a worthy and a strong warrior."

"Now the wheels of fortune have turned and I have to address him as 'your excellency', but that's life, c'est la vie."

Subianto rose to the highest ranks of Indonesia's army during 28 years of service, married former president Suharto's youngest daughter, and was tipped to become military commander or even president.

But his dazzling career was cut short within months of Suharto's fall from power in 1998, when he was blamed for organising the kidnapping and disappearance of democracy activists and discharged from the military.

Subianto told Friday's conference that widespread international criticisms of Indonesia's armed forces had their "basis in fact," although he said they were not entirely objective.

"There have been excesses, violations, there have been breakdowns in discipline, breakdowns in correct rules of engagement, however ... I know this is not part of our doctrine," he said.

"It is not part of any official policy and in fact the doctrine that we have states very clearly that we are a people's army and therefore our whole basis of military success must be based on support of the people."

Indonesia's military was divided by conflicting approaches to dealing with separatists, Subianto said.

"One tradition or school of thought are those that say 'victory at all costs, mission at all costs, pragmatism ... results ... I don't care about anything else, we don't care about the feelings of the people etcetera, we have to go in and if there are civilian casualties so be it, collateral damage'," Subianto said.

"There's another train of thought that proposes or tries to defend the doctrine of the basis of the Indonesian military doctrine, which is the doctrine of total people's defence."

Subianto said in the three years he had been outside the military, he was "very surprised and very disappointed" at continuing incidents that resulted in "excessive civilian casualties."

"They are aberrations, they are violations, and are detrimental to the success of the mission of the Indonesian military.

In defence of the military, Subianto said Indonesians were by nature violent.

"We do have a culture of violence, the tribes, the ethnic groups in Indonesia, the Indonesians will go very fast to violence," he said.

"The word amok comes from the lingua franca of this archipelago, something we are aware of and that we do not like."

He said biased behaviour by military members was a reflection of Indonesian society, pointing to the 28-month sectarian conflict in the Moluccas where soldiers and police have joined Muslim and Christian fighters.

"If there are fault lines in the society there will be fault lines in the military. This is what happened in the Moluccas."

"We have active serving officers who are siding with one side. In the daytime they go to the headquarters, they go for their roll call, and at night time they stay up they join the various factions. This is very tragic."

He said the "wilful ignoring of doctrine, of orders" was sympotomatic of the soldiers' cultural and educational background.

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