Subject: BBC Analysis: Gen. Wiranto's Future Political Career

Wiranto not fit to minister in Indonesian government.Received from Joyo Indonesia News

BBC Monitoring International Reports

March 3, 2003

Source: Republika, Jakarta, in Indonesian 1 Mar 03

Indonesian Paper Views Ex-Gen Wiranto's Future Political Career

Charges of crimes against humanity may end retired Gen Wiranto's political career, an Indonesian newspaper has said. Gen Wiranto has just been shortlisted as a Golkar Party possible presidential nominee, who would have a good chance of leading the country after the 2004 elections. As support for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle wanes, Wiranto's name has been increasingly linked with the anti-Megawati political segment. The paper said "he has begun to transform himself from a former military leader to a community leader. Even in hitherto very critical circles, Wiranto is beginning to be accepted as a possible element to head opposition to the present government". However, his reputation is bound to be tarnished if charges of his involvement in violence in East Timor are upheld by the UN. Following is the text of the article by Denny J.A., executive director of the Jayabaya University and Academy Foundation, entitled: "Wiranto's political fate"; published by Indonesian newspaper Republika web site on 1 March

This could be the worst "gift" ever received by retired Gen Wiranto during his career. He is the accused in a case of crimes against humanity. On the face of the earth, there is no more grave crime than one against humanity. This is the "title" given to those considered responsible for the murder of many innocent people.

Presenting this worst gift was no ordinary institution. The Serious Crime Unit, all members of which are UN staff, forwarded a release to the East Timor attorney-general. It was registered at a Dili District court, which then requested the assistance of Indonesia and Interpol to arrest Wiranto and six other senior military officers.

The release had controversial consequences. Some experts in Indonesia suggested that Wiranto and the Indonesian government simply ignore it. But others said that Indonesia was a UN member and must give the request due attention.

The upshot of the case may well be that Wiranto escapes any legal trap, especially given that Indonesia itself has conducted human rights trials over events in East Timor. However, Wiranto's political career, as a consequence, will nose-dive. East Timor charges, backed up with UN advisory assistance, may well be the gavel stroke that signals the end of his public career.

Politics is greatly influenced by perception. Factually, Wiranto is not necessarily guilty. But character assassination and public opinion on the question of violence in East Timor will be very serious obstacles for him. He will find it hard to be widely accepted in public life, let alone become a new community leader, should clarification of his role be unsatisfactory.

Wiranto has only just been placed on the short list of Golkar's possible presidential nominees and this is clearly a golden opportunity for him. Golkar is a major party and may well return as the biggest party at the 2004 elections, while support for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle is rapidly waning. Whoever does become the Golkar nominee will have a very good chance of really leading the country.

Wiranto has also only just begun a political career in civil society. His name is being increasingly linked with political segments protesting against Megawati. He has begun to transform himself from a former military leader to a community leader. Even in hitherto very critical circles, Wiranto is beginning to be accepted as a possible element to head opposition to the present government. But a charge of crimes against humanity could crush all such opportunities.

The root of Wiranto's current problem is that he commanded the military in a very difficult period. His loyalty to what he perceived as national interests and his loyalty to the president of the time have indeed themselves become sources of problems. To command the military at the end of Suharto's reign, as well as during the early transitional era beginning with the Habibie administration, he had to be responsive to a great many opposing interests. Whoever commanded the military at that time would have experienced more or less the same difficulties and political consequences.

Take East Timor, for example. President Habibie had already decided to conduct a referendum. As his subordinate, there was nothing Wiranto could do other than safeguard the president's decision, particularly given the fact that in the early part of the reform era, an East Timor referendum was considered a highly reformist policy and attracted world praise. There was also the conviction that the pro-Indonesia group would win the referendum.

There is nothing wrong with Wiranto and other military commanders wanting East Timor remaining part of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia NKRI . The loyalty of the military to the NKRI became a kind of sacred doctrine. There is also nothing wrong with the military mobilizing to ensure a referendum result giving victory to the pro-integration side.

But what is regretted by all sides, deserving of condemnation and being called a crime against humanity, is the violence. Following the referendum result that defeated Indonesia, brutally cruel mass murder and arson occurred. So many died. Such immeasurable misery for the people of East Timor, through fear and anxiety, sadness, anger, and loss of loved ones.

Up to this moment, just what happened is not fully clear. It is not known precisely how far military people were involved in the violence. It is not fully clear if there was an official military policy behind the violence. It is not clear to what level military commanders were involved. What the public knows is that at that time Wiranto was military commander-in-chief.

It was not the only time Wiranto had faced a difficult situation. While he was still in office, there occurred an incident of violence which became known as the Semanggi Tragedy. The Consultative Assembly MPR was holding a special session. Thousands of students had gathered in the Semanggi Bridge area, intending to invade and occupy the MPR building.

There is nothing wrong with the police and military leadership at the time wanting to safeguard the MPR special session. If the MPR failed to sit and the students succeeded in turning the place upside down, the authority of the state would have fallen to an extremely low point. No government can govern effectively if the symbols and institutes of state can be so easily toppled by an angry mob. National damage would be enormous.

But once again, what cannot be defended is the violence. Five died and hundreds were wounded by sprays of bullets fired indiscriminately by security forces. The crowd of students and local residents was confronted with brutality. We have never known what Wiranto's role was, but at the time Wiranto was military commander-in-chief. The position, admittedly, does make him vulnerable to character assassination.

If Wiranto had led the military in an era of improvement like the present, his political career would have continued. His leadership capabilities and networking would make it very likely. But as it happens, fate made him military commander in a very difficult era. Like it or not, he will get splashed by all the bad things of the past. The East Timor charges, backed up by the UN, may well be the sound of the gong ending his chances of re-emerging in public life.

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