Subject: WP in Indonesia: Democracy Seeks A Drill Sergeant

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

The Washington Post Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Democracy Seeks A Drill Sergeant

Indonesians Let Down by Reforms Throng to Presidential Campaign of Indicted Ex-General

By Alan Sipress

Washington Post Foreign Service

BANDUNG, Indonesia

When Gen. Wiranto's stump speech ended, the real action began.

"We should fall no more!" he exhorted the crowd. "We have fallen enough. Now we have to rise again!"

Striking up the band, he launched into an Indonesian pop song: "Rise and Fall." He clasped the microphone in his left hand like a rock star, putting the right one over his heart and then reaching out to thousands of fans in a grassy field.

Hundreds pressed forward toward the stage, forming a throbbing mosh pit beside the mountains of amplifiers. They waved their arms over their heads, clapped their hands, cheered their general.

This is the Indonesian presidential campaign of the man known only as Wiranto: retired armed forces chief, recording artist, indicted war crimes suspect.

Gone is the uniform he wore as Indonesia's military commander -- first under the longtime autocratic president Suharto, who was forced from office by protesters in 1998, and then a year later during the wave of killings in East Timor. Human rights groups say at least 1,000 people were killed in that violence, orchestrated by Indonesian army officers.

Now, over his muscular frame, Wiranto dons a yellow windbreaker, in the color of his political party. But he retains the mantle of military discipline at a time when Indonesians increasingly express nostalgia for the strict rule of the past.

Wiranto's candidacy has tapped into disillusionment with the country's experiment in democratic reform. Six years after Suharto's ouster, many Indonesians fret that order has given way to lawlessness, ethnic conflict and separatism in outlying islands, and that the rapid economic growth of the 1990s has been stalled by corruption.

"The euphoria of freedom over the last few years hasn't brought us any change in our lives except poverty and uncertainty," said Adi, 48, an employee of the provinical government who turned out to applaud the retired general.

Despite being indicted for crimes against humanity by a U.N.-supported tribunal in East Timor -- a charge he denies -- Wiranto, 57, has emerged as one of the most visible challengers to President Megawati Sukarnoputri in elections scheduled for July.

"After Indonesia underwent its transition to democracy, the expectations for justice, security and prosperity were not fulfilled," Wiranto said in a recent interview in Surabaya. "People demand that their expectations be fulfilled as soon as possible. They're concerned about the dignity of the nation. They need strong leadership."

Wiranto does not advocate a return to the one-man rule of the Suharto era. But he said the country's dash toward freedom has outstripped social responsibility. "There is new hope in society that a strong leader emerges from the power of the armed forces," he said.

During a campaign swing earlier this month across four islands of the Indonesian archipelago, Wiranto's motorcade of SUVs and black luxury sedans, escorted by police cruisers and private militiamen in Jeeps, sliced through gleaming rice fields and past remote villages. The convoy climbed the lush slopes of Bali's interior, far from the tourist hotels along the beaches, and battled the downtown traffic in the industrial city of Surabaya, where the entourage was joined by dozens of bicycle rickshaws festooned with yellow banners.

At rally after rally, he railed against what he described as Indonesia's slide into disorder.

"The law has not been enforced. People can buy laws the way they buy secondhand goods in the markets," Wiranto told a crowd of about 5,000 people in Bandung, a provincial capital in the western hills of Java, Indonesia's main island. "Criminals have so much space to move. This is a mad era, a crazy era. We should not be influenced or we will go crazy ourselves. . . . Enough of waiting! Enough of suffering!"

Cheers rose from a sea of yellow T-shirts, placards and flags. Yellow is the color of the Golkar party, which Suharto had used to exert political control and award patronage. Wiranto is now looking to win the Golkar presidential nomination at a party convention in mid-April.

Defeated by Megawati's party five years ago, Golkar has resuscitated its organization and is now projected by some opinion surveys to be the favorite in April 5 parliamentary elections. But with Golkar's powerful chairman, Akbar Tandjung, also seeking the presidential nod, some Wiranto campaign officials said their candidate may need to find one or more smaller parties to endorse his run.

"Indonesia needs Wiranto now more than before," said Made Sukadi, 31, an auto mechanic who was taking part in a rally in the hamlet of Bangli. "Recent governments haven't done anything for us. Wiranto's been tested. He has discipline."

When Wiranto arrived in the town, he swapped his motorcade for a royal horse-drawn carriage, claiming his seat with perfect military posture, clad in a purple Balinese sarong with a garland of yellow flowers around his neck.

Hundreds of supporters surged forward along the main street past stunning vistas of verdant canyons and a distant volcano. Balinese musicians marched behind, crashing cymbals and pounding drums. People rushed to doorways and onto balconies to gawk and, in some cases, join the chant of "Long live Wiranto!"

"Wiranto is the only presidential candidate who has the capability to rule the country," said Ahmad Mamad, 32, a freelance driver at the rally. "With his military background, the country will go in a better direction. It has been proven that the Indonesian people are too stubborn to be led by civilians."

Wiranto's supporters say he demonstrated his integrity and commitment to constitutional rule when he helped ease Suharto from power, refusing an offer from the former leader to take control himself. These backers point to Wiranto's role in pushing for reform inside the armed forces after Suharto's resignation.

But the general's detractors accuse Wiranto of involvement in a series of atrocities, not only in East Timor but against democracy activists in Jakarta.

U.N. prosecutors in East Timor indicted Wiranto in February 2003 for his role in human rights abuses by Indonesian security forces in East Timor following its 1999 vote for independence from Indonesia. Between 1,000 and 2,000 East Timorese were killed in militia violence directed by Indonesian officers, according to U.S., U.N. and other foreign officials.

Last week, U.N. prosecutors at the special tribunal urged East Timor to seek an international arrest warrant for Wiranto. During separate proceedings in Jakarta that concluded last year, Indonesian judges acquitted 11 members of the security forces of abuses in East Timor while four others were sentenced to short prison terms, prompting U.S. officials and human rights monitors to call the trials seriously flawed. Wiranto testified but did not face prosecution before the Jakarta tribunal.

U.S. government officials said in January that the State Department had placed Wiranto on a watch list of indicted war crimes suspects, effectively barring him from entering the United States.

Wiranto said in the interview that the controversy over East Timor would not interfere with his foreign policy duties if he were elected president. "For me, there's no problem because I've offered a very clear explanation about East Timor," he said. He added, "The facts show that my policies were far from those that fit the definition of a 'gross violation of human rights.' "

In his book, "Witness in the Storm," released on the eve of the political campaign, Wiranto says that only "some hundred lives" were lost in East Timor and that this was the result of fighting among East Timorese. He says the claim that Indonesian security officers and proxy militias were involved in human rights violations is a "pseudo reality" concocted by foreign journalists.

"Ironically, instead of receiving praise for the sacrifice they made, [Indonesian soldiers] now face trials in their own country due to pressure from other powers over allegations of actions which were impossible for them to commit and were never committed," he writes.

For Sumiati, 22, a grocery clerk who crowded into the rally at a Surabaya sports stadium, what matters is Wiranto's military rigor and record as a nationalist. What about the human rights charges?

"That's what other countries say," she said after Wiranto had finished singing. "Why should we care? If we just listen to other people, we can't get anywhere."

Special correspondent Natasha Tampubolon contributed to this report.


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