Former Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) commander Gen. (ret) Wiranto, who was presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s commanding officer during the tumultuous events of 1998, has revealed that the retired lieutenant general was complicit in the kidnapping of pro-democracy activists and had done so of his own volition.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Wiranto — who was a member of the Officers Ethics Council (DKP) in 1998 — exposed details of the hearing that investigated Prabowo’s involvement in the kidnappings. Consequently, the DKP dismissed Prabowo from military service.
“I personally asked then Lt. Gen. Prabowo about who had given him the order [to abduct the activists], he admitted that it was not under the order of the armed forces commander but, rather, on his own initiative based on his analysis of the situation,” Wiranto said.
Accusations of violations of rights abuses and misconduct have dogged the presidential candidate for some weeks. The issue gained traction during the first presidential debate when vice presidential candidate Jusuf Kalla raised the issue of human rights.
A perturbed Prabowo responded by saying as a former soldier he didhis duty and “aside from that, it was up to the judgment of my superiors”.
The former chief of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) then claimed: “I am the toughest human rights defender in the republic.”
Wiranto questioned Prabowo’s comments, saying that “the kidnappings were clearly not the policy of the [military] commanders.”
“I don’t understand what he meant by ‘his superiors’. It was clearly neither I nor Gen. Feisal Tanjung that gave the orders or condoned the acts of violence or the kidnappings of civilians,” he added.
According to Wiranto, he was not aware of the abductions — which occurred from mid-December 1997 to February 1998 — until March 1998, after taking command of the military from Feisal.
The case recently reared its head again when an alleged document on the findings of the ABRI DKP’s 1998 investigation were leaked to the public.
According to the document, Prabowo was dismissed for violating the Sapta Marga (the Military Oath), in addition to breaching military procedures and taking overseas trips without consent.
Wiranto, who is now head of the Hanura Party, which is a partner in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)-led coalition supporting presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, confirmed that the council dismissed Prabowo because he was guilty, in his capacity as then Army’s Strategic Reserve commander (Pangkostrad), of personally masterminding and kidnapping nine pro-democracy activists.
Wiranto clarified the authenticity of the leaked document and called for its signatories, including council chairman Gen. Subagyo Hadi Siswoyo, who was also the Army chief of staff; secretary Lt. Gen. Djamari Chaniago; Lt. Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, now the incumbent President; Lt. Gen. Fachrul Razi; Lt. Gen. Yusuf Kartanegara; and Lt. Gen. Agum Gumelar, to speak up. One of the members of the council, Lt. Gen. Arie J. Kumaat, has passed away.
“I do not think the six [signatories] have forgotten. This needs clarification because it relates to the credibility of a national leadership candidate and many have argued that the document is a fake,” he asserted.
Chairman of the Veterans Association (Pepabri), Agum Gumelar, previously revealed that he had been told by Prabowo that his actions were on Soeharto’s orders. However, Gumelar was skeptical as he knew Soeharto would not have ordered something so controversial, although Prabowo was Soeharto’s then son-in-law.
Responding to the revelations, a spokesman for Prabowo, Lt. Gen. (ret) Surya Prabowo, condemned Wiranto’s statement as an “opportunistic political maneuver”.
Surya instead debated the legal validity of the ABRI DKP saying it “had violated a 1995 decree by the then ABRI chief that a council could only be established after setting up a military court.”
ABRI Officers Ethics Council (ABRI DKP) conclusions:
1. Prabowo intentionally misinterpreted a 1997 letter of assignment from the Army chief of staff even though he knew he was not authorized for the mandate; and intentionally used the letter to issue a decree in September 1997 to instruct the Satgas Merpati (Team Dove) task force to conduct a special operation for the sake of national stability.
2. He illegally instructed soldiers from the Satgas Mawar (Team Rose) and Satgas Merpati, through Col. Chairawan and Maj. Bambang Kristiono, to arrest and detain activists from the People’s Democratic Party (PRD).
3. Excluded the military’s organic staff in the operations.
4. Conducted overseas trips without the consent of the then ABRI chief or the Army’s chief.
5. Violated military structural procedures when conducting operations.
6. Committed crimes of:
b. Instructed kidnapping