Mon, 14 Feb 2000

Gus Dur backs down on Wiranto

JAKARTA (JP): An anticlimax was the result of the high-profile standoff between President Abdurrahman Wahid and Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Gen. Wiranto when the President stated on Sunday he would allow the minister to remain in the Cabinet, pending a probe into his alleged involvement in last year's East Timor violence.

But Abdurrahman, fresh from his 16-day whirlwind trip overseas, defended his decision, saying he had to give Wiranto the opportunity to go through the legal process.

Abdurrahman, who during his two-week trip abroad had repeatedly called for Wiranto's resignation, said the former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief had requested that due process of the law be allowed to run its course before any decision was made on his position as minister.

"Pak Wiranto just prefers to go through the legal process. I am sure he doesn't want his career tainted," Abdurrahman said.

Abdurrahman met with Wiranto, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri and Attorney General Marzuki Darusman only hours after touching down at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in the early hours of Sunday.

TNI chief Adm. Widodo A.S. and chief of the State Intelligence Coordinating Board (Bakin) Lt. Gen. Arie J. Kumaat were also present at the emergency meeting.

Abdurrahman told a media conference upon leaving Bangkok for home on Saturday that the fate of Wiranto would be determined on Monday.

The President asserted on Sunday that Wiranto would be removed from his post only if the Attorney General's Office found in its investigation that Wiranto was responsible for what transpired in East Timor following the August ballot, which resulted in overwhelming rejection of Jakarta's offer of wide-ranging autonomy.

A government inquiry has named Wiranto as being accountable for the post-ballot violence, prompting Abdurrahman to announce he would dismiss Wiranto. The President assigned Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono to relay the message to Wiranto.

Wiranto, however, refused to bow to the calls, saying he would wait until the President returned home.

A UN inquiry has also implicated Wiranto, with the UN Human Rights Commission advocating he be tried by an international tribunal. But UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will arrive here on Tuesday, has said an international tribunal would be unnecessary if the Indonesian process of law was seen to be adequate in dealing with those named as responsible for the violence.

Abdurrahman denied on Sunday he had compromised or been under pressure to back down on his earlier decision.

"There has been no compromise. I do have the prerogative to replace Wiranto," the President said, adding, however, that he did not want to "ruin someone's career".

He also denied that Megawati had urged him to retract his call for the resignation of Wiranto, a former adjutant of former president Soeharto and the TNI chief during the East Timor violence.

"No. I just asked Mbak Mega to talk to him (Wiranto). It was learned later that the problem was Pak Wiranto's wish to go through a legal process," Abdurrahman said.

"No problem. Pak Wiranto and I are good friends. Only the media describes us as foes."

Abdurrahman said his decision had nothing to do with the international community, to whom he relentlessly announced his plan to drop Wiranto from his Cabinet.

"I won't think about it too much. I'm not dealing with the international (community), but the law."


Later in the day, Wiranto held a regular meeting with lawyers defending TNI top brass implicated by the government-sanctioned inquiry into the East Timor debacle. None of the lawyers, including Adnan Buyung Nasution, responded to media requests for comments on Abdurrahman's latest move.

In an earlier media briefing that followed the emergency meeting, Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simanjuntak said there would be no decision on Wiranto's future before the attorney general's report was handed to the President.

He said the attorney general's investigation should be completed within a month, although no deadline had actually been set.

In response to Abdurrahman's announcement, Minister of Law and Legislation Yusril Ihza Mahendra said in Bandung that the ball was now in the attorney general's court.

"It's up to him whether or not Wiranto's case will be continued."

He expressed rejection of the possibility of an international tribunal trying Indonesian military officers, citing national sovereignty as his reason.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, Wirabuana Military Commander Maj. Gen. Agus Wirahadikusumah said Wiranto did not represent the military.

He told reporters here that such a clarification was necessary due to a growing impression that the call for Wiranto's resignation faced a hurdle because Wiranto represented TNI.

"That's not true. Wiranto is already out of the TNI system," he said.

"Coordinating minister for political and security affairs is a very strategic position. However, with all due respect as his junior, I wish Wiranto would resign."

According to Agus, Wiranto could achieve his political ambitions in the Golkar Party. "I see a possibility for him to regain his image."

Meanwhile, chairman of the United Development Party Hamzah Haz said in Medan, North Sumatra, that presumption of innocence must be respected in the case.

Hamzah said that Indonesia was facing big challenges in the future. "We cannot waste time with the past. We have economic problems which are at a standstill." (25/39/27/sur/das/byg)