Tue, 08 Feb 2000

I never gave the order to kill Gus Dur: Feisal

JAKARTA (JP): Former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. (ret.) Feisal Tanjung on Monday vehemently denied being part of an alleged plan to "eliminate" President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

"With all due respect to the president who is now abroad, I personally never ordered it. Institutionally, the TNI never ordered it," said Feisal, accompanied by former chief of TNI general affairs Lt. Gen. Tarub, during a news conference here.

Feisal was responding to Abdurrahman's statement in Rome on Sunday that back in 1997, Gen. Wiranto, then commander of the Army Strategic Reserves Command, warned Abdurrahman that he had been told by Feisal of orders to eliminate him.

According to Abdurrahman, when Wiranto verified the order, former President Soeharto denied having any knowledge of it.

Abdurrahman's assertions on Sunday came as he was vouching for Wiranto's credibility despite rumors of a showdown between the two. The President has said that Wiranto should resign as coordinating minister of political affairs and security following allegations of his involvement in the violence in East Timor.

Appearing relaxed and smiling, Feisal claimed he had done no such thing as he was close with Abdurrahman especially since they had gone on haj together.

He also claimed to be close to Megawati's husband, Taufik Kiemas.

Feisal said he contacted Wiranto after reading the President's statement.

"Pak Wiranto said it wasn't true," Feisal said.

When asked point blank whether the President was lying, Feisal diplomatically retorted: "I just said that it (the statement) wasn't right. You (reporters) are the ones saying it."

Feisal said he was not considering any defamation suit in reaction to the allegations.

He refused to comment when asked whether the move was aimed at defaming TNI.

"I'm no longer a military officer. But I respect Gus Dur as a legitimate president who has been democratically elected," he said referring to the President by his popular name.

Feisal said he had asked Wiranto to join him in the news conference, but the minister declined saying that he was already too much in the news.

Tarub, accompanying Feisal, also pledged that no plan ever existed. "I swear, we never conducted it," he said as he raised his right hand.

Separately, House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung vouched for Feisal.

"I was a minister at that time. I never heard about it," said Akbar who was State Secretary during that period.

Just hours after Feisal's denial, Abdurrahman, arriving in Brussels, fired a salvo at the retired general.

"I'm sticking to my version," he said. "I received this information not only from Wiranto but also from other sources."

Abdurrahman then launched a stinging attack on Feisal which seemed to accuse him of being behind the July 27, 1996, attack on the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) headquarters chaired by Megawati.

"Pak Feisal can say what he wants, but everybody knows who ordered the attack on the PDI headquarters," he told journalists. (jun)