Mon, 07 Feb 2000

I trust Wiranto, will forgive him: Gus Dur

ROME (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid cooled the standoff with Gen. Wiranto on Sunday by saying he fully trusted his senior minister who once saved his life from a planned assassination attempt.

Abdurrahman further allayed any likely tension by saying that he would forgive the four-star general for any wrongdoing in the East Timor human rights issue.

"If Pak Wiranto is judged guilty by a court I will forgive him," the President said.

It is unclear if Abdurrahman meant forgiveness in a personal sense or in the form of a presidential pardon.

Many have predicted a possible standoff between the President and his coordinating minister for political affairs and security after Wiranto was named as one of those allegedly responsible for the violence in East Timor in the run-up and after the Aug. 30 ballot.

A government-sanctioned inquiry has called on the attorney general to conduct a formal investigation into the matter.

Following the announcement of the report, Abdurrahman, who is away on a 16-day overseas tour, called on Wiranto to resign.

Wiranto brushed the calls aside and said he would wait until he personally talks to the President when he returns on Sunday.

But Abdurrahman vouched for Wiranto's personal character on the last day of his two-day stay in the Italian capital and insisted that their personal relations remained intact despite the media contention.

He even claimed that Wiranto saved his and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri's life from a planned assassination attempt in the mid-1990s.

"I believe in Pak Wiranto. Why? Because I know him. It is other people who know nothing about him and make generalizations about him," Abdurrahman said during a dialog with the Indonesian community in Italy at the official residence of Indonesia's Ambassador to the Vatican Irawan Abidin.

The President said Wiranto, as the commander of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad), was told by then Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) chief Gen. Feisal Tanjung that there were instructions to eliminate Abdurrahman and Megawati.

"He (Wiranto) called me (about it)," Abdurrahman said, adding he then asked Wiranto to directly check with then president Soeharto.

Abdurrahman said Wiranto then got back to him and quoted Soeharto as saying "I never gave such an instruction".

Abdurrahman then said he asked Wiranto to decide who was telling the truth.

"I believe Pak Harto," the President recounted.

Abdurrahman went on to say that people should thus not consider all Indonesian Military (TNI) soldiers as evil.


Abdurrahman then revealed that Wiranto telephoned him several days ago to complain about the President's remarks about a possible coup.

"Why does Gus Dur believe such rumors?" the President quoted the general as telling him.

Despite claiming there was a covert meeting between generals last week, Abdurrahman expressed confidence that the situation was well under control.

"There are two kinds of TNI, those who obey orders and those who are crooks," he remarked, adding that TNI chief Adm. Widodo A.S. and Megawati were in constant contact with him.

He added that Widodo called him on Saturday morning and again stressed TNI's loyalty to the government.

Abdurrahman left Rome on Sunday evening and arrived in Brussels two hours later.

In Brussels, he is scheduled to meet with European Commission President Romano Prodi and European Union secretary-general Javier Solana on Monday morning.

In the afternoon he will pay a courtesy call to Prince Philips at the Cour de Brabant Palace.

He will leave for New Delhi on Monday evening and will arrive on Tuesday morning. (prb)