Fri, 11 Jun 2004


And the 'AFI' winner is ... not Wiranto

Bandung/Yogyakarta/Semarang The Jakarta Post

Music VCDs with hidden messages are the latest weapon being deployed in a bid to derail the campaign of embattled presidential candidate Gen (ret.) Wiranto.

The political VCDs are disguised as bootlegs of the popular Indosiar Fantasy Academy (AFI) show, a televised talent quest similar to the popular American Idol program.

The VCDs, which were being distributed to passersby in three cities in the country on Thursday, begin with a recording of the AFI concert, which is then interrupted by images of the Semanggi and Trisakti atrocities in 1998 and 1999. A written statement implores the viewer not to vote for the Golkar Party candidate.

The VCDs were being given away free at traffic lights and markets in Bandung, Semarang and Yogyakarta.

This high-tech mudslinging comes days after negative campaigns have targeted other candidates. Indonesian Party of Democratic Struggle candidate Megawati Soekarnoputri was the target of an edict issued by Muslim clerics against voting for women candidates, while Democratic Party hopeful Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was accused of his roles in the attack on the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) headquarters in 1996.

The covers of the anti-Wiranto VCDs are dominated by a yellow background and bear the title "Star Quest" (Menuju Bintang).

The first eight minutes of the VCD contain the recorded AFI concert, in which the two winners of AFI's first season, Veri and Mawar, sing a song each. Then the sound of a trumpet drowns out the singing and the AFI images are replaced by a banner with a yellow background and the message: "Prosecute General Wiranto quickly, he is responsible for human rights violations in the Trisakti and Semanggi I & II incidents. Please do not vote for presidential candidates with military backgrounds."

The VCDs then show documentary footage of the Trisakti and Semanggi tragedies in which student activists were shot by members of the armed forces. A small picture of Wiranto and the message "Reject Wiranto" sit on the top left of the TV screen. The images last for about 40 minutes.

The Trisakti and Semanggi incidents happened in 1998 and 1999, when Wiranto was at the helm of the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI), now the Indonesian Military (TNI).

In Bandung, a motorcycle taxi (ojek) driver, Dadan Toling, 30, said he was given the VCD by people getting out of a minivan in the Sindangjaya subdistrict on Thursday.

In Yogyakarta, Gandung Pardiman, the chairman of the Wiranto- Solahudin Wahid campaign team, said campaigners had found 63 similar VCDs in several places in the city.

"The VCDs are distributed by irresponsible parties and those who aim to discredit Wiranto," he said.

Suyatno Pedro, a member of the Wiranto campaign in Semarang, rejected as absurd allegations the VCDs were being distributed by Wiranto's team to give the impression he was the victim of a dirty campaign.

Wiranto has been criticized by politicians, human rights groups and the media about his alleged involvement in the mayhem caused by Indonesian militias in Dili in 1999. He has been indicted for war crimes by a United Nations-backed East Timor court.