Sat, 05 Feb 2000

Official says TNI at its lowest point

YOGYAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) is now in worse shape than at any point in its history, chairman of the Reform Faction at the House of Representatives (DPR) Hatta Rajasa said.

"Never in its history has TNI been as fragile as it is now. TNI must keep its strength. If it is weak everything will be screwed up in the government," he said on Friday, referring to the plan to bring Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Gen. Wiranto and other generals to court for alleged rights violations in East Timor.

In the past two years TNI has been a target of criticism and has been accused of being a political tool of Soeharto's administration. Many have also rejected the military's dual function which made it powerful in the Old Order era.

Hatta said that now the military had been "turned upside down", and damned here and there. "The military's solidity and consolidation is at the lowest level now."

However, he said, he was sure that there would not be a coup attempt by the military. "A coup usually takes place where there is an illegitimate government. We have a very legitimate government."

"It's, therefore, quite wrong to worry that TNI will stage a coup," he told The Jakarta Post.

Asked about President Abdurrahman Wahid's statement on the secret meeting of some generals on Jl. Lautze, Jakarta, Hatta said: "It's ridiculous for them to plot a coup. People will fight them."

Jakarta-based Hatta is in Yogyakarta to chair the Organizing Committee of the National Mandate Party's (PAN) first congress, scheduled to be held from Feb. 10 to Feb. 13.

Hatta is currently being mentioned as the strongest candidate for the National Mandate Party's next secretary-general.

Many have speculated that the President's repeated call for the resignation of Wiranto is a sign of a rift between the two officials and could lead to a coup.

Wiranto, who was former commander of the Indonesian Military, was allegedly involved in the violence in East Timor following the Aug. 30, 1999 ballot. A report by the government-sanctioned Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) in East Timor recommends that a formal investigation be held. It is due to the investigation that Wiranto is required to resign temporarily from the Cabinet.

Hatta said he supported the President, adding that it was the President's prerogative to ask Wiranto to step down. "Wiranto's resignation would easily help the legal process (against him)."

"His position as a coordinating minister, after all, could hamper the legal procedure. The President made the call because he did not want any bias occurring during the investigation," he said.

That was why, he said, the commission's recommendation should be taken only as an input. Similar treatment must also be given to the reports made by TNI's Advocacy Team to make it balanced. In this way the Attorney General's Office would be able to handle the case in a proper and fair manner.

"As a consequence, we all have to respect its (the Attorney General's Office) decision, whatever it is," he said.

In a related development, deputy chief of the Supreme Advisory Council (DPA) Cholid Mawardi said also in Yogyakarta he hoped the commission's recommendation was not a political move to eliminate the five generals, including Wiranto, from the political stage.

The government should be able to differentiate between the involvement of military personnel and the involvement of the Indonesian Military as an institution in the East Timor mayhem.

"Don't make the human right investigation a means to blame TNI over the rights violations in East Timor," he said.

Cholid was in Yogyakarta in his capacity as a member of the council's political team, led by Mrs. Sulasikin Murpratomo. (swa/44/sur)