Sat, 05 Feb 2000

Top officers deny generals' meeting

JAKARTA (JP): Top military officers brushed aside on Friday President Abdurrahman Wahid's allegation that a group of generals had held a covert meeting.

In a clear reference to the President, they also appealed to all political elites not to make statements that could raise controversy and confusion among the people.

Amid his continuing stand-off with influential Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Gen. Wiranto, Abdurrahman said during his official visit in The Hague on Thursday that a group of generals held a secret meeting that involved "dirty hands" on Jl. Lautze III in Central Jakarta.

Indonesian Military (TNI) Chief Admiral Widodo A.S. and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Tyasno Sudarto said in separate occasions on Friday that they knew nothing about the meeting.

"There is no such meeting held without TNI leaders' knowledge," Widodo said in TNI Headquarters in East Jakarta's suburb Cilangkap.

He said that it was common for generals to hold a meeting, merely due to their positions as policy makers of the TNI.

Tyasno said so far he knew nothing about the report of the meeting as alleged by Abdurrahman, and guaranteed that the Army "as an institution" would not launch a coup.

"The Army remains solid and under one command. So far, the command is under my control and we will be against a coup attempt," he said in his visit to the Army's Battle Zeni Headquarters in Central Jakarta.

But Tyasno described the situation in the absence of Abdurrahman, who will not return home until Feb. 13, as "dangerous," and called on the public to remain calm.

"The current situation is dangerous and uncertain, therefore, I'm calling on public to think clearly and not to be easily provoked by unfounded rumors."

Lt. Gen. Hari Sabarno, deputy chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) said the president should not be worried about a meeting of generals, which is common according to him.

"Such a meeting is often held, but I don't know if there was a covert meeting on Jl. Lautze," he said.

He said it was impossible for Army generals to launch a coup because they had been trained not to support such an action.

He suspected that certain people had whispered wrong information to the president.

In his official visit in Berlin on Friday, Abdurrahman ruled out the possibility of a military coup, saying: "I know my military men well and they will stick to the Constitution."

He also retorted Tyasno's description of the current situation at home. "The situation in Jakarta is not dangerous. Tyasno just wants to warn his soldiers," the President said.

In another strong response to Abdurrahman's allegation, House Speaker Akbar Tandjung called on the President to refrain from voicing words that could trigger instability.

"The House's function is to control the government. It is in this framework that we are reminding the President not to make statements that could cause confusion among the people," Akbar said in a seminar to assess Abdurrahman's performance after 100 days in office.

Abdurrahman may have been mistakenly referring to a meeting held by former student movement leader, Hariman Siregar, who hosted a reunion with fellow veteran activists at his residence on Jl. Lautze III on Wednesday.

Hariman confirmed the meeting, but said: "No generals were present."

People at hand included Eggy Sudjana, Agus Lenon and Mulyana W. Kusumah, according to Hariman, who was jailed by the government of former president Soeharto and was closely linked to his successor B.J. Habibie.

Hariman said the former activists discussed current political issues, including the human rights abuse charges leveled at several military top brass.

Mulyana, who is the secretary-general of the Independent Committee for Elections Monitoring (KIPP) also confirmed the meeting.

He said the TNI officers' defense lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution spoke at the event.

"There were no military officers attending the meeting," he told The Jakarta Post. (jun/rms)