Fri, 11 Feb 2000

Wiranto must go for sake of the economy: Gus Dur

SEOUL (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid said here on Thursday his persistent calls for Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Gen. Wiranto to resign were for the good of the economy.

"If he refuses to step down voluntarily, then the country will lose the opportunity to have investors, to have an economic comeback," Abdurrahman told a news conference on the first day of his two-day visit to South Korea.

Indonesia was among the countries hardest hit when a region- wide economic contagion struck in 1997. Economic woes and accompanying social upheaval led to the downfall of president Soeharto in May 1998 and democratic elections last June.

Abdurrahman's three overseas trips since taking office last October have resulted in the world's support for economic recovery in Indonesia, despite security problems in several provinces.

He continued on Thursday to downplay speculation of a military coup, saying the Indonesian Military (TNI) had come out in support of him.

The President said an assistant in Jakarta told him by phone earlier in the day that several military generals expressed support for him. He said the generals also planned to press Wiranto to resign to take responsibility for alleged human rights abuses by the military in East Timor last year. Wiranto was TNI commander at the time.

The government-sanctioned inquiry into last year's destruction and violence in East Timor named Wiranto and four top TNI officers among those responsible for the mayhem.

Wiranto has repeatedly said he will not address the call for his resignation until the President returns on Sunday.

Abdurrahman denied that his resolve to confront the once untouchable military belied his decision to drop Wiranto from the Cabinet.

"For me, confrontation is not my type of work, but it is in the interest of Wiranto himself. I regret to him, because he is one of the honest generals," Abdurrahman said.

"We can pay our respects to him in a capacity that we will think of later." However, he ruled out another Cabinet position for Wiranto.

In a hearing with the House of Representatives in Jakarta, TNI chief Admiral Widodo A.S. renewed his assurance that the armed forces would not stage a coup, but instead would support civilian supremacy as part of democracy.

"There has been no intention in our mind of toppling the government," Widodo told legislators.

In response to Abdurrahman's call for Wiranto's resignation, Widodo said TNI would back whatever decision the government made.

Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) chief Lt. Gen. Djadja Suparman joined Widodo in pledging allegiance to the government.

"TNI soldiers will never launch a coup because we have taken an oath to uphold the state ideology Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution and the legitimate government," Djadja said in his visit to a combat training camp in Kebumen, Central Java.

But Djadja warned that Kostrad "will not take a quiet stance" in the face of attempts to discredit TNI.

Support for Abdurrahman also came from the National Awakening Party (PKB), which the President helped found. The party's deputy secretary-general, Yahya Staquf, told a news conference on Thursday that TNI should permit due legal process of active and retired military officers who allegedly committed human rights abuse.

Yahya said the allegations dealt with individuals, not TNI as an institution.

PKB said the standoff between Abdurrahman and former chiefs of TNI, Wiranto and Gen. (ret) Feisal Tanjung, had no institutional link to TNI as an organization.

"Wiranto and Feisal were military officers in the past who are now connected with legal cases. They should be viewed separately from TNI as an institution," he said.

The President blamed Feisal on Sunday for the bloody forcible takeover of the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) on July 27, 1996. (prb/emf/jun)