Sat, 05 Feb 2000

Wiranto would do well to stand down

As a soldier, Indonesia's Gen. Wiranto has sworn to protect his country. The best way he can do that now is to resign his cabinet post and fight the charges he was instrumental in the carnage visited on East Timor in court before his recalcitrance tears apart Indonesia.

The general is only delaying the inevitable. The National Human Rights Commission stated in its report that contrary to the army's insistence that the killings in East Timor were a spontaneous backlash by local people and soldiers angered by the vote for independence, the violence was systematically planned and carried out by Indonesian security forces with the knowledge of the armed forces leadership. H.S. Dillon, a member of the inquiry, even told the press that there was evidence that Gen. Wiranto was involved in the setting up of the anti-independence East Timorese militias.

The world community is solidly behind Mr. Wahid. The U.S. States Department said it fully backed "the principle of civilian control of the military which is one of the pillars of democratic governance". In a show of support, foreign lenders on Wednesday granted $4.7 billion in aid to the Wahid government through the World Bank. And Jean-Michel Severino, the bank's vice-president, said that no aid whatsoever would be forthcoming if "governance, democracy and human rights goals" were not realized in Indonesia.

As the armed forces chief at the time, Gen. Wiranto cannot escape responsibility. It does him no good, and could possibly tear apart his country, if he insists on fighting Mr. Wahid. He could do Indonesia a great service by resigning from the cabinet, fight his case in court and refrain from stirring up passions in the armed forces. East Timor can only be laid to rest if justice is served, otherwise national reconciliation will be impossible and Indonesia will not be able to move forward on the democratic path it has chosen.

-- The Bangkok Post