Saturday, May 19, 2007

Charges 'senseless,' Wiranto tells applauding crowd

Sunday, May 06, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Former Indonesian Military chief Gen.(ret) Wiranto finally appeared Saturday before the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), saying he maintained his innocence in the face of "senseless and crazy" accusations.

Dressed in an open-collared shirt and suit, he confidently addressed the packed public hearing of the Commission at the Borobudur Hotel, to frequent applause and laughter.

Wiranto, now leader of a new political party, Hanura, testified in the afternoon. His appearance followed that of former East Timor police chief Insp. Gen (ret) Timbul Silaen and came before the appearance of former deputy commander of the Mahidi militia, Cancio Lopes de Carvalho.

Among those attending Wiranto's testimony were former military officers Maj. Gen. (ret) Adam Damiri and Maj. Gen. (ret) Zaky Anwar Makarim. Along with Wiranto both were previously indicted by the East Timor Serious Crime Unit. Adam testified before the commission in its first hearing in Bali last month.

Indonesian and East Timorese commission members repeatedly questioned Wiranto over his role as military chief and defense minister at the time of the 1999 independence referendum in the then province of East Timor.

Violence before and after the vote left 1,000 dead, according to United Nations estimates.

"How can I be responsible for a policy that was decided by the state?" Wiranto said. The former general argued he was subordinate to the then Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Gen. (ret.) Feisal Tanjung, who has not been summoned by the commission.

At the commission hearing, Wiranto read from his written testimony, entitled "The Emergence of the Light of Truth", copies of which were distributed to the audience.

Dismissing allegations from the international community of gross human rights violations, Wiranto said Indonesian security forces had done their best to prepare for a peaceful and orderly referendum, which took place on Aug. 30, 1999.

"It was extremely difficult for Indonesian security forces to guarantee a peaceful and successful referendum with only three months preparation," Wiranto said.

"But what have we received? No praise, no appreciation or gratitude, but accusations that Indonesia has committed crimes. This is senseless and crazy," he said to applause.

Citing former American security attache John B. Haseman, Wiranto attributed the violence to what he called an age-old "habit" among locals of settling problems through violence, which he said dated back to the Portuguese colonial era.

At the hearing, Wiranto screened a video showing him making an plea for peace before the signing of a pact between feuding Timorese groups in April 1999, with East Timor's two bishops in attendance.

Wiranto denied the military had funded, trained and armed the pro-Jakarta militia groups which subsequently went on a deadly rampage through the province.

"If we had an evil agenda to scuttle the referendum, there wouldn't have been a referendum (in the first place) and there wouldn't have been an independent East Timor," Wiranto said.

Wiranto also repeated the assertion of other military officers who had earlier appeared before the commission that the violence was inevitable in the wake of the announcement of the result of the UN-sponsored referendum.

"For many people who supported Indonesia, they could not see a future after independence. They had to leave and they burned their own houses because they did not want them to fall into the hands of those who they considered their enemies," he said.

Former police chief Timbul Silaen had also denied that troops forcibly moved hundreds of thousands of East Timorese to Indonesia's West Timor and engaged in a scorched earth campaign.

Silaen argued that such a policy would have been "too horrible."

"There is no such thing as scorched earth in our mind," he said. (02)

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