INDEPENDENT NEWS

News Background - General Wiranto On Law And Order

Published: Fri 24 Sep 1999 11:00 AM
The following article was found on the web by Scoop's West Coast correspondent John Howard - it sheds some light on General Wiranto's views on the need for security and the role of the military in Indonesian society.
TRANSCRIPT BEGINS:
Strong Indonesian Army Needed for Stability: General Wiranto
by Eriko Uchida
4 August 1999
Only a strong military can preserve Indonesia's stability in the face of escalating communal violence and turbulent political change, the head of the Indonesian armed forces, General Wiranto, said on August 3, 1999.
General Wiranto, who is also Indonesia's Defence Minister, reasserted the need for a dynamic and engaged military despite a continuing push for greater democracy and to protect the vested interests of Indonesia's political and economic elite.
"At this stage of euphoria and democratic feeling, the masses can be easily led to destroy social order, turning to protests, demonstrations and street violence," General Wiranto said. He wants a beefed-up security law to give the military greater power to "defend national integrity" and "protect vital interests".
Since former president Soeharto quit in May 1998 after 32 years of authoritarian rule, reformist leaders have demanded the military give up its guaranteed seats in parliament and withdraw from politics. But analysts said General Wiranto's comments on August 3 signalled he had no intention of weakening the military's political influence and that despite the national elections on June 7 and all the talk about democracy and a new order, Indonesia is no different than it was under Soeharto and the elite obviously are going to maintain the status quo if they can. It seems Megawati Soekarnoputeri may step into Soeharto's shoes and find they fit quite well and will be to the liking of her numbered bank accounts overseas.
"If democracy is strong but the law is weak, this country will become a wild place," General Wiranto said. It is a wild place nevertheless, what with the Indonesian military instigating all sorts of violence and incidents so that it has a pretext to go in and make arbitrary arrests, torture and kill citizens and generally inspire feelings of complete dread and fear, all in the name of "maintaining stability"--the stability of the status quo.
The Indonesian military regularly suppresses dissenters with a heavy hand and committs atrocities against civilians in Aceh and East Timor, as well as eslewhere in the country.
Hundreds demonstrated outside General Wiranto's Jakarta headquarters on August 3 and called on the military to stop killing civilians in Aceh. It was the fourth such demonstration in a week. General Wiranto said civil unrest made neighbouring countries nervous, and threatened national unity. Of course, the leaders and political and economic elite of the neighbouring countries fear that if true democracy were ever to be established in Indonesia then it would create the popular incentive to bring about similar change in their own countries. This fear is particularly strong among the elite of Malaysia, Singapore, the Philipinnes, Burma and Vietnam.
ENDS
Alastair Thompson
Scoop Publisher
Alastair Thompson is the co-founder of Scoop. He is of Scottish and Irish extraction and from Wellington, New Zealand. Alastair has 24 years experience in the media, at the Dominion, National Business Review, North & South magazine, Straight Furrow newspaper and online since 1997. He is the winner of several journalism awards for business and investigative work.
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