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.
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
"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.