Wiranto denies role in East Timor killings

The former Indonesian military chief finally appears before human rights panel after a no-show on Wednesday.

FORMER Indonesian military chief General Wiranto yesterday appeared before a commission investigating human rights abuses in East Timor to deny complicity in the mayhem.

Speaking to reporters after testifying before the government-appointed panel, he once again denied that the military was behind the murderous rampage that occurred in the territory after the East Timorese voted for independence in a referendum in August.

“There are no grounds for accusations about killings, burnings, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity,” he said, blaming the violence on groups unhappy with the outcome of the ballot.

Acting against advice from his lawyers, who felt there was no legal compulsion for him to attend the hearing, the Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs had earlier turned up with a retinue of lawyers for the closed-door hearing.

Gen Wiranto, who had earlier rejected charges that he had prior knowledge of military operations to wreak havoc in East Timor after it voted for independence, failed to appear before the commission on Wednesday.

The reason given was that he needed more time to prepare for his case.

His aides also noted then that the former Suharto protege had felt it would turn out to be a “humiliating experience” that could rebound politically on his standing in Indonesia.

But his “no show” created even more doubts about his innocence, forcing him to rethink his stance.

Academic Affan Gaffar, a close associate of Gen Wiranto, told The Straits Times that the general had decided it was best to “clear the air once and for all”.

He said: “His primary aim was to use the session to correct any misperception people might have of his role in East Timor. “His lawyers told him there was nothing legally to compel him to attend the inquiry. But he thought otherwise. He said that if he did not attend the inquiry, there would be growing suspicion and pressure from the public for answers.”

Dr Affan said that Gen Wiranto took the decision late on Wednesday night after a two-hour meeting with his lawyers and advisers.

In the discussion, he disclosed his fears of “being framed”. Sources at the meeting said he had a heated telephone phone conversation with Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman, whom he accused of having a “hidden agenda with the backing of the Australians” in trying to end his political career.

The general’s aides said he was particularly upset by Mr Marzuki’s public statements and his tacit backing of the commission to investigate senior military officers.

On Thursday, Lieutenant-General Johnny Lumintang was probed on a telegram containing details of post-referendum operations which he sent to Major-General Adam Damiri, who was the chief of the command overseeing East Timor at the time of its independence ballot.

“According to Lumintang, the telegram details internal procedures for transfer of military members and their families should the territory choose independence,” commission member Albert Hasibuan told the Indonesian Observer.

But other members of the inquiry have disclosed that the telegram also contained orders for the military to use “coercive, repressive” measures if the vote turned in favour of independence.

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