Gen. Prabowo’s Run for President

Prabowo's candidacy for the presidency is quite worrying as there is
strong evidence that this Kopassus officer has quite a lot to answer
for. If the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's mandate had extended
to events before 1999 in any serious way, it would have had to deal
with one of the worst crimes against humanity, one involving the
reprisal killing of hundreds of Timorese in 1983 as a reprisal. It
would have needed to ask Probowo Subianto, then, I believe, a
lieutenant colonel to help with its investigation. The Creras massacre
is remains a serious, not least because as many as 1,000 Timorese
civillians were killed, according to an official of the government of
East Timor at the time. To ignore it, and to allow the TNI officers
responsible to get away with this mass murder should be considered
offensive by all those who take human rights seriously. James Dunn
----- Original Message ----- From: ETAN To: ; Sent:
Friday, August 29, 2008 11:09 PM Subject: Gen. Prabowo's Run for

Far Eastern Economic Review

August 2008

Gen. Prabowo's Run for President

by Sahil K. Mahtani Posted August 29, 2008

As if to illustrate the universality of poor taste, the former chief of
the Indonesian Special Forces Gen. Prabowo Subianto recently decided to
run for the Indonesian presidency. Since 1998, this son-in-law of late
President Suharto has been dogged by accusations of rights abuses in
East Timor and the Jakarta riots, for which a former U.S. ambassador
has called him the greatest violator of human rights in contemporary
times by the Indonesian military ­no small distinction. Yet his
presidential bid was announced over the summer and has been steadily
ramping up publicity since.

High self-opinion is one reason Gen. Prabowo is running. Certainly this
was evident in a recent video he released which involved a reproduction
of Jacque-Louis David's portrait of a horsed Napoleon crossing the
Alps. Speaking with deliberate pace, he announced, I have moved
forward with my decision to run for the presidency because I feel it is
a duty, as a patriot, it is a calling for me as a citizen . . . to be
brave and ready, to be present. Patriotism aside, a reasonable
observer may ask why else Gen. Prabowo is running. The most recent
polls put him at 3%-4% of the vote, trailing incumbent President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono and former President Megawati Sukarnoputri
substantially. His similarly tainted colleague, former Armed Forces
Chief Gen. Wiranto, has also chosen to run despite little chance of
being elected. We may laugh at all these people who run, but this is
their way of staying relevant, in the political elite, said Dr. Marcus
Mietzner, a lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra
who spent a decade in Jakarta working on military reform issues. What
come to mind are the examples of former Golkar Party Chairman Akbar
Tandjung and ex-oil minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita, whose steep falls
from grace made them vulnerable in 2001 to prosecutions for the
so-called KKN crimes­corruption, collusion and nepotism. However,
learning a quick lesson and wishing to avoid becoming sacrificial lambs
for the Reformasi movement, they've returned to political life. Mr.
Akbar is now bidding for the vice-presidency and Mr. Ginandjar is head
of the DPD or the regional representatives council. By running, they
stay in the game, and basically out of prison, Dr. Mietzner said.
There is little risk that the increased publicity of a campaign will
reopen old sores. The Indonesian-language media has thus far given both
candidates a free pass, with newspaper stories avoiding nearly all
mention of past allegations in descriptions of the candidates. A recent
report in the newspaper Kompas, for example, suggested that Gen.
Prabowo's campaign was not fulfilling its potential because­and this
was it­it was short of advertising. The larger cultural trend that
makes such carelessness possible is widespread nostalgia for the
Suharto era, which international observers often find difficult to
understand. This was apparent earlier this year when Suharto was buried
with full military honors, in a procession that attracted tens of
thousands, while Britain's Economist magazine labeled him a dictator
who had cheated justice and created a rotten regime.

The fact is the standard of living for most Indonesians improved under
the Suharto regime, before political turmoil and economic instability
conspired to erode hard-gotten gains. Still, this admiration of Suharto
is naïve in that it overlooks one main fact: The economic insecurity
and political turmoil of the past 10 years clearly has its roots in his
era. Nevertheless, Gen. Prabowo is benefiting from this spell of

Gen. Prabowo is not the only member of the old-guard to benefit from
these trends. As others have put it, Indonesia's parliamentary
elections are quickly becoming a family affair, with the children of
political leaders featuring prominently in party lists. Among them:
Dave Laksono, son of House speaker Agung Laksono and a former director
of the defunct airline Adam Air; Anindya Bakrie, son of Aburizal
Bakrie, the country's richest man and minister for people's welfare;
Solihin Kalla, son of Jusuf Kalla, Agus Hamzah, the son of former Vice
President Hamzah Haz. This is not even mentioning some bigger names,
like Puan Maharani, the daughter of former President Megawati, finally
making her expected debut in politics. It is for all these many and
varied reasons­vanity, relevance, political climate, and company­that
Gen. Prabowo will feel right at home in contesting the Indonesian
presidency. His is the symbol of a tainted political elite that was
supposed to be displaced back in 1998 by the Reformasi movement but has
returned with nary a scar. The fall of Suharto and other events of 1998
are still held in the contemporary imagination as a popular uprising
against a tainted dictatorship. Gen. Prabowo's candidacy proves that it
was merely a palace coup.

Mr. Sahil Mahtani is a Bartley Fellow at the Far Eastern Economic

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