Sunday, April 25, 2004

It has been a while, no question.

There has been Easter, spent in Opo with lawns to mow, rellies to visit and be visited by, and one day for relaxation. Total relaxation it was too.

In the background has been brewing the topic for this "letter" - a matter of internal politics with very interesting ( or should that be "significant" ) international repercussions.

Despite this, there has been very little in the media since the news first broke on 21 April. That little factoid makes interesting speculation in its own right.

Because the reporting has been so sketchy, and commentary thin, there is little to back what I am looking to, but being more fool than angel, here goes...


ABC NEWS 21/04/04

Austin: Can I ask you first of all, you’ve only just heard the news, I know, on “A.M.” this morning but the former Chief of Indonesia’s military forces, Gen. Wiranto, looks like he’s been voted by the Golkar Party to stand for the Presidency. That’s quite a significant move. Can I ask you first of all your reaction to it and how that will be regarded?
Downer: Actually, to tell you the truth I’d been assuming that Akbar Tandjung would be their candidate, so as it turns out they’ve gone for Gen. Wiranto. I guess that what it does is it reflects a view in some parts of Indonesia that they need to get back to strength and decisiveness in government and they would see Gen. Wiranto as a former head of the Indonesian military as that type of a person, but, look, -
Austin: Not for his embracing of peaceful military tactics and human rights?
Downer: Well, as we know, there are all sorts of allegations about him in relation to East Timor but I know Gen. Wiranto, not surprisingly, because during the course of 1999 it was Gen. Wiranto I spoke to on a number of occasions about our concerns of evolving violence in East Timor. Now, he always used to say to me that, well, you know, and I would make it clear to him that we had information that this was happening and he would always say, well, he’ll see what he can do about it, and he’ll do his best –
Austin: Did he keep his commitments to you?
Downer: Well, you know what happened in East Timor. What efforts did Gen. Wiranto make to try to stop it, to what extent was he involved, to what extent did he know what was happening, but not exercise command or could not exercise command. Those are issues that will be debated till the end of time, but just to make the point about Gen. Wiranto as a presidential candidate, we’ve been strong advocates and supporters of Indonesian democracy, spent about $15 million helping the Indonesians in their recent Parliamentary elections. It’s not for us to blurt out – doesn’t matter what we say in Australia – but to blurt out throughout Indonesia what we think about their candidates, they’ve got to make their own judgements.
Austin: Our advice is unwanted, particularly more so in the case of Gen. Wiranto?
Downer: Yes, that’s right. Well, if we started attacking Gen. Wiranto now that might turn out to be a bit of an election winner for him, so we just won’t comment. Megawati, President Megawati, is the incumbent. She’s going to have a tough job. Bambang Yudhoyono who’s the former coordinating Minister for Security who we’ve had a lot to do with and who was in Australia recently, he is a strong candidate, General. Wiranto will be a strong candidate and Amien Rais.
Austin: He’s likely to be a popular president, isn’t he. He’s seen as a strong man who in a sense installs a bit of dignity to Indonesia?
Downer: Gen. Wiranto? Well, I’m not going to get into commenting on that. Obviously, I’m not going to comment on the candidates beyond what I’ve said. I’ll tell you who they are, and I can tell you a bit about them but I won’t express any opinion about them. We’ll just leave that to the Indonesian people."

So there is part of the story, and a reasonable analysis, from Australia. Our Minister Of Foreign Affairs Phil Goff was very circumspect and even less forthcoming than Downer.

The situation in Indonesia is that the Party which has a strong hold on the Parliamentary elections has selected as its Presidential candidate a General (Wiranto) who to this part of the world has a reputation that ranks alongside, or even further up the scale of war criminals than, Ariel Sharon. "Further up"? Remember that Wiranto has already been indicted by East Timor for war crimes, that he is on "Passport watch" by the US as an "undesirable" entrant.

That being the case, how much credence can be placed upon reports such as these -
Malaysian Today

JAKARTA: The United States can work with former military chief Wiranto if he wins the Indonesian presidency despite his indictment for crimes against humanity, US ambassador Ralph Boyce said yesterday.
“We can work with anybody that comes out of a free (election) process,” Boyce told reporters.
“We’re not involved in selecting individual candidates, supporting or opposing individual candidates... it’s the election process that we care deeply about and it seems to be going very well.” Officials of the Golkar party founded by former dictator Suharto on Wednesday picked Wiranto as their candidate for the July 5 presidential election, sparking dismay among rights activists.
Golkar has claimed victory in the April 5 parliamentary election.

So, this will be an interesting news source over the next few weeks...

Jakarta News (English version)

Added to the list of links is another - from one of my favourite radio programs. Perceptive ( I think) and with a wide range of comment. Take a look sometime...

There was a bulletin board which I inhabited, based around one of my pasttimes, which included a board called the "Trash Can". Sadly it is no longer ( well not at the moment) but it has ressurrected in the past.

Over the three or so years that I have been posting there, the contributors have come and gone but in recent times there have been perhaps no more than ten active members in the 'Can. Of those, probably seven are ex- US Forces, very right wing, and in many respects very defensive of everything American.

Here is hoping that it does its Lazarus act for the fourth or fifth time because there are one or two things I would dearly love to post there... very evil grin ... including an item from the UK (the Guardian) to the effect that President George Bush has been making a practice of having paid actors stand in for real journalists.

I am going to try and extract that from where it is - now that subscribed news pages are becoming the norm rather than exception.