Allan Nairn, Jakarta – Prabowo Subianto, a retired general now seeking the presidency of Indonesia, has made plans to stage mass arrests of political opponents and his current allies.
According to minutes of a strategy session he held with fellow generals and others last December, Prabowo – a longtime US protege who has been implicated in mass killing, abduction, and torture, has also made plans to restore Indonesia's army to the role it played in the Suharto dictatorship.
At the meeting, held last December 21 at a Prabowo home in Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta, he and his team made specific assignments for "putting on trial as many political opponents as possible," but also for "crippling" the Islamist groups that now propel his campaign, after he assumes the presidency.
Prabowo, who once mused to me about seizing power and "be[ing] called a fascist dictator," is apparently, according to the Minutes, preparing his own political night of the long knives, in part to consolidate power in his own hands but also to curry favor with Washington.
The general has publicly campaigned against what he calls "foreign lackeys" ("antek asing"), but the Minutes indicate that privately he has pledged to "collaborate with the United States" by "arrest(ing) the radical clerics" and other "foot soldiers" of his current campaign.
Likewise, though a major attack point of his campaign has been the extraction of national wealth by foreigners, behind-the-scenes Prabowo has intervened – his party's vice chair tells me – in favor of the main extractor of that wealth, the US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan.
Freeport, which strip-mines gold and copper in de-facto-occupied West Papua, has repeatedly been caught paying-off officials and army units like Prabowo's Kopassus, and has inflicted environmental damage of an estimated thirteen billion US dollars, according to Indonesia's national audit agency (Badan Pemeriksa Keuangan).
A global operation, it has in recent years been controlled by Trump friend, Carl Icahn.
Prabowo's opponent, the civilian incumbent, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has recently – over US objections – partially nationalized Freeport Indonesia.
But Prabowo has nonetheless attacked Jokowi for being soft on foreigners, and has repeatedly told his cheering crowds "The Motherland is being raped" ("Ibu Pertiwi sedang diperkosa").
In an on-the-record interview, however, Prabowo's party vice-chair told me that Prabowo has – outside public view – stepped in on behalf of Freeport.
Apparently trying to make the point to me that Prabowo "is not anti-foreigner" ("Artinya, dia tidak anti asing, itu"), his party vice chair, Arief Poyuono revealed that an "angry" ("marah") Prabowo personally intervened to kill a large workers'-rights lawsuit against Freeport that he, Poyouono, had filed.
Poyuono said that following an industrial accident at Freeport, acting in his capacity as a union leader, he had filed the suit without consulting Prabowo but "I pulled it" ("Saya cabut") after Prabowo got wind of it.
"Prabowo got mad at me," ("Prabowo marah sama saya") Poyuono said, and ordered him: "'Arief, don't. You're not allowed to do this'" because "'Freeport has made a big investment'" ("'Eh, Jangan,' katanya, 'itu nggak boleh,' katanya. 'Jangan begitu, mereka sudah investasi banyak!'").
Poyuono added that Prabowo's view of Freeport is "extremely positive" ("sangat positif") and said that he viewed Jokowi's partial nationalization as "too harsh" ('terlalu kasar").
Poyuono was one of only three civilians named in the Minutes as participating in Prabowo's December 21 strategy session. The other named attendees, besides Prabowo, were six retired generals and three retired admirals.
These officers included the generals Glenny Kairupan and Yunus Yosfiah, who have been implicated in – respectively – the 1999 UN referendum East Timor arson/massacre terror, and the Timor Balibo murders of five Australian and New Zealand journalists.
Poyuono's statements to me regarding Prabowo and Freeport – and also Prabowo and Trump (he said Prabowo has been trying to meet Trump, and that he and Prabowo regard Trump as "excellent" ["bagus"] and they have been using Trump's campaign tactics) – are consistent with the repeated allusions in the Minutes to Prabowo's desire to please Washington, a motive that comes across as second only to his desire to eliminate competitors.
Although Prabowo recently swore at a rally to not use state coercive forces for his own political interests, the Minutes of his closed strategy session lay out detailed plans to do precisely that.
The mandate for "putting on trial as many political opponents as possible" was to be handed to Prabowo's new Attorney General (with the party targets being the anti-Prabowo pro-Jokowi PDI Perjuangan, Nasdem, Golkar, PKB, and PPP) and also, apparently, the ostensibly independent Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), three of whose current leaders were named to be "attacked," "toppled" and "removed" as "principal targets of the operation to get control of the KPK."
On the covert side, there is "the agenda of attacks on political opponents" to be carried out by BIN (Badan Intelijen Negara), the State Intelligence Body – a liaison partner of the CIA, perhaps best known for its 2004 arsenic assassination of my friend, the human rights hero Munir (an assassination commanded by a general, Hendropriyono, who currently advises Jokowi).
Once Prabowo takes power, BIN's extra-legal means are also to be unleashed against the coalition of parties now campaigning for him, with a crucial exemption for his personal political vehicle, Gerindra.
One of the designated targets for Prabowo's BIN is the leadership of the Demokrat Party of General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (known as SBY), a former president who helped cashier Prabowo from the army after the fall of Suharto. In this year's campaign, SBY seemed to endorse Prabowo somewhat reluctantly. In a leaked private letter he criticized plans for Prabowo's biggest rally as being divisive.
As it happens, the December strategy session only started, according to the Minutes, at 9:00 pm, as soon as Prabowo returned from a Jakarta sit-down with SBY.
The Minutes state: "Another future task of the BIN is to debilitate the coalition parties in order to increase Gerindra's dominance inside government: PKS [Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, the influential Islamist party] and the Demokrat Party will be completely defeated through various cases of Corruption, old and new. Party leaders are going to be jailed for corruption. With that, Prabowo will appear to be a strong and firm president in enforcing the law."
These political jailings are mandated before the fact, before evidence is gathered or trials held. And they are mandated only for real or claimed corruption, not for mass murder, torture or similar state crimes.
Prabowo's BIN is also to get the assignment of "crippling of the HTI [the Indonesian chapter of Hizb ut-tahrir, banned by the government as a threat to the state and public safety], FPI [originally launched by the army and police as "preman" (street thugs) to attack pro-democracy activists] JAD and equivalent groups," which complements the order to POLRI (the national police) to "debilitate the HTI and FPI movements and arrest the radical clerics to show America and its allies that Prabowo-Sandi are resolute in subduing radicalism and terrorism in Southeast Asia."
This is politically perhaps the most explosive aspect since HTI, FPI, the political Party PKS, similar groups and "the radical clerics" are the driving force of Prabowo's grassroots campaign.
And Prabowo – the supposed arch enemy of the "foreign lackeys" is explicitly doing this for the US:
At the meeting, "It was also made known that in mid-December 2018 Prabowo was invited by the American Ambassador to meet in the residence of Ambassador Joseph R. Donovan, Jr. Apart from discussing the China-US trade war, the two discussed Indonesia's commitment to oppose terrorism going forward. Prabowo promised he will fully support the American effort to wage war on the [Islamist] radical forces and terrorists of Indonesia."
Explicating his pitch to the US, the Minutes state: "if chosen as president the first step he [Prabowo] will take will be to crush [Islamist] radicalism in Indonesia," (emphasis in original), a notable commitment for Prabowo who, in his biggest rally, campaigned alongside the FPI leader, Habib Rizieq Shihab (who beamed-in by video from Saudi Arabia), and who in one of his iconic videos is seen saluting the crowds from the sunroof of a limo provided by the self-proclaimed "president of ISIS Indonesia," who sent Indonesian fighters to Iraq and Syria.
One of the reasons for convening the strategy session (apart from planning "political revenge") was, according to the Minutes, "to decide on concrete steps regarding several strategic issues like the charge that Prabowo-Sandi [Sandiaga Uno, a private equity man, is Prabowo's running mate] support the establishment of The Caliphate [i.e. Indonesia becoming a caliphate]... As is known, Prabowo, up until this moment, has not yet publicly expressed a strong position on whether or not he supports or opposes HTI, FPI, and other forces supporting the creation of a Caliphate in Indonesia. Prabowo has been intentionally silent because he wishes to use them as foot soldiers to win the 2019 political battle."
But Prabowo and his "core people from the inner circle" – six named generals, three named admirals, three named civilian operatives, but no Islamist leaders – took the clear decision to sacrifice the foot soldiers once the battle was done.
In what appears to be an overestimate of the political payoff to be had for this, the Minutes say Prabowo "has promised to collaborate with the United States, Singapore, and Australia who are now said to have given a signal of support for the Prabowo-Sandi ticket."
While that may be the case with Singapore, with the US it does not appear to be so. The US Embassy in Jakarta has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The Minutes of this strategy session, entitled "MINUTES OF CLOSED MEETING, PRABOWO SUBIANTO AND TEAM," have circulated, in limited fashion, inside security forces including BIN, and have been handled by officials loyal to President Jokowi as well as by others who back Prabowo.
Identified as having been received "from Prabowo-Sandi 'inside people,'" they were never used politically, apparently because they were seen as problematic for both partisan sides.
For the Jokowi forces it was embarrassing to admit they were spying on Prabowo, as he had charged. And the Minutes undercut the narrative of some in the Jokowi camp that Prabowo is himself an Islamist extremist, as opposed to being, as his career – and now this document – indicates, a Suharto, army, Washington, and dictatorship man who still aspires to sole power.
For the Prabowo forces, the Minutes undercut his basic claim by portraying him as working for – not fighting – the foreigners, and as explicitly planning to, in effect, make himself the only leader left standing by repressing Indonesians on all sides.
Pursuant to that, the strategy session discussed the New Order dictatorship of Prabowo's father-in-law, Suharto.
Suharto used the US-advised army to stage a coup against the Indonesian founding father, Sukarno, and, subsequently, to consolidate power with a US-backed massacre that, starting in 1965, killed 400,000 to a million civilians.
Sustained by US finance, weapons, and training – much of the latter facilitated by Prabowo – Suharto succeeded in imposing a regime that kept him in power for more than three decades, until he fell in a democratic uprising that also led to Prabowo's downfall, after the US dumped him (he told me he had been " their fair-haired boy") when he lost a power struggle to a rival general, Wiranto.
Under Suharto's New Order, massacre survivors and their descendants were jailed, banned and demonized, and the army – which kept on murdering, as it still does today, mainly in West Papua –was elevated to great wealth and to be the arbiter of even neighborhood and village-level politics.
In their December meeting, Prabowo and team proposed to, in a sense, revive that.
They decided: "the role of the Army will be strengthened to be as it was in the New Order era" ("Peran Angkatan Darat akan diperkuat seperti pada jaman Orde Baru"), a remarkable proposition considering the strength – and impunity – that army has now.
Prabowo himself has been implicated in more atrocities than perhaps any officer, including hands-on torture in East Timor, the '98 Jakarta terror against ethnic Chinese, the Jakarta kidnapping and execution of activists, mass killing operations in Aceh, the '83 Kraras mountainside massacre of "several hundred" civilians, and an operation in West Papua in which Prabowo's men posed as the International Red Cross to machine-gun civilians from a helicopter.
Yet, despite the brave, persistent demands of survivors, he, as a general, is still untouchable.
He feels secure enough that when talking to me – an adversary – in 2001 about a massacre I survived (on November 12, 1991, at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor) he was critical not of the open slaughter of at least 271 civilians but, rather, of his colleagues' technique: "You don't massacre civilians in front of the world press," he said. "Maybe commanders do it in villages where no one will ever know, but not in the provincial capital!"
Jokowi, the civilian incumbent, is so afraid of the army that he has retreated from promises of prosecution, and has let the army hold key posts inside his team and let them and their TNI colleagues, and intel, and the Police, slowly start to claw-back several of their New Order privileges.
This fact has so disappointed many survivors and activists that in this election they vow to Golput – in effect, abstain.
This is no doubt delightful for Prabowo and his men: he has killed the ones they cherish, but, by abstaining, they may help him win.
The official assigned to start the process of restoring the army to its New Order status is, according to the Minutes, General Gatot Nurmantyo, a former TNI commander who – after months of presidential waffling – was eventually removed by Jokowi.
General Gatot openly espouses a strategic theory called "Proxy Wars" that defines Indonesian activists, dissidents, social movements – and LGBT people – as foreign agents.
After leaving his armed forces post, Gatot stated he was politically neutral. But last week he came out and openly endorsed General Prabowo.
[Full scrollable text of Minutes, Bahasa Indonesia original: Notulensi Rapat Tertutup Pr... by on Scribd. https://www.scribd.com/document/406301220/Notulensi-Rapat-Tertutup-Prabowo-Subianto-Dan-Tim#from_embed.]