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ABRI calls meeting to address crisis

SiaR - February 14, 1997

On February 5, the ABRI (Armed Forces) Social and Political Chief of Staff, Syarwan Hamid called in 83 social and political organisations to discuss how to overcome SOB (situation of national crisis) [Javanese acronym - JB]

He said: "ABRI needs legitimacy to hold political power" and referred the meeting as being in the framework of "discussing social and political developments which pictured the national situations as in the mists of an emergency."

The meeting included leaders from the three political parties, other groups loyal to the regime such as ICMI and Pemuda Pancasila, professional organisations such as IKADIN (Ikatan Advokat Indonesia, Indonesian Association of Advocates) as well as religious groups including NU (Nahdlatul Ulama, Association of Muslim Scholars).

Syarwan said that the "coordinating meeting" was not to give "direction" but to "exchange information". That there was a trend to increase the threat against "security" by a party who was using issues of social inequality and concern with the goal of undermining confidence in the authorities. He said that the group had a form and network. "And it is natural to assume (suspect), their strength is not small", "the common thread is clear, the PRD. Although Budiman has been arrested, their network still exists. Proven by their activities on the internet. At least two times a week their writings are published. If they are brave enough to appear on the internet, that means that they are strong. Because if they were not yet strong, they would not appear on the surface", added Hamid, to those present most of whom do not understand the internet, seen or even able to run a computer.

"ABRI wants to continue to guarantee security. But a 'low profile' attitude will be considered weak. At the moment, ABRI does not have the same power as it did before during the time of Kopkamtib (Komando Pemulihan Keamanan dan Ketertiban, Command for the Restoration of Security and Order). At the moment there is also the National Human Rights Commission, along with NGOs which always 'make a racket' if ABRI acts strongly. Because of this ABRI asks for your input," said Syarwan in a shrill voice. With regard to NGOs, Syrawan mentioned YLBHI (Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia, Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation). He then again raised an idea which has never been popular, that is the establishment of State Security Laws.

"The present dosage to cure the illness is to light. Perhaps one Bodrex a day still leaves the body hot. We cannot ignore this, so that the illness disappears, the dosage must be increased" said Syarwan who always admits to being able to know each state enemy from the 'tone of their song'.

All of those present responded to Syrawan's remarks with interesting arguments. For example, I Bagus Gunade who represents the Hindu social organisations said: "If you states that the goal of this meeting is to 'distribute' concern; if ABRI already feels worried, what about civil society such as us. The impression in society is that ABRI is rather late in anticipating this".

One of the participants told SiaR that of all of the reports apparently this was the climax of a long scenario to carry out SOB as "scenarioed" by the Army in the 1950s. "From incidents such as the PDI congress in Medan, the forceful removal of Megawati, the accusations against the PRD as the masterminds of the July 27 riot, also the white book "Facts & Evidence in the Situbondo Tragedy" compiled by the GP Ansor Jatim fact finding team, it is clear that the military are involved. They engineer things to create "amok", fear and then create a crisis. Then they pretend they are not strong enough. So that in the end people are forced to give legitimization to ABRI to act on it all" said the participant who declined to give their name. "Kid, please, don't mention my name. I could disappear later", they asked.

So what does the ABRI Social and Political Chief of Staff want? A high ranking ex-Army member was asked to respond by SiaR in relation to the meeting. "From this meeting, it is as if ABRI is asking for support from society so they can take explicit steps. While in reality the meaning of Dwifungsi (dual social-political role of ABRI) is so that ABRI only functions as the extinguisher of a fire."

A number of groups are suspicious of the aim of the meeting. Aside from Syarwan's tone which is so dramatic and compassionate, Syarwan's arguments are subjective in nature. "Just matching up one fact with another. He eliminates the possibility that there are others who know there is an intelligence operation which is popularly known as 'Operation Red Dragon' and 'Operation Green Dragon' ('Operasi Naga Merah' and 'Operasi Naga Hijau') which is behind the riots" said a academic political observer.

"Obviously, at the moment there is already Dwifungsi, but an elite group in ABRI is also still power mad and demanding the return of extrajudicial institutions such as Kopkamtib to be able to carry out their security function. If they are not capable, they should be brave, ask to resign an return the mandate to Pak Harto (Suharto). Not ask for facilities to carry out a blow against the people which will definitely damage Indonesia's international image in the upholding of human rights", added an observer from a well known state university in Jakarta.

A rather different comment was given by a political observer who admitted they did not know much about what was behind this. They said: "Ah, all of it is clear. Syarwan himself is only "paring bodies" [lit - JB]. That indicates that ABRI has only become the actor. Behind that is a super-mastermind who is playing a role so that everyone is dependent upon them. ABRI, the Chinese, Islam, all of them done completely wrong and depend upon the super-mastermind".

[Translation from SiaR. Please not that this article contained a number of unusual colloquialisms and Javanese terms and so some sections of the article were omitted and some the translations may not be accurate - JB]