Jakarta – Minister of Defense and Security/Armed Forces (ABRI) Chief Gen. Wiranto on Friday held a meeting with a number of retired generals, including those known to be critical of the military.
The meeting was closed to the press and held at the Armed Forces Merdeka Barat headquarters in Central Jakarta. Among the attendants were former vice president Gen. (ret) Try Sutrisno, former minister of defense Gen. (ret) Leonardus Benjamin Moerdani, former minister of home affairs Gen. (ret) Rudini and former national police chief Gen. (ret) Awaloeddin Djamin.
Also attending were former navy chief of staff Adm. (ret) Tanto Kuswanto, former envoy to the United States Lt. Gen. Hasnan Habib, former chief of the state intelligence coordinating body Lt. Gen. (ret) Moetojib, former chief of the Udayana regional military command Maj. Gen. (ret) Theo Syafei, former chiefs of ABRI intelligence agency Maj. Gen. (ret) Syamsir Siregar and Lt. Gen. (ret) Arie Sudewo, and former governor of the National Resilience Institute Lt. Gen. (ret) Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo. Meanwhile, Wiranto was accompanied by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Subagyo Hadisiswoyo, Navy Chief of Staff Vice Adm. Widodo A.S., National Police Chief Lt. Gen. Roesmanhadi Governor of the National Resilience Institute Lt. Gen. Agum Gumelar, National Military Police Chief Maj. Gen. Djasrie Marin, ABRI Spokesman Maj. Gen. Syamsul Ma'arif and former Jakarta military commander Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin.
Earlier on Thursday evening President B.J. Habibie separately met Try Sutrisno and former minister of defense and security Gen. (ret) Edi Sudradjat. They reportedly discussed efforts to calm the situation down after last week's incident which killed 15 people and injured hundreds of others mainly at the Semanggi cloverleaf in South Jakarta.
After the two-hour meeting, Try Sutrisno said the agenda had included efforts to maintain good relations between Armed Forces headquarters and the Armed Forces Big Family. "We hope that ABRI and the Armed Forces Big Family will always be able to communicate with ABRI leaders and provide as many inputs as possible so that ABRI officers can perform their duties well," he said. Try said the meeting concluded that ABRI would remain committed to the continuing existence of the Republic of Indonesia.
He, however, declined to comment on whether the meeting also discussed the treason charges against signatories of a joint communique by several government critics, including National Front opposition group leader Lt. Gen. (ret) Achmad Kemal Idris and National Reform Movement leading figure Maj. Gen. (ret) Hariadi Dharmawan. Edi Sudradjat is also a Front member. Also on Friday, some 20 women grouped under the Indonesian Women's Action Front, led by rights activist Yeni Rosa Damayanti, protested against ABRI's dual function in front of the defense ministry office and marched to the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. Dressed in black, the women sang modified versions of lullabies and asked women along the street to join them. "The termination of ABRI Dwifungsi (dual political-military role) cannot be bargained anymore," Yeni said. Their posters among others read "Stop Military Violence" and "Iron Fist is not Democracy."
Separately, United States assistant secretary of state Harold Koh said here on Friday that Washington would like to see the Indonesian military weaning itself away from its controversial role in the country's political life. "Efforts to move towards an end of Dwifungsi have to be supported and applauded," Koh, who is assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights told a media conference here, AFP said.
Indonesian students want an immediate termination of the military's political role, while several opposition politicians and the legislatures have suggested a more gradual phase out. "We are moving into a new era where this role had to be reduced," said Koh, who added that he had discussed the issue in talks here Thursday and Friday with representatives of the Indonesian Armed Forces. "This reform is now necessary to bring a new era of democracy," he said.
Koh also said he w as encouraged by enquiries now under way into past human rights abuses, and compared them to the Truth and Justice Commission in South Africa, a process which he said generally contributed to confidence. "ABRI is committed to such investigations... I hope the commitment will be carried out," he added.
Koh, who took his oath of office only last week, said it was his first visit to Indonesia, and that his main mission here had been to get acquainted with the country. He said he had met representatives of human rights groups, labor unions and some high military officials.