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Wiranto seeks opposition's help on unrest

Straits Times - January 26, 1999

Susan Sim, Jakarta – Armed with the first concrete proof that the recent deadly clashes across Indonesia were the work of organised provocateurs, military chief General Wiranto has sought the help of the country's most prominent opposition and reformist leaders to defuse tensions.

Within hours of his appeal to the Ciganjur Group, leaders of the country's main religious faiths yesterday turned up in force at the Ciganjur home of Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid to issue a joint petition. In it they called on all Indonesians to desist from violence, and in particular to be alert to attempts to sow discord among them. The goodwill-cum-signature drive also contained a demand that politicians stop using religion for their own ends. The Ciganjur Group refers to a core of reformist leaders pressuring the Habibie government to maintain its wide-ranging reform drive.

Sources said that General Wiranto, who paid a flying visit on Friday to the eastern island of Ambon after days of intense street fighting there between local Muslims and Christians, was incensed to learn that among the 50-odd "provocateurs" caught by his soldiers were members of the Golkar-affiliated youth group Pemuda Pancasila.

Unable to escape after exit points from the isolated Christian-dominated island were shut, the youths reportedly admitted that they had been sent from Jakarta before Christmas to create trouble between the two groups.

With investigations still underway to discover their sponsors, Gen Wiranto decided on his way back to Jakarta to persuade the Ciganjur Four to use their considerable influence to help the military keep the peace, a source familiar with events said. He added: "Wiranto knows people are more likely to listen to the opposition leaders than to him in a formal press conference."

The Ciganjur Four are Mr Abdurrahman, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri of the Indonesian Democratic Party, Mr Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party, and the Sultan of Yogyakarta, a reform leader who is admired widely by the student movement.

In a four-hour meeting on Sunday night, General Wiranto told them and several other invited Muslim leaders of the arrest of the Pemuda Pancasila elements, Mr Abdurrahman confirmed to The Straits Times yesterday. But the ABRI chief-cum-Defence Minister was "too much of a professional" to say who he thought the mastermind was.

Mr Abdurrahman had hinted in the past that supporters of former President Suharto were responsible for the spate of unrest in several provinces in recent months, the latest of which caused almost 50 deaths in Ambon in three days of internecine fighting last week.

At a press conference late on Sunday night, General Wiranto said the Ambon strife appeared to follow a "pattern" already established in other riots. He said that the participants at the meeting had agreed to work together to save the nation. "Our sense of brotherhood is being tested," he said.

He also pledged that the military would stay neutral and ensure the June elections were conducted fairly. "We will not support any political parties or create a government... The armed forces will keep the elections fair and equal. Hence we can expect a successful election as it is the only entry point for the reform we have all been waiting for," he added.