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Wiranto goes on TV to defend allegations

Agence France Presse - February 17, 2000

Jakarta – Former Indonesian armed forces chief General Wiranto appeared on television here Wednesday to defend himself against allegations that he let his troops go on a bloody rampage in East Timor last year.

Wiranto's public appearance coincided with the last day of a visit to Jakarta by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and came three days after he was suspended as security minister by President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Annan has repeatedly urged Indonesia to prosecute those found guilty of violence in East Timor, and warned the UN will try to set up an international war crimes tribunal if it doesn't.

In the lengthy interview with the private RCTI television channel, Wiranto displayed his own collection of video compact discs showing his peace message at the inauguration of a peace pact between conflicting East Timorese factions before the UN-sponsored vote on independence on August 30.

"The TNI [military] as a solid institution ... which carries out a mission based on clear guidelines and procedures, would never plan something that can violate human rights," Wiranto said. The ballot itself was a success but was tainted by rigging by local UN officials, Wiranto charged.

"We could create a peaceful situation for four months [before the vote]. There were 4,000 foreigners and all of them were safe. We received praise from foreign countries," Wiranto said of his efforts to keep peace in the territory.

"But the ballot was announced too early ... and the result was a blow to pro-integrationists. This triggered emotional outburst," he said of the result, which was overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Indonesia after 24 years of a quasi-military rule.

He admitted some of his troops took part in an orgy of burning, looting and killing unleashed by pro-Indonesian militia as soon as the vote results were announced on September 4. "I never denied this. I accept this as a fact," he said. "I admit there were individuals from the military and police who acted against the law, and they happened to be native East Timorese." He also said he had asked his successor as military chief, Admiral Widodo Adisucipto, to process those participating in the violence according to the law.

On Tuesday in an interview with a radio station Wiranto hit out at military officers close to Wahid and hinted they might have influenced the president's decision to drop him from the cabinet.

Late Sunday, Wahid suspended Wiranto as coordinating minister for political and security affairs in a dramatic turn-about after the general appeared to have won a two-week standoff with the president.

Wiranto, who has accepted the decision, and five other senior generals have been implicated in human rights abuses during the East Timor violence.

On the possibility of his supporters creating havoc following his removal from the cabinet, Wiranto said: "That's what I'm worried about. Don't let this affair become a pretext for other parties to create new troubles. Our nation already has a multitude of problems." he said.

The Jakarta Stock Exchange composite index dropped 2.4 percent on Wednesday amid rumors Wiranto's followers might try to create trouble. Widodo on Monday reassured the president publicly that all branches of the armed forces supported his decision to drop Wiranto.