Jakarta – Presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto says that the elite in Jakarta do not understand the Indonesian people's struggle to defend the sovereignty of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), including the struggle of former pro-integration militia in East Timor.
This was conveyed by Prabowo when he met with former East Timorese pro-integration militia and veterans of the Seroja military operation in August 1975, when Indonesian troops invaded East Timor. The meeting took place in Atambua, Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara on Thursday December 27.
"Many of the elite in Jakarta don't understand the struggle and sacrifices of our brothers in arms. Let alone your sacrifices or the suffering of the Indonesian people elsewhere", said Prabowo in a written release by the Prabowo-Sandiaga Media Team Centre.
Prabowo claimed that he has long wanted to visit Atambua to meet with his former comrades in struggle. Only now however has the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairperson been able to come and reminisce with his old comrades.
"I see the faces of old comrades, comrades who fought under the red-and-white [national] flag and I understand that your sacrifices were huge and your struggle was truly extraordinary", said Prabowo who did four tours of East Timor when he was still an active member of ABRI [the Indonesian Armed Forces, now the TNI].
Prabowo said he was proud of the loyalty of ordinary Indonesian people in East Timor who have now moved to and live in Atambua. Prabowo pledged to bring justice and prosperity to all Indonesian people.
"This struggle was not just talk, but sacrifices which were realised by concrete actions for the NKRI. And I will continue to fight for you", he said.
A prayer for 'fallen heroes'
As well as meeting with his old comrades in Atambua, Prabowo found time to make a devotional visit to the grave of Joao Tavares, who was the commander of the East Timor pro-integration militia and is buried at the Seroja Heroes Cemetery in Atambua.
Prabowo scattered flowers on his grave and shook hands with Tavares' family members who were waiting for him in front of the grave. Prabowo, with devotion and reverence, also said a prayer for the other national fighters who are buried at the Seroja cemetery.
"We must remember the service of those who are our heroes. They had the courage to sacrifice their souls and their bodies to defend the nation and state of Indonesia. And their spirit of nationalism must become an example to be followed by all Indonesian people", said Prabowo.
After visiting the grave, the former Army Special Forces (Kopassus) commander shook hands with Atambua residents who were at the Seroja cemetery. Prabowo even picked up a child who had been brought to the cemetery by their parents to meet with Prabowo.
"Wow amazing, what's your name, nak [kid]? When you're grown up you must be a hero to your parents, for your nation and your country", said Prabowo as he held the child.
During his visit to Atambua, Prabowo was accompanied by leaders of his presidential election campaign team such as Farry Djemi Francis, Hashim Djojohadikusumo and Sugiono. (arh)
In 2003 the United Nations Special Crimes Unit in East Timor charged former militia commander Joao Tavares – the overall leader of the pro-integration militia forces in East Timor – for atrocities committed before and after a UN sponsored vote for independence from Indonesia in August 1999.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Prabowo Singgung Elite Jakarta di depan Pejuang Timor Timur".]