So said 'Er Indoors about .... well, her vote is, of course, secret .... when discussing the choices to be made in the presidential election on July 8th. This is damning with faint praise and I think we can take it that the electorate is taking the various promises being made with the proverbial pinch of salt.
Most have already decided who they are going to vote for, or against. Few seem to be seriously examining the records of the candidates and decisions may not be overtly rational. For example, Megawati is the only woman, Kalla is the only non-Javanese and Wiranto sings in televised debates - which ignores the fact that a CD of SBY's songs has been bought by a few folk. Religion may be a factor with every pair working hard to emphasise their Muslim credentials. No-one is prepared to state openly that in a supposed pluralist society, religion should not be a matter for consideration. . I originally intended to post a series of thoughts on the track records of the six candidates for affection, perhaps with topic headings such as Environment, Human Rights, Economy and the Corruption Eradication. However, the Post has made a pretty good start, so I think I can only fill in a few gaps.
Bear in mind that all six have Suhartoist links.
Boediono was governor of Bank Indonesia from 1993 to early 1998, period when banks started to crash due to the Asian Economic Crisis (krismon). $15 billion was made available to ease banks' liquidity, much of which was stolen and salted away by bank owners. Opposition politicos allege he was implicated, although he has never been charged.
The three generals are implicated in human rights issues from that era and, by implication considering their continued links with the military and intelligence networks, with those of today.
Younger Indonesians, those voting for the first or second time, will be aware of Prabowo's alleged involvement in student abductions in 97/98.
What is not disputed is his role, as head of Kopassus, Indonesian special forces, in the 'rescue' of British, Dutch, German and Indonesian nine members of the Worldwide Fund for Nature kidnapped in January 1996 by guerrilla soldiers of the OPM (Free Papua Movement), to attract international publicity to their independence campaign.
Kopassus failed to find the hostages, even though they were within kilometres of them for days. Eventually the OPM killed two Indonesian hostages and freed the Europeans. The freed hostages found their way to a regular army unit, not Kopassus. None of the OPM kidnappers was found.
However, this did not prevent Kopassus from wreaking retribution. The Kopassus troops, trained and advised by Executive Outcomes, a South African mercenary group, were responsible for a deadly helicopter assault on the West Papuan village of Geselema on May 9, 1996, in which many civilians were murdered and numerous others wounded. This was the start of an Indonesian retribution campaign aimed at capturing the OPM responsible and punishing the local civilian population. These actions over several months reportedly led to the deaths of hundreds of West Papuans displaced from their lands by the military operation.
One of the helicopters involved in the attack on Geselema was seen carrying Red Cross markings while carrying Kopassus troops and a number of white soldiers.
This raises, for me, an interesting question. Later that year I had a conversation, by chance as it happens, with the head of the International Red Cross in Indonesia, who told me that he had been in West Papua attempting to negotiate with OPM for the release of the hostages, but that he and his team had been ordered out of Papua when Kopassus took over the operation.
Was the helicopter one of his?
I was reminded of this by the release this week of previously secret U.S. State Department documents which implicate SBY, then Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs, in a "probable cover-up" in August 2002 of an ambush in West Papua and murder of three teachers, one Indonesian and two U.S. citizens, possibly by rogue elements of the Indonesian military.
The first State Department reports about the 2002 attack seriously entertained two theories: that the perpetrators were Papuan independence fighters (OPM guerillas) or rogue elements of the Indonesian military. The documents note that the assault took place on a foggy mountain road near a military checkpoint and an Army Strategic Reserve Forces post. Upon learning of the attack, Yudhoyono ordered a quick response to restore security and to investigate the attack.
The U.S. Embassy noted in a cable to Washington: ”Many Papuan groups are calling for an independent investigation led by the U.S. Calls for an independent probe are unrealistic, but we believe that Papua's Police Chief, who enjoys a good reputation with Papuan activists (and U.S.), can conduct a fair investigation.” The Police Chief’s investigation later indicated that the Indonesian military was involved. The FBI subsequently launched a separate probe.
Following police reports of Indonesian military involvement, the documents reveal that Yudhoyono began to play a more active role in managing and influencing the direction of the investigation. Yudhoyono met repeatedly with the FBI field investigators, as well as high-level U.S. diplomats, blocking their initial attempts to gain unmediated access to witnesses and material evidence.
Read a highly detailed and annotated account of the ambush here (.pdf). This also implicates Taufik Kiemas, husband of presidential candidate Megawati, in the cover up