MajGen (ret) Sintong Panjaitan
President Habibie's key military advisor
Sintong Panjaitan held the position of Secretary of Development Operation (Sesdalopbang), which gave him considerable access to funds. He was also a key military advisor to Habibie, possibly acting as a channel of communication with the military. Sintong is reported to have been his 'left hand', who always accompanied the president wherever he went.
Sintong Panjaitan may have played a significant role in President Habibie's decision, announced on 27 January 1999, to give East Timorese a vote to accept or reject an Indonesian autonomy offer. One account said Habibie held the 'most intensive' discussions with Sintong Panjaitan before the decision was made in two successive cabinet meetings (see Feisal Tanjung on this).
There is only one report that Panjaitan involved himself directly in East Timor affairs in 1999. It says he was in Dili in early August 1999 and worked with the Zacky Anwar Makarim- Glenny Kairupan team there on preparations for the evacuation of East Timor in the event of the vote going against Indonesia. The group allegedly had a budget of Rp 28 billion (approx US$2.8 million), allocated to it by General Wiranto. If this report is correct, Sintong was involved in one of the most serious crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999: the forced evacuation of a large proportion of the population.
Sintong Panjaitan was born on 4 September 1941 in North Sumatra, and graduated from the National Military Academy (AMN) in 1963. He became a soldier with the elite forces RPKAD (later called Kopassandha and then Kopassus). In 1965 he was a key Suharto ally in the suppression of a revolt by leftist soldiers belonging to the 30 September Movement. In 1969 Capt Feisal Tanjung selected him as one of the 'fighting champions' (jago-jago tempur) for the military operation to ensure Papuan tribal chiefs voted for Indonesia in the Irian Jaya Act of Free Choice. Panjaitan also served in East Timor as a middle ranking officer. By 1985-87 he had risen to Kopassus Commander.
Sintong Panjaitan later became Udayana military area commander (which includes East Timor), but was dismissed following international outrage over the Santa Cruz massacre of 11 November 1991, in which a large number of civilians died. Then Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security Feisal Tanjung, his commander in Irian Jaya and also from North Sumatra, was thus effectively responsible for ending his military career.
Panjaitan went to the US around May 1992, where he did an English language course. He was found liable in a US civil trial following a damages claim launched by Helen Todd, the mother of Kamal Bamadhaj, the New Zealand student killed in the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili. The court ordered him in 1994[?] to pay $US14 million to Helen Todd (US$4 million in compensatory damages and US$10 million in punitive damages). Sintong Panjaitan did not appear in court and has still not paid the fine. However, it was the first time an Indonesian military officer had been arraigned in a US court over human rights abuse. Johny Lumintang became the second in March 2000.
Research and Technology Minister Habibie appointed him Deputy for Military Affairs at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) in 1994, after which he became a trusted advisor to Habibie.