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Armed forces commander

Gen Wiranto

Armed Forces Commander (Pangab); Defence Minister

Wiranto was ultimately responsible for everything his soldiers did. His subordinates at TNI Headquarters, in the Udayana command, and in East Timor itself, crop up in numerous reports of human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999. It is for this reason that his name was included in the report of KPP HAM. Indonesian prosecutors, however, did not follow the KPP HAM recommendation that he be charged with crimes against humanity. In February 2003 he was indicted in absentia with crimes against humanity before the Dili special panel. An international warrant for his arrest is expected to be issued through Interpol later in 2003.

There has been debate over how actively he supported the militia strategy in East Timor, or whether he largely stood by while others did the damage. One experienced observer has argued that Wiranto, a Kostrad careerist, may have lacked control over his forces because of the existence of a Kopassus-dominated parallel command operating through the sectoral commands, and/ or because officers on the ground were unwilling to cooperate with strategies that may have been internationally acceptable but were likely to lose them the East Timor they had fought for for 24 years.[1] This brief item can do more than marshall some of the evidence.

Wiranto is mentioned as one of President Habibie's six closest advisors in the decision in January 1999 to give East Timor an almost immediate referendum under UN supervision.[2]

When a large delegation of prominent East Timorese came to him on 19 February 1999 to express their fears about the referendum plan and to ask for weapons to protect themselves against pro-independence supporters, Wiranto told them any militias should be unarmed. They had already formed a militant pro-integration group (FPDK) that included a militia component.[3] Late in April Wiranto reportedly preferred to support a less militant pro-integration group (BRTT) led by veteran pro-Indonesian diplomat Lopez da Cruz.[4] However, BRTT became the junior partner with FPDK in a new grouping called Unif in June.

On the several occasions that Wiranto visited Dili he did nothing to alter the destructive course of events. On 20 April he led a large delegation of senior military and other officials from Jakarta to dine with pro-integration figures, including militia leaders, in Dili. The official purpose of the visit was to sign an agreement creating the Commission on Peace and Stability.[5] Other visits followed on 12 July, 5 September and 11 September 1999. He would usually meet separately with his military intelligence officers and militia leaders after a public meeting with political figures. These visits confirm his complicity.

Wiranto later acknowledged that the military had armed militias, with his full knowledge. Questioned by KPP HAM in late December 1999, Wiranto acknowledged that the military had armed the East Timorese militias as part of a long-standing strategy: ‘Sometimes weapons were provided, but this does not mean that [militias] carried weapons wherever they went – the weapons were stored at sub-district military headquarters. This is because armed gangs were being confronted…. So there was a force of people’s militias that were nurtured since integration.’ He also acknowledged that he was well informed about the situation on the ground in East Timor: ‘Of course, I received reports regularly and I studied those reports, and at critical junctures those reports were forwarded to the president.’[6]

He also actively funded the militias, using clandestine slush funds. The chief of the military intelligence agency BIA, LtGen Tyasno Sudarto, quoted Wiranto's name in July 1999 for authorising a counterfeit money operation to fund the militias. Retired intelligence officer Ismail Put(e)ra said Tyasno had told him 'that Gen Wiranto had picked BIA to run the counterfeit money operation to fund the (pro-Indonesia) East Timorese militias'.[7] Tyasno himself, regarded as close to Wiranto, may have had links to the militias that went considerably beyond irregular funding.

A similar indication came during a 2001 court case against the head of the state logistics board Bulog (which handles rice distribution). Bulog head Rahardi Ramelan said he took Rp 10 billion (approximately US$ 1 million) from Bulog 'non-budgetary' funds in May-June 1999 and 'loaned' them to General Wiranto. The latter said he used the money among others to help pay for the East Timor militias.[8]

Apart from the long chain of territorial command, Wiranto also directly controlled officers responsible for violence in East Timor. They included MajGen Kiki Syahnakri and MajGen Zacky Makarim. Zacky arrived in Dili early in June armed with a letter from Gen Wiranto appointing him a 'security advisor' to a committee supposed to coordinate with Unamet. Wiranto told Unamet Zacky was his personal representative in Dili. Zacky's appointment tied military control over the militias more closely to Wiranto. A May 2002 Australian newspaper report quoted Indonesian 'senior generals close to the Timor operation' who said Wiranto and Tanjung had jointly appointed Zacky Makarim to oversee the militia operation to undermine a free vote.[9]

Kiki also worked with militias throughout 1999, and then became martial law administrator reporting directly to Wiranto at the height of the militia rampage following the ballot result. That the militia violence could be turned off 'like a tap' on 11 September for just the day that Gen Wiranto came to Dili on an inspection tour has been seen as just one indication of how centrally controlled it was.[10]

One report claimed Wiranto provided the Kiki-Zacky team with a budget of Rp 28 billion (approx US$2.8 million) in early August for the evacuation of East Timor in the event of the vote going against Indonesia.[11]

The suggestion that Wiranto was disturbed by militia excesses - no doubt as Defence Minister he had to do lots of explaining to foreign visitors - was strengthened by a report that he had criticised MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim and BrigGen Glenny Kairupan during a high-powered ministerial visit to Dili on 12 July for letting their militias run wild.[12]

His sense of unease sprang less from moral revulsion than a realistic awareness that militia violence was proving counter-productive. If in January he had sided with those who believed Indonesia could win the ballot by the judicious use of pressure, by late July his intelligence reports had given him such serious doubts about the likely outcome that he tried strenuously to persuade cabinet to abandon the entire Unamet exercise, citing military opposition to it. However, President Habibie and his civilian ministers held their ground by arguing that a cancellation would come at a huge cost to Indonesia’s credibility and prestige. Once again, Wiranto failed to win the day.[13]

Such irresolute leadership forced his less politically sensitive subordinates to take more initiative. Australian intelligence intercepts show that Wiranto was largely out of the loop in the dense communication that ran between Jakarta, Denpasar and Dili over the militia strategy to win the ballot. This led Hamish McDonald to go as far as labeling Wiranto the 'fall guy' for a strategy actually devised and implemented by politics and security coordinating minister Feisal Tanjung through a network of active and retired Kopassus officers.[14]

On 5 September 1999, the day after the ballot result was announced, he again proved both his complicity and his weakness during a visit to Dili. He attended several meetings in the official residence in Dili of East Timor commander Col Nur Muis. In the public meeting with political figures, Wiranto responded to repeated pleas for strong action against the militias from Bishop Belo by ordering Nur Muis to control the situation and return it to normality. However, he also told militia commander Joao Tavares that if his men wanted to fight it was ‘up to them’.[15] As he spoke, militias led by Capt Agus Suwarno attacked refugees sheltering at the Catholic diocesan chambers in Dili, two kilometres away.

According to one report, he then held a private meeting with pro-Jakarta Timorese leaders and urged them to accept the result and put an end to the violence. One angry East Timor leader accused Gen Wiranto of betraying East Timor.[16] It is difficult to believe, meanwhile, that he was on that day not fully briefed by the senior military officers present (see Col Nur Muis for the list) about the scorched-earth plans that had been set in motion the previous day.

Afterwards, Wiranto worked hard to blunt the demand for prosecutions of any TNI officer for crimes against humanity. He by no means dissociated himself from the East Timorese who had helped secure East Timor for Indonesia and were now fighting to win the referendum. Just after the ballot he explained his failure to rein in militia violence by saying his soldiers suffered 'psychological constraints' in acting against those who had been their colleagues in the past. In April 2002 he produced a book that defended the military's record in East Timor, though without providing any details.[17]

On 24 February 2003 Wiranto was indicted in absentia with crimes against humanity before the special panel in Dili. The indictment named seven senior military officers - Gen Wiranto, MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim, MajGen Kiki Syahnakri, MajGen Adam Damiri, Col Tono Suratman, Col Nur Muis, LtCol Yayat Sudrajat – as well as Governor Abilio Soares. Of these eight, all except Wiranto and Nur Muis were charged with cooperating ‘in a policy of funding, arming, training and directing the militia’, using central government funds. The indictment also stated that all seven military officers (thus including Wiranto) had ‘effective control’ over the militia groups, and therefore hold command responsibility for 280 documented murders, including ten major events. The major 1999 events were those at the Liquica church (6 April), Cailaco (13 April), the Dili rally (17 April), Dili diocese compound (5 September), Suai church (6 September), Maliana police station (8 September), Passabe (8-10 September) and Taiboco-Makelab (20 October, the latter two both in Oecussi), Lautem Junction (Tim Alfa, 25 September), and the Battalion 745 withdrawal (8-21 September). The accused were moreover responsible for forcibly deporting approximately 200,000 East Timorese to West Timor after the ballot.

Indonesia’s foreign minister immediately said his government would ‘simply ignore’ the indictments.[18] Fearing a breach in relations with Indonesia, East Timor’s president and prime minister also hastened to distance themselves from the indictment. East Timor is a member of Interpol, so the indictments could lead to arrests if the accused travel abroad.


Wiranto was born on 4 April 1947 in Yogyakarta, and graduated from the military academy in 1968. His field career was entirely with Kostrad, taking part in East Timor operations in 1981. By 1988 he had risen to Assistant for Operations to Chief of Staff in Kostrad's Second Infantry Division. The next year he became adjutant to President Suharto (1989-93). He probably traveled extensively at this time, but is not known to have had any foreign training.

He commanded the Jakarta military command in 1994-95, and became Kostrad commander in 1996-97. After a brief stint as Army Chief of Staff (July 1997-February 1998) he was appointed Armed Forces Commander in February 1998, as well as Defence Minister the next month. He retained both positions throughout the Habibie presidency, which ended with the MPR session in October 1999. President Abdurrahman Wahid appointed him Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, but sacked him in February 2000, after which he went into retirement. The sacking was interpreted as a blow to military privilege in the top levels of government.

His personal network is supposed to be based on graduates of the Infantry Weapons Centre (Pussenif) he led in the 1980s. His most important protege is Bambang Yudhoyono, whom he is alleged to have helped to speed through the ranks.[19] He is usually assumed to be a supporter of the secular nationalist stream within the military.

Extra Information

Implicated in Events:
Battalion 745 withdrawal - 21/09/1999 - Battalion 745 withdrawal

Cailaco - 13/04/1999 - Public execution of 5 (6?) suspected pro-independence supporters, Cailaco, Bobonaro

Carrascalao - 17/04/1999 - Murder of 12 at home of Manuel Carrascalao, Dili

Diocese - 5/09/1999 - Attack on Dili diocesan office

Lautem Junction - 25/09/1999 - Murder of a church delegation of nine in Lautem district

Liquica - 6/04/1999 - Liquica church massacre

Maliana - 8/09/1999 - Maliana police station massacre

Passabe - 10/09/1999 - Massacre at Passabe, Ambeno (Oecusse enclave)

Suai - 6/09/1999 - Suai church massacre

Current Status:
T - Committed for trial in East Timor, some already sentenced.

K - KPP HAM. Listed in the 31/01/2000 report of the Indonesian commission of inquiry into atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999. More junior figures in Appendix 5 of the final report are added here under their superiors.

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
Cancio Lopes de Carvalho
Mateus de Carvalho
Herminio da Costa
MajGen Adam Damiri
MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim
Col Nur Muis
MajGen (ret) Sintong Panjaitan
Vidal Doutel Sarmento
Col (Pol) Timbul Silaen
Gen Subagyo Hadi Siswojo
Abilio Soares
Laurentino ('Moko') Soares
Armindo Soares Mariano
LtGen Tyasno Sudarto
LtCol Yayat Sudrajat
LtGen Sugiono
Col Tono Suratman
MajGen Endriartono Sutarto
Capt Agus Suwarno
MajGen Kiki Syahnakri
LtGen (ret) Feisal Tanjung
LtGen Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

[1] Geoffrey Robinson, 'The fruitless search for a smoking gun: Tracing the origins of violence in East Timor', in Freek Colombijn and Thomas Lindblad (eds), Historical roots of political violence in contemporary Indonesia, Leiden: KITLV Press, forthcoming (2002).

[2] Kornelius Purba, 'Habibie wants "to be remembered for E. Timor', The Jakarta Post, 16 February 1999. The others were Justice Minister Muladi, Information Minister LtGen Muhammad Yunus [Yosfiah], Minister/ State Secretary Akbar Tandjung, Secretary of Development Operation (Sesdalopbang) LtGen (ret) Sintong Panjaitan, and intellectual Dewi Fortuna Anwar.

[3] 'Delegasi prointegrasi Timtim minta senjata pada Pangab', Republika, 20 February 1999.

[4] 'Deklarasi BRTT dianggap saingi FPDK: Lopes da Cruz terpilih, Domingos Soares mbalelo', Jawa Pos, 1 May 1999.

[5] 'Wiranto gagal temui kubu prokem', Jawa Pos, 21 April 1999.

[6]Titik bidik sang jenderal’, Tempo, 23 January 2000, quoted in Kevin O’Rourke, Reformasi: The struggle for power in post-Soeharto Indonesia, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2002, p.352.

[7] 'Two ex-soldiers jailed for counterfeiting', The Jakarta Post, 22 September 2000.

[8] 'Soal dana Bulog Rp 54 milyar: Rahardi- Diserahkan kepada Akbar Tandjung dan Wiranto', Kompas, 10 October 2001; 'Wiranto akui dana Rp 10 M untuk jajak pendapat Timtim', Detikcom, 31 October 2001; 'Dadang Sukandar: Laporan penyaluran bahan pokok itu fiktif', Kompas, 1 May 2002.

[9] Don Greenlees, Robert Garran, 'The tarnished brass of Timor', The Australian, 18 May 2002.

[10] Geoffrey Robinson, 'The fruitless search for a smoking gun: Tracing the origins of violence in East Timor', in Freek Colombijn and Thomas Lindblad (eds), Historical roots of political violence in contemporary Indonesia, Leiden: KITLV Press, forthcoming (2002).

[11] 'Tugas khusus Zacky Makarim di Timor Timur', MateBEAN, 8 July 1999.

[12] 'Xpos: Rahasia kunjungan 14 menteri', SiaR, 18 July 1999. According to another story, he slapped the face of veteran militia leader Joao Tavares for 'embarrasing the armed forces' when a letter over Tavares' name urging violence was circulated in the press ('Panglima pejuang integrasi ditampar Jenderal Wiranto', MateBEAN, 5 August 1999. The Tavares letter may have been a fake.)

Meanwhile a militia claim that he and President Habibie had personally visited Dili to encourage the militias on 20 August, meanwhile, was almost certainly false. (Joanna Jolly, 'Habibie behind the violence, militia say', The Age (Australia), 19 October 2000; Joanna Jolly and Vaudine England, 'East Timor: Fear and loathing spreads in militia ranks', South China Morning Post, 21 October 2000.)

[13] ‘Intelligence: Cabinet split’, Far Eastern Economic Review, 12 August 1999; ‘Wiranto kritik oknum Unamet’, Kompas, 29 July 1999.

[14] Hamish McDonald, 'Australia's bloody East Timor secret', 'Silence over a crime against humanity', Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 2002.

[15] Dili special panel indictment against Eurico Guterres et al (Case 13/ 2003, clause 25).

[16] Jeremy Wagstaff, ‘Critics slam Indonesia’s Gen Wiranto for weakness’, The Asian Wall Street Journal, 13 October 1999.

[17] Aidul Fitriciada Azhari (edited by Idi Subandi Ibrahim), Selamat jalan Timor Timur, pergulatan menguak kebenaran, penuturan apa adanya seorang Wiranto ('Goodbye East Timor, an effort to tell the truth, Wiranto's testament'), Jakarta: Institut Demokrasi Indonesia, 2002.

[18]Indonesia will ignore UN indictments of ex-officials’, AP, 25 February 2003.

[19] 'Analisis perkembangan sosial-politik menjelang Pemilu 1997 dan SU-MPR 1998', posted to [email protected] as 'Istiqlal: Analisis CPDS', 27 March 1997.


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