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Coordinating minister for politics & security
Civil service
Kopassus , Kostrad

LtGen (ret) Feisal Tanjung

Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, head of security for the East Timor ballot

The involvement of Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security Feisal Tanjung in the crimes committed in East Timor in 1999 demonstrates the mainstream nature of the violent project to retain the province. Greenlees and Garran conclude in their book that he was 'at least as deeply implicated as Wiranto in the raising of militia and the effort to subvert the outcome of the referendum'. Habibie felt Feisal was the only other cabinet member besides Wiranto with real clout in the armed forces.[1]

On 25 January 1999 Feisal led a coordinating meeting of senior military and civilian officials on politics and security. It was attended by more than 50 people, and considered a letter from Australian Prime Minister John Howard to President Habibie likening East Timor to New Caledonia. The letter urged the idea of a vote (in the distant future) that included the option to separate. The meeting also considered Habibie's thoughts on possible options for East Timor.[2]

Feisal Tanjung's report of that meeting, conveyed to a limited cabinet meeting on 27 January 1999 and written together with Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and Defence Minister Wiranto, supported the idea of an immediate referendum about East Timor's future status. The option again won support at that limited cabinet meeting. Ali Alatas, who said later that he and Akbar Tanjung were the only ones to disagree with the referendum option, described the feeling in the meeting: 'We were then very convinced we would win the referendum.'[3]

Although Habibie's spokesperson Dewi Fortuna Anwar said of the report to cabinet on 27 January (of which Feisal Tanjung seems to have been the main author) that its option to let go of East Timor was 'honourable, just and democratic', Feisal in fact never expressed himself warmly about democracy. On the contrary, he repeatedly spoke about the dangers of democracy.[4] Indeed, Feisal Tanjung had proposed in this same cabinet meeting that, in view of rioting and especially serious fighting in Maluku, a state of civil emergency should be declared throughout Indonesia. The proposal was rejected.[5]

Presumably Feisal Tanjung believed a referendum in East Timor could be won by the methods that were familiar to him. He remembered that, exactly thirty years earlier, Indonesia had successfully pulled off another UN-supervised 'act of free choice' in Irian Jaya, in 1969. Feisal Tanjung, then still a captain, had played a significant role in the military intelligence operation that ensured success in 1969.

His biography says about the run-up to the UN vote in Irian Jaya: 'The implementation mechanism for the Act of Free Choice (Pepera) had been agreed between Indonesia and the UN.... For that reason it would have had disagreeable political consequences had the operation of Captain Feisal Tanjung and his men become widely known. Negotiations might have collapsed if UN diplomats or the international community had known about the intelligence operation. The long-standing diplomatic strategy to liberate West Irian would have been imperilled and could even have failed completely' (p222).

The East Timor chapter of the same biography then picked up the Irian Jaya theme again: 'Being asked to make a success of the ballot in this way was for him the second time around, the first being Irian Jaya. It could almost be said that Feisal Tanjung had been born for this' (p724). Military-style, he conveyed to his staff that his presidential orders were to ensure the ballot was a success. 'I take it that success means, first of all, that it is democratic, secure, honest and fair, as Mr President stressed. Second, that it is won by the pro-integration side. Thus our main job is to guarantee the ballot as part of the strengthening of East Timor into the territory of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia.' (p722).[6]

Of course Feisal Tanjung did not have a monopoly on Habibie's attention. One of those also mentioned in the press as advisors on East Timor was Habibie's Secretary of Development Operation (Sesdalopbang) LtGen (ret) Sintong Panjaitan, who was with Feisal in Irian Jaya in 1969. Others were Gen Wiranto, Information Minister LtGen Yunus Yosfiah, State Secretary Akbar Tandjung, Justice Minister Muladi, and foreign policy advisor Dewi Fortuna Anwar.[7]

Feisal Tanjung's relationship with operations on the ground in East Timor was surprisingly direct. While busy on many other fronts, Feisal Tanjung kept himself closely informed of developments in East Timor. In March 1999 he chaired a committee to examine the special autonomy proposal for East Timor (this proposal preceded the referendum idea and later became the option East Timorese were invited to accept or reject).[8]

Some time after a cabinet meeting in March 1999 decided to accept the UN proposal for a full referendum (the 27 January announcement having left the mechanism vague), Feisal Tanjung and Wiranto jointly authorised a covert operation to ensure independence was rejected. Placed in charge was MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim.[9]

On 11 May 1999, just a few days after the UN Agreement to hold a ballot in East Timor was signed in New York, Feisal Tanjung established a team known by the abbreviation P4OKT (Satgas Pengamanan Pensuksesan Penentuan Pendapat Otonomi Khusus Timtim, Team to Secure and Make a Success of the East Timor Special Autonomy Ballot). Its stated task was to monitor security preparations in advance of the ballot. However, that it was intended to do more than 'monitor' was indicated by the presence on the team of MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim, who had been working with the revived East Timor militias since July 1998.

Less than a week later, on 17 May 1999, another team was set up with the abbreviation P3TT (Satgas Panitia Penentuan Pendapat Timor Timur, Special Committee for the East Timor Ballot) by presidential decision 43/ 1999 (later strengthened by presidential instruction 5/ 1999). The second team had a stronger Foreign Affairs Department face, and was intended as a 'counterpart' to Unamet. Feisal Tanjung was nominated in the presidential decision as responsible for security. Zacky Anwar Makarim was also nominated, as 'security advisor' to P3TT.

Leaked Australian intelligence intercepts show a stream of communications between Feisal Tanjung and MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim that amounted to a covert chain of command. Journalist Hamish McDonald wrote of Tanjung's 'pivotal role in instigating, planning and executing the militia campaign.' Another key operator in this pattern of communications was MajGen Sjafrie Syamsuddin.[10]

In January 2000, BrigGen Glenny Kairupan said that P4OKT lasted only a week and that its personnel were then transferred to P3TT. However, there is evidence that P4OKT continued to have a separate existence as a military-dominated organisation controlled by Feisal Tanjung for several months at least, if not longer. On 3 July 1999, MajGen (ret) H R Garnadi wrote Feisal Tanjung a report from Dili on the political situation. Garnadi was a staffer from Feisal's coordinating ministry. The report was issued in the name of P4OKT.

Human rights lawyer Munir said other P4OKT documents were in existence until August 1999. He suspected that while P3TT was meant to liaise with Unamet, P4OKT had the job of ensuring the 'success' of the autonomy option. It should not be forgotten that only small portions of evidence about Indonesian directives have survived. Given the secretive conduct of the Indonesian high command and political elite in its dealings with East Timor in 1999, it is quite possible that P4OKT could have been the continuation of some team Feisal established much earlier than 11 May 1999.[11]

The Garnadi document concluded that the earlier Indonesian optimism had been premature and the independence option was now likely to win. It urged that preparations should be made for a large-scale evacuation of pro-Indonesian elements from East Timor, including the destruction of facilities. It described the militias as 'heroes of integration', who would probably fight it out. Feisal Tanjung himself denied all knowledge of the Garnadi document.[12]

In early June 1999 Feisal Tanjung, quoting his Dili sources, told a cabinet meeting that the Unamet mission, barely a day old, was 'siding with the anti-integration side'.[13]

Feisal Tanjung twice visited East Timor before the ballot - on 12 July and 7 August - on both occasions in his P3TT capacity. One report said that on the first occasion the high-powered ministerial team carried instructions from Habibie to reign in militia violence, which was damaging Indonesia's image abroad.[14]

However, rather than reign in militia violence, Feisal Tanjung came back from this visit more concerned to repeat his accusation of Unamet bias. He blamed 'certain groups' for creating 'a fearful atmosphere' (mencekam - the same word used by Garnadi to describe pro-independence activism). Bizarrely, Feisal said the aim of these groups was to force the UN to send troops, presumably in the way Nato troops had just been sent to Kosovo.[15]

Feisal Tanjung was among a high-powered delegation (including Wiranto) that came to Dili the day after the ballot result was announced and gathered at the official residence of East Timor commander Col Nur Muis.[16] It is difficult to believe the detailed scorched earth policy Nur Muis had just finalised were not discussed at this time.

On 7 September he was the cabinet spokesperson declaring martial law in East Timor. The declaration was rejected by Indonesia's parliament as a dangerous reversion to militarism, and even faced serious objections from within cabinet. But the declaration led to rumours that Habibie was about to be deposed through a military coup.

Instead, Habibie accepted UN intervention on 12 September. Feisal Tanjung assuaged his anger by announcing that Jakarta was cancelling the largely symbolic security treaty between Indonesia and Australia on 16 September, because of Australian 'unhelpfulness' in East Timor.

Questioned in June 2000 over human rights abuse in East Timor after the ballot, he merely said security was handled by local military officers, and not by Jakarta officials like himself.[17]


Feisal Etno Tanjung was born in North Sumatra in 1939. He had a long career as a combat paratrooper, having been involved in several counter-insurgency operations as well as in the invasion of East Timor. After serving eight years in the RPKAD special forces (which later became Kopassus), he moved to Kostrad, becoming Commander of the Kostrad 17th Airborne Brigade, and in 1981 chief of staff of Kostrad's Airborne Combat Command.

In 1985 he became military area commander of Kalimantan (Pangdam VI/ Tanjungpura) and from 1988 until 1992 he headed the influential Army Staff and Command College (Seskoad) in Bandung. In the wake of the 1991 Dili massacre he was chosen to head the Honorary Military Council and was responsible in this capacity for a wave of sackings and transfers, supposedly directed mainly against allies of Gen Benny Murdani.

When Suharto moved to embrace Islamic political forces in the early 1990s, Feisal, a pious Muslim himself and a close associate of Habibie, became one of the president's key agents in the military. After serving for a little under a year as Armed Forces Chief of Staff for General Affairs (Kasum Abri) Feisal was elevated to Armed Forces Commander in 1993, a position he held until 1998. In Suharto's last cabinet he was Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, a position he kept in the Habibie administration.

Feisal Tanjung had a penchant for 'direct action'. On 27 July 1996, according to much testimony heard in court in May 2000, he ordered thugs backed by police to attack the headquarters of the political party PDI, which was at the time making oppositional statements. In December 1994 Feisal was allegedly part of a government campaign to unseat Abdurrahman Wahid from the leadership of the religious organisation Nahdatul Ulama. Feisal always took hard-line views on what he perceived as threats to the unitary state.

On many occasions in 1999 Feisal accepted temporary or interim cabinet positions on top of his coordinating minister's post under Habibie. He was acting foreign minister in June 1999 (using the moment to stop East Timorese resistance spokesperson Ramos Horta from coming to East Timor),[18] and again in September 1999. He was acting minister of interior affairs in September 1999, interim state secretary in May and June 1999, and interim attorney general in June 1999. He was also a member of the 'Tim Sukses' for Habibie in the runup to the national elections in June 1999. On 29 October 1999, with Habibie defeated, Feisal handed over his ministership to Wiranto and went into retirement.

Extra Information

Current Status:
1 - Priority 1 for further investigation. Not included in any other formal list, but mentioned in other independent reports, and supported by considerable data.

See map of location

This individual is also mentioned in these profiles:
MajGen Adam Damiri
MajGen (ret) H R Garnadi
LtGen (ret) A.M. Hendropriyono
MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim
Col Nur Muis
MajGen (ret) Sintong Panjaitan
LtCol Yayat Sudrajat
MajGen Sjafrie Syamsuddin
Gen Wiranto
MajGen (ret) Yunus Yosfiah

[1] Don Greenlees and Robert Garran, Deliverance: The inside story of East Timor's fight for freedom, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2002, pp.212, 54.

[2] Kornelius Purba, 'Habibie wants "to be remembered for E. Timor"', The Jakarta Post, 16 February 1999; 'East Timor move not an instruction: Alatas', The Jakarta Post, 6 February 1999.

[3] 'Ali Alatas: "Santa Cruz Incident a turning point in our diplomacy."', Tempo, 18-24 September 2000. See also the helpful chronology in 'Kronologi lepasnya bekas propinsi ke-27', Kompas, 1 February 2000. 'Dewi Fortuna Anwar: 17 bulan bersama Habibie', Tajuk, No.17_th2, approx. 28 October 1999. Nothing was said about East Timor in the press briefing about this 25 January meeting: 'Rakor Polkam: Masyarakat dimanfaatkan sebagai alat manuver politik', Kompas, 26 January 1999.

[4] For example, 'Reformasi dipahami secara keliru', Media Indonesia, 26 January 1999.

[5] 'Sejumlah menteri usulkan diberlakukan darurat sipil', Republika, 16 February 1999.

[6] Usamah Hisyam (Ketua Tim Penyusun), Feisal Tanjung:Terbaik untuk rakyat, terbaik bagi Abri, Jakarta: Dharmapena, 1999.

[7] Kornelius Purba, 'Habibie wants "to be remembered for E. Timor', The Jakarta Post, 16 February 1999.

[8] Jon Land, 'Indonesia plays delaying game with East Timor', Green Left Weekly, 24 March 1999.

[9] Greenlees and Garran, Deliverance, p.137.

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

[11] 'Diakui, ada aparat lepas tembakan di jalan-jalan', Kompas, 31 Desember 1999.

[12] Mark Dodd, 'Jakarta plot to reclaim free Timor', Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 1999; 'Solidamor> Surat rahasia Asmenko I/ Poldagri', MateBEAN, 17 July 1999; 'English translation of the Ganardi document', Etan, 24 July 1999; 'Feisal Tanjung: Tak pernah lihat dokumen Garnadi', Kompas, 14 January 2000.

[13] 'UN team officially raises flag in East Timor', Straits Times, 4 June 1999; 'Indonesia Criticizes U.N. Mission', AP, 2 June 1999.

[14] 'Xpos: Rahasia kunjungan 14 menteri', SiaR, 18 July 1999.

[15] 'Ada yang Sengaja Paksakan Hadirnya Pasukan PBB', Republika, 13 July 1999.

[16] See Dili special panel indictment against Eurico Guterres et al (Case 13/ 2003, clause 24, available on Tanjung’s presence in Dili on this day is attested in ‘Xanana dibebaskan 8 September: Eurico Guterres - rekonsiliasi sulit’, Kompas, 5 September 1999; Greg Earl, ‘Militias restrict Wiranto party to airport’, Australian Financial Review, 6 September, 1999; ‘Kebrutalan ancam perang saudara: 145 orang lebih tewas’, Kompas, 6 September 1999; ‘Perang saudara berkobar di Timtim: 200 tewas dalam beberapa jam’, Waspada, 6 September 1999 (quoting Antara); ‘25 dead in latest Dili violence’, Jakarta Post, 6 September 1999.

[17] 'Ex Indonesian Security Min quizzed over Timor atrocities', Associated Press, 20 June 2000.

[18] 'Indonesia does not want Ramos Horta to visit East Timor: minister', AFP, 30 June 1999.


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