Prabowo’s Exile

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

With his father-in-law’s resignation and his admitted involvement in kidnapping political activists, Kostrad Commander Prabowo was desperate. He had backed B.J. Habibie at the expense of his ties to Cendana. Whether he had gone beyond moral support to actively plot Soeharto’s overthrow remains an unanswered question. Prabowo tried to meet Habibie early Thursday morning, May 21, before he was sworn in as Indonesia’s third president, and again that afternoon. Finally, on Thursday evening Prabowo and Kopassus Commander Muchdi caught up with the new president at his Kuningan, Central Jakarta home. Prabowo had taken the liberty to draft a cabinet line-up, along with recommended changes to military leadership. Reminding Habibie of his earlier promise to make him Army Chief or Armed Forces Commander, perhaps with a degree of intimidation, Prabowo proposed advancing General Subagyo to ABRI Commander, himself to succeed Subagyo as Army Chief, and Wiranto to retain the less powerful post as Defense and Security Minister.[1]

Habibie and Prabowo had common friends in the modernist Muslim community and shared interests in promoting Islamic causes. Prabowo had helped Habibie – long a target for ridicule – find common ground with military leaders. During his brief tenure as vice president, Habibie had promised to make Prabowo either Army Chief or ABRI Commander. The situation had changed dramatically in a few short weeks. Habibie recognized Prabowo had become a liability, as the suspected mastermind behind the Trisakti shootings and May riots, along with his admitted role in the kidnappings. Promoting him under such circumstances would have been political suicide. Even Prabowo’s erstwhile ally, General Feisal Tanjung (who Habibie retained as Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs), advised the new President that Prabowo was “too dangerous” to lead the Army.[2]

Prabowo had sent Kostrad Chief of Staff Major General Kivlan Zen to obtain an endorsement for his cabinet and military leadership recommendations from General Abdul Haris Nasution, one of Habibie’s personal heroes. A few months earlier, Habibie had brokered a reunion between Soeharto and Nasution for the October 5, 1997 Armed Forces Day ceremony at the Palace where the two revolutionary heroes were promoted to honorary five-star general. By early-1998, the seventy-nine-year old Nasution was increasingly invalid. Kivlan Zen later admitted he had written the letter and convinced Nasution to sign it.[3]

Prabowo’s familiar manner perturbed Habibie. He told the ambitious general to bide his time while his bodyguards summoned General Wiranto. Prabowo hastily escaped through the back door to avoid confronting his rival.[4] Habibie worked on his cabinet roster into the night. Economic Coordinating Minister Ginandjar and his allies, who had helped remove Soeharto by refusing to join a reform cabinet, urged Habibie to appoint Transmigration Minister Lieutenant General Hendropriyono to replace Wiranto as ABRI Commander. Ginandjar disliked Wiranto and considered him a weak commander.[5] Habibie’s security advisor Lieutenant General Sintong Panjaitan concurred with Ginandjar, calling the May riots “the worst blunder in the history of the Armed Forces since 1945.” He faulted Wiranto for failing to prevent the destruction and loss of life – and for refusing to take responsibility. Sintong also advised Habibie to install fellow red beret Hendropriyono and leave Wiranto as Defense Minister.[6]

After the inauguration, Habibie had informed Wiranto he would separate the ABRI Commander and Defense Minister posts, and planned to retain Wiranto in the latter capacity only. Wiranto offered to give up the minister post but asked to stay on as ABRI Commander so he could carry through “national security restoration duties.” Habibie had already signed an order appointing Hendropriyono. Feisal Tanjung, Ginandjar, State Secretary Akbar Tandjung and Habibie’s Military Secretary, Major General Jasril Jacob, had already congratulated him on the promotion.[7]

Wiranto refused to surrender without a fight. He sought to convince Habibie’s trusted advisor, Feisal Tanjung, he should retain both posts.[8] He made his final appeal to the President on Friday morning before the new cabinet was announced. The two men wrangled for several hours, delaying the scheduled statement. Sintong Panjaitan was present and maintained Wiranto used the letter from Soeharto granting him extraordinary security powers to negotiate with Habibie – implying the former President had intended for Habibie to step down with him and leave power to Wiranto.[9] The general asked for time to prove himself and to purge divisive Prabowo elements from the Army. In the end, Wiranto retained both positions – ABRI Commander and Defense Minister. Habibie summoned the crestfallen Hendropriyono Sunday and told him he would leave Wiranto in the post for three months to give him time to clean out Prabowo’s residual influence.[10] By then, the Habibie-Wiranto marriage had been consummated.

At age fifty-three, Hendropriyono was two years older and one academy class senior to Wiranto. Wiranto had served as Hendropriyono’s chief of staff in the Jakarta Command in 1993-1994. His triumph over his former boss marked the start of a heated rivalry, exacerbated by Wiranto’s “loss of East Timor” in September 1999. Hendropriyono harshly criticized Wiranto after the East Timor disaster. In truth, it is surprising Habibie would have seriously considered Hendropriyono since, as a colonel, during February 1989 he had ordered soldiers to fire on defiant Muslim villagers in South Sumatra, the so-called Lampung massacre, and was unacceptable to many of the President’s modernist Muslim friends. Hendropriyono was close to opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. He bided his time as Transmigration Minister under Habibie. Megawati later appointed him to head the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Bakin).

Before he abdicated, Soeharto had asked both Wiranto and Habibie to relieve his errant son-in-law from command.[11] Wiranto told Habibie he feared Prabowo was planning a coup. By Wiranto’s account, Prabowo had moved troops into Jakarta without permission and concentrated soldiers near the Habibie’s Kuningan residence. In fact, Wiranto himself had assigned Kopassus troops to protect the President and Vice President’s residences during a security coordination meeting at the Jakarta Garrison on May 14, while the riots were still raging.[12] The red berets outnumbered and outgunned the small Presidential Security Guard contingent at the new President’s house. They refused to leave without orders from their commander, Major General Muchdi (who was with Prabowo). Finally, the commandos withdrew Friday evening without incident after Sintong Panjaitan, a former red beret commander, convinced Deputy Kopassus Commander Brigadier General Idris Gassing to recall his men.[13]

Habibie told Wiranto to remove Prabowo from Kostrad “before the sun sets”[14] and agreed with his recommendation to sack Kopassus Commander Muchdi. Wiranto ordered Army Chief Subagyo to immediately relieve Prabowo and Muchdi. Two days earlier, Subagyo had turned down Soeharto’s offer to take control of a reconstituted Kopkamtib security command and, by then, realized the power calculus favored Wiranto. The situation was tense. Prabowo’s former red beret comrades Subagyo and BIA Chief Zacky Anwar Makarim later admitted they were concerned for their own safety during the uncertain period after Soeharto resigned.[15] The Army Chief worried about possible mutiny, especially in Kopassus, and did not wish to humiliate either general. Moreover, Subagyo admitted he was torn between his friendship with Prabowo and his duty to follow orders.[16]

Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Fachrul Razi nominated four major generals to replace Prabowo: ABRI Operations Assistant Johny Lumintang, East Java Brawijaya Commander Djaja Suparman, Presidential Security Guard (Paspampres) Commander Endriartono Sutarto and West Java Siliwangi Commander Djamari Chaniago. Fachrul recommended his 1970 academy classmate Johny Lumintang as best qualified. Lumintang was Wiranto’s 1984 Seskoad classmate. The North Sulawesi Minahasa Protestant was known as a competent professional who had served with success as a commander in East Timor and Irian Jaya. Just two months earlier, Wiranto had recalled Lumintang from Jayapura to become his operations assistant. Army Chief Subagyo, another 1970 academy graduate, endorsed Lumintang.[17] He was told to report to Army Headquarters at 3:00 p.m. for the transfer of command ceremony. He went by jeep to Kostrad Headquarters but found Prabowo was absent. He reached Prabowo by cell phone and told him he would be taking over that afternoon on Wiranto’s orders.

Prabowo had been in disbelief after hearing the cabinet line-up with Wiranto retaining the posts as ABRI Commander and Defense Minister. He was outraged when notified after Friday prayers that he would be dismissed. Prabowo and Jakarta Commander Sjafrie went to Army Headquarters to see fellow red beret Subagyo. They tried to convince him to delay the transfer a few days so a proper ceremony could be arranged. Subagyo refused, saying it was the President’s order. Prabowo angrily handed his red beret to Subagyo. Still in combat uniform and once more violating the chain-of-command, Prabowo went looking for the President at his Kuningan residence, accompanied by twelve armed soldiers in three Land Rovers. Since Habibie was not home, the convoy continued to the Palace, arriving at around 3:00 p.m. – even though Subagyo had already told Prabowo the transfer of command would take place at the same time.

Prabowo was well-known at the Palace. He asked soldiers from the Presidential Security Guard if the President was in and entered without challenge. Habibie’s security advisor Sintong Panjaitan instructed the inner guard to respectfully insist that Prabowo surrender his weapon. Sintong told him the President did not wish to see him. When Prabowo asked why, Sintong replied, “Habibie said it wasn’t him, but your father-in-law.” Prabowo persisted and was finally granted audience. The two men argued. Prabowo asked Habibie to reverse his decision removing him from Kostrad. In reply to Prabowo’s question on why he had been relieved, Habibie said he had no choice, it was Soeharto’s decision, and offered to give him an appointment as Ambassador to Malaysia, which Prabowo refused.[18]

The garrulous mixed blood Buginese-Javanese-Arab Habibie was the opposite of the inscrutable Javanese Soeharto. He later told people Prabowo had threatened him (a charge Prabowo consistently denied) and that he feared for his life. Habibie chose to spend the next two nights in the guest quarters at the presidential office complex and even placed a helicopter on standby to evacuate him and his family.[19] Prabowo was angry and desperate. His confrontation with the President was widely portrayed as an attempted coup, but that characterization seems exaggerated. According to Sintong, Prabowo asked to speak by telephone to General Wiranto. Sintong declined to contact the ABRI Commander, instead informing Prabowo he was not available. Prabowo left. Later, Prabowo’s father, Professor Sumitro Djojohadikusumo requested an audience with the President on his son’s behalf. On Sintong’s advice, Habibie spoke to Sumitro by telephone.[20]

Habibie later embellished the story. On June 30, 1998, he told Indonesian Islamic Proselytizing Council (DDII) members that Prabowo had threatened him. He told them his military aide, Sintong Panjaitan, informed him Kopassus and Kostrad troops had surrounded his house and he had been forced to evacuate his family by helicopter to the Palace.[21] During informal comments to Asian and German publishers on February 15, 1999, Habibie claimed he had received a report from General Wiranto the day after Soeharto’s resignation that Prabowo had gathered loyal troops, possibly with the intent to take power. In his own testimony before Parliament on February 23, General Wiranto denied there had been any coup attempt.[22]

General Subagyo was angry because Prabowo had missed the modest transfer of command ceremony at Army Headquarters. He was at the Palace and had not surrendered the Kostrad pataka (unit standard), without which the ceremony could not go forward. At every level of command, military leaders pay great respect and ritual ceremony to the symbols of command – the pataka and the unit flag (bendera). In another reflection of the pervasive influence of Javanese mystical values, for decades those symbols of command have been treated as venerated heirlooms (pusaka) with their own inherent power.[23] Subagyo contacted Wiranto’s office and asked if the two ceremonies might be delayed. Wiranto’s assistant informed him the Kostrad transfer must go forward but the Kopassus change of command could be delayed until Monday, May 25.[24]

Prabowo’s friends had encouraged him not to surrender the Kostrad standard, even to leave town for a couple days so a proper ceremony could be arranged. He arrived at Army Headquarters in the late afternoon. Prabowo refused to yield the pataka despite a direct order from Subagyo. He asked for a three-month delay to avoid embarrassment to everyone involved. Subagyo again explained that was not possible. Prabowo eventually relented. In a brief ceremony at 5:30 p.m., Subagyo accepted the pataka from Prabowo. Deputy Army Chief Sugiono, Kostrad 1st Infantry Division Commander Major General Adam Damiri and staff officers witnessed the event. In a separate ceremony around 7:00 p.m., the Army Chief transferred Kostrad command to Johny Lumintang.[25]

Wiranto had not coordinated his decision to install the Protestant Lumintang with the President, technically required only for service chiefs. Indeed, Habibie told Wiranto he should choose a suitable replacement for Prabowo. Upon learning about the appointment, Coordinating Minister Feisal Tanjung, Economic Coordinating Minister Ginandjar and Cooperatives, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Adi Sasono jointly intervened with Habibie to have the decision overruled.[26] Lumintang was perceived to be a “Moerdani man” although that label is dubious. It was more the fact that the North Sulawesi general was a Christian. After General Benny Moerdani’s perceived wrongs against Muslims in the Armed Forces, it was an emotional issue for the modernist Muslim community.

The symbolism of a Christian taking over the important Kostrad command – the same platform from which Soeharto had been catapulted into the presidency three decades earlier – was unacceptable. Late Friday night, the President telephoned Wiranto and told him to immediately remove Lumintang. Awakened by a telephone call from ABRI Headquarters at 1:00 a.m., General Subagyo was instructed to replace Johny Lumintang with West Java Siliwangi Commander Major General Djamari Chaniago first thing the next morning, Saturday, May 23. No explanation was offered. Subagyo was startled and angry. The written order arrived early Saturday, stating Lumintang was “temporary commander” (wakil sementara). Having just installed Lumintang hours earlier, Subagyo’s anger was reignited. He rejected the written order and refused to sign it. ABRI Headquarters re-issued the order without the offending language. Subagyo signed the order and the transfer ceremony went ahead at 11:30 a.m. after the cabinet installation.[27]

The Army Chief relieved Kopassus Commander Muchdi the same morning. Subagyo, a former Kopassus Commander himself, assumed command over the red berets until Monday, May 25, when Bali-Nusa Tenggara Udayana Regional Commander Major General Sjahrir MS was installed.

Johny Lumintang was Kostrad Commander for just seventeen-and-one-half-hours. He returned to his post as ABRI Operations Assistant. A career Kostrad officer, the West Sumatran Djamari Chaniago was more acceptable to the Islamic group around Habibie. Earlier he had led a Garuda UN peacekeeping contingent to Egypt. He was a friend to both Prabowo and Lumintang. Chaniago had succeeded Lumintang as the Kostrad 18th Infantry Brigade Commander in Malang, East Java at the same time Prabowo commanded the Kostrad 17th Infantry Brigade in Cijantung, East Jakarta. He later served under Wiranto as Kostrad 2nd Division Commander before becoming Siliwangi Commander, a post he held for just ten months before his abrupt transfer to Kostrad. Djamari was not a reformer or visionary but a competent officer without political ambitions. He was a devout santri Muslim with ties to the Islamic parties, but was fed up with military involvement in politics. During his eighteen month tenure at Kostrad, Chaniago tried to stay above the fray and did his job in a professional, low-key manner.

Wiranto was livid with the meddling by his Islamist cabinet rivals. He sacked Kostrad Chief of Staff Major General Kivlan Zen less than two months later, after just three months in post. A hard-line Muslim with close ties to Prabowo, Kivlan had apparently complained to Feisal Tanjung he could not work for Lumintang.[28] Wiranto parked Kivlan as an expert staff advisor at Army Headquarters, stunting his promising career. Before Soeharto resigned, Wiranto had employed Kivlan Zen as an intermediary to persuade Muslim politician Amien Rais to cancel his planned “National Awakening Day” rally. Despite his annoyance at him over the Lumintang Affair, Wiranto again called on Kivlan in late-1998 to help recruit Muslim volunteers for a volunteer security force (Pam Swakarsa). Kostrad 1st Infantry Division Commander Major General Ryamizard Ryacudu, General Try Sutrisno’s son-in-law, succeeded Kivlan Zen as Kostrad Chief of Staff.

Wiranto had planned to replace Kopassus Commander Muchdi with Army Doctrine, Education and Training Command (Kodiklat) Commander Major General Luhut Panjaitan, another Christian and Prabowo rival, but after the Johny Lumintang fiasco, in consultation with Army Chief Subagyo, revised his choice to Bali-Nusa Tenggara Udayana Regional Commander Major General Sjahrir MS.[29] Luhut was a talented and well-regarded special forces officer, unquestionably better qualified than Sjahrir to lead the red berets. Originally from Baturaja, South Sumatra, Sjahrir graduated from the Military Academy in 1971. He spent most of his career in Kopassus and Kostrad, with repeated rotations to East Timor and territorial postings in Bogor and Bali. In 1992, he attended the Joint Services Academy in Canberra, Australia. Sjahrir was described by peers in less than flattering terms as “a tough guy” and someone “not smart enough to scheme against Wiranto or make trouble.”[30]

President Habibie made Luhut Panjaitan Ambassador to Singapore, where he was entrusted to look after the President’s financial interests on neighboring Batam Island. In April 1999, President Abdurrahman Wahid recalled Luhut to serve as his Trade and Industry Minister. After Sjahrir completed his tour as Kopassus Commander in May 2000, he was appointed Army Operations Assistant under General Tyasno Sudarto. In August 1998, Johny Lumintang replaced Prabowo a second time when he took over as Armed Forces Staff and Command School (Sesko-ABRI) Commander. Wiranto moved Lumintang again in January 1999 to become Deputy Army Chief, somewhat ironically, in a position where he supervised Kivlan Zen (who had earlier complained he could not work for a Christian).

Habibie and Wiranto had discussed replacing Army Chief Subagyo. Sintong Panjaitan convinced the President to leave Subagyo in the post, which he had held for only three months. Subagyo was a fellow red beret who had served under Sintong during the March 1981 Woyla hostage rescue operation in Bangkok. Sintong visited Subagyo at Army Headquarters on Saturday after the cabinet installation. He said Habibie considered Subagyo to be “one packet” with fellow red berets Prabowo, Muchdi and Sjafrie. Subagyo acknowledged his relationship with Prabowo, who had served as his Kopassus deputy, but maintained he was not a political officer and did not belong to any group. Subagyo said he was satisfied with his position, had no ambition for higher office and was loyal to the government.[31] He retained his post as Army Chief for twenty-one months, until December 1999.

Prabowo met Wiranto on Saturday and indicated he would accept transfer to Bandung as Sesko-ABRI Commander.[32] He blamed Sintong Panjaitan for turning Habibie against him. Although Sintong was a Protestant and had been close to Benny Moerdani, he had served B.J. Habibie loyally for six years. The two men developed a friendship that extended to their families. Sintong and Prabowo were decorated red berets and, ironically, both were prematurely discharged from military service – Sintong after the November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor and Prabowo because of his role in the kidnapping and disappearance of political dissidents in early-1998. Prabowo denied allegations he had plotted to overthrow Habibie, but the stories persisted. Privately, he confessed his Kopassus supporters were enraged by the President’s false accusation and ready to act against Habibie on his order.[33]

While Wiranto was happy to be rid of Prabowo, he was reluctant to discipline him. In response to public demands for accountability – and after much internal debate – Wiranto suspended Prabowo on July 31 and, convened an Officers Honor Council (DKP) on August 3 under Army Chief Subagyo. Soeharto had ordered the first honor council after the November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre and again in 1995 after the Liquica killings in East Timor. An honor council is an administrative rather than criminal procedure. The honor council’s sole responsibility is to determine if an officer should be retained on active service or discharged. An officer can be court-martialed before or after being considered by an honor council.[34]

Since Prabowo was a lieutenant general, a four-star officer had to head the Honor Council, leaving Wiranto little choice but to make Prabowo’s red beret comrade, Subagyo, the council chairman. In fact, all three officers brought before the honor board (Prabowo, Muchdi and Chairawan) were Subagyo’s former subordinates. The Army Chief was in no position to help them. The other honor council members were serving three-star officers: Chief of General Staff Fachrul Razi (Deputy Chairman), Chief of Staff for Social-Political Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Kostrad Commander Djamari Chaniago (Secretary), Deputy Army Chief Sugiono, National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) Governor Agum Gumelar, Defense Ministry Inspector General Yusuf Kartanegara, former Sesko-ABRI Commander Arie Kumaat, and Armed Forces Academy Commander Vice Admiral Achmad Sutjipto (later Navy Chief).[35]

The Honor Council was closed. Members decided up front to restrict their inquiry to Prabowo, Muchdi and Chairawan – and turned a blind eye to the dissidents who had disappeared. Most members disliked Prabowo so it was easy for them to order him retired without pressure from Wiranto. Indeed, council members assumed Prabowo would be drummed from service even before the hearings started. To protect ABRI, the council agreed both Prabowo and Muchdi would be shielded from civil prosecution in exchange for their cooperation. Both said Soeharto gave verbal orders to abduct the dissidents and later to “finish them off.” The DKP members were placed in a difficult position. They ultimately ruled Prabowo and Muchdi had misinterpreted the President’s order.[36]

Prabowo’s father, Professor Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, had earlier appealed to President Habibie to salvage his son’s military career. While the honor council was in session, Sumitro came to ABRI Headquarters. He wanted to meet Wiranto but was received instead by Lieutenant General Fachrul Razi. Sumitro said he believed his son was clean (bersih) and had been made a scapegoat. Fachrul told Sumitro if his son were given a fair trial based on the evidence, he would surely be sentenced to death. Professor Sumitro made no further appeals to military leaders after that meeting.[37] The closed-door inquiry lasted fifteen days; on August 24the tribunal discharged Prabowo “without honor” but oddly with full pension. No explanation was offered. Subagyo simply announced he had “misinterpreted orders.” Prabowo claims he heard about the DKP decision on the radio and never received official notification. He blamed Wiranto for not having the “guts to face me.”[38]

The Honor Council discharged Kopassus Commander Muchdi and Group 4 Commander Colonel Chairawan “with honor”; later both officers were quietly restored to active service. The Honor Council recommended all three officers be brought before a military tribunal. Prabowo himself had demanded a court martial so he could “disclose the truth.” A fact-finding team headed by Military Police Commander Major General Syamsu Djalaluddin collected sufficient evidence to bring Prabowo, Muchdi and Chairawan before a tribunal and recommended they be court-martialed. Senior ABRI staff officers and even Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Feisal Tanjung endorsed Djaluluddin’s recommendation. Yet Wiranto declined to act on the grounds the kidnapping operation was “part of a systematic pattern of military coercion in handling security disturbances.” At a time when military popularity was at its lowest ebb, the last thing Wiranto wanted was to expose the “systematic culture of violence” the military had embraced for the past three decades[39] – or to give Prabowo a platform to cast further aspersions on his leadership.

Prabowo left in late-August for the umroh (minor pilgrimage) in Mecca and onward to Jordan, as a guest of his friend, Prince Abdullah, where he had been instrumental in setting up the Jordanian Army Special Forces unit. Wiranto and Habibie were happy to have Prabowo and the scandal out of the way. Under harsh public scrutiny, Prabowo had been banished to life in exile. He became scapegoat for a spectrum of misdeeds from the Trisakti shootings and the May 1998 riots to the militia-based terror campaign in East Timor the following year – even though he was out of the country. The November 1998 investigation report on the May riots laid most blame at the feet of the self-exiled Kopassus general.

Even with Prabowo gone, General Wiranto did not trust the red berets. He planned to reduce Kopassus to its pre-Prabowo strength of about 3,000 men commanded by a brigadier general but met stiff institutional resistance. Accustomed to perks and privilege above their meager salaries, some commandos hired themselves out, including to various criminal ventures. Since many were already involved in criminal activities, Kopassus Commander Sjahrir and others expressed concerns about the proposal to downsize the elite command, which might force hundreds of red beret veterans into retirement and a life of crime. Instead, Kopassus reduced the number of officers and soldiers inducted, and allowed attrition to reduce the elite force from 5,000 to around 4,000.

Wiranto and Army Chief Subagyo (a former Kopassus Commander) were absent during the red berets’ forty-seventh anniversary event at Cijantung on April 15, 1999. Other former commanders and retired red beret officers were prominently visible during the ceremony. They included Benny Moerdani, Try Sutrisno, Wismoyo Arismunandar, Sintong Panjaitan, Kuntara, Yogie Memet, Tarub, Agum Gumelar and Muchdi, along with Colonel Alex Kawilarang, who had founded the army commando force and was presented with an honorary red beret. Prabowo was out of the country.

It was rumored Prabowo controlled a vigilante army, variously referred to as the “Tidar Boys” or “Team Charlie.” Comprising mainly academy dropouts and martial arts students, the Tidar Boys achieved urban legend status. The ghost group was named after Mount Tidar on the Military Academy grounds in Magelang, Central Java. In Javanese legend, Tidar is “the nail” that holds the world together. It dominates the academy, but in reality is unimpressive, more a large hill than a true mountain. Cadets were required to run up and down Mount Tidar for physical training. Despite allegations the Tidar Boys acted as provocateurs in places like East Timor, Maluku and Central Sulawesi, there is little evidence the group actually existed. During a November 2009 interview, Prabowo confirmed an informal “Tidar group.” He said, “I have always offered assistance to those cadets who were unable to graduate from the Military Academy. Many of them still work for me.” He maintained there was nothing subversive about those actions.[40]

In connection with Prabowo and the Tidar Boys stories, Tutut Soeharto and North Maluku politician Abdul Gafur had established and funded the Indonesian Social Welfare Foundation (Yayasan Kesejahteraan Masyarakat Indonesia, Yakmi) and an associated an militia known as Satgas Tebas (Satuan Tugas Tenaga Bantuan Sukarela, Volunteer Taskforce). Like the Tidar Boys, Satgas Tebas allegedly recruited academy “washouts,” Timorese and Papuan toughs, volunteers from Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) and martial arts groups. Before his falling out with the Soeharto family, Prabowo had been a Satgas Tebas patron and sponsor for the Young Indonesian Knights (Satria Muda Indonesia) and Indonesian Pencak Silat Association(Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia, IPSI) traditional martial arts organizations.

Tutut employed Satgas Tebas as a personal militia during the late-1990s with the usual strong-arm tactics. Some of her Satgas Tebas gangsters were among General Wiranto’s Pam Swakarsa volunteer security volunteers in late-1998. Beyond that, it is not clear exactly where or when the militia may have been involved in provocative activities. By 2002, Tutut and Prabowo had withdrawn support and the group was either inactive or effectively disbanded.[41]

Prabowo stubbornly insisted he was innocent of wrongdoing. “I never betrayed Pak Harto. I never betrayed Habibie. I never betrayed my country.”[42] Separated from his family and friends, Prabowo vowed to return to Indonesia to defend his reputation. He was estranged but on speaking terms with his wife, Titiek. The red beret general dreamed about being reinstated into the Army, perhaps as Army Chief of Staff, as Sukarno had restored General Nasution to Army Chief in November 1955 after being inactive for three years. Prabowo maintained communications with serving officers. Major Generals Muchdi and Kivlan Zen served as intermediaries between Prabowo and military leaders, including Wiranto.

In late-2000, the U.S. State Department denied Prabowo visa under provisions of the United Nations Convention against Torture.[43] A year later, he was refused a second time under the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act “which denies entry to criminals, including individuals suspected of kidnapping, rape, and torture.”[44] Prabowo’s son and only child, Didiet Djojohadikusumo, was studying in the U.S. He later returned to Jakarta as a fashion designer and socialite who lived with his mother, later moving to Paris. Although unlike his father, Prabowo was devoted to Didiet as his only child. In September 2009, Washington denied a visa on the same basis to former Jakarta Commander Sjafrie, by then Deputy Defense Minister.

Prabowo returned to Indonesia in early-2003 and entered into a partnership with former rival Lieutenant General Luhut Panjaitan, who had served as Ambassador to Singapore under Habibie and as President Abdurrahman Wahid’s Industry and Trade Minister. They bought the PT Kiani Kertas pulp and paper plant in Mangkajang, East Kalimantan from Soeharto crony Bob Hasan (then serving a prison term for corruption) and several other industrial enterprises. Wiranto and Prabowo both sought the Golkar candidacy for president in 2004. Prabowo established the Greater Indonesian Movement Party (Gerakan Indonesia Raya, Gerindra) and Wiranto became chairman for the People’s Conscience (Hati Nurani Rakyat, Hanura) Party. In late-2008, both again entered the 2009 presidential race. Wiranto took the number two spot on the Golkar ticket with Jusuf Kalla, while Prabowo accepted a vice president bid under Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) leader Megawati Sukarnoputri in another unsuccessful effort against the incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.


[1] Hafidz, Fading Away?, p. 105.

[2] Berfield and Loveard, “Ten Days that Shook Indonesia.”

[3] Subroto, Sintong Panjaitan, pp. 9-10, and Hafidz, Fading Away?, p. 105.

[4] Mietzner, “From Soeharto to Habibie,” pp. 88-89. Tatik Hafidz says the telephone call to Wiranto was a ruse to get rid of Prabowo. Hafidz, Fading Away?, p. 105.

[5] Samad, General Wiranto, p. 2, and the Editors, “Current Data on the Indonesian Military Elite,” (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, Indonesia, Volume 71, April 2001), p. 140.

[6] Subroto, Sintong Panjaitan, pp. 25-26, and 36.

[7] Ibid, pp. 31-32.

[8] Hafidz, Fading Away?, pp. 68 and 105.

[9] Subroto, Sintong Panjaitan, p. 5.

[10] Ibid, p. 32, and Mietzner, “From Soeharto to Habibie,” p. 233.

[11] Rinakit, The Indonesian Military, p. 121.

[12] Zon, The Politics of the May 1998 Riots, p. 100.

[13] Sukmawati, Subagyo, pp. 23-25.

[14] Subroto, Sintong Panjaitan, pp. 11-12.

[15] Hafidz, Fading Away?, p. 106.

[16] Sukmawati, Subagyo, pp. 181-182, and 185.

[17] Subroto, Sintong Panjaitan, p. 19. Sutarto and Chaniago both graduated from the academy in 1971 and Djaja Suparman in 1972.

[18] Hafidz, Fading Away?, p. 106. Some accounts say Prabowo did not meet Habibie, for example, Mietzner, “From Soeharto to Habibie,” p. 89. There seems to be some confusion over the two contacts between Prabowo and Habibie on Thursday evening, May 21, and Friday afternoon, May 22.

[19] Schwarz, A Nation in Waiting, p. 369.

[20] Subroto, Sintong Panjaitan, pp. 14-15 and 18.

[21] Tesoro, “I Never Betrayed My Country.”

[22] Samad, General Wiranto, p. 147.

[23] Peter Britton, Profesionalisme dan Ideologi Militer Indonesia (Jakarta: LP3ES, 1996), p. 151.

[24] Sukmawati, Subagyo, pp. 184-185.

[25] Ibid, pp. 186-189.

[26] Mietzner, “From Soeharto to Habibie,” p. 90.

[27] Sukmawati, Subagyo, pp. 189-191, and Subroto, Sintong Panjaitan, p. 22.

[28] Honna, Military Politics, p. 271.

[29] Kingsbury, The Politics of Indonesia, p. 242.

[30] Confidential interviews, December 1998 and January 1999.

[31] Sukmawati, Subagyo, pp. 180-181, and Hafidz, Fading Away?, p. 107.

[32] There are two three-star billets in Bandung. Kodiklat was established in December 1994 and upgraded in 1996 to a three-star command. Sesko-TNI was upgraded to three-star level in 1997. Neither are troop commands. Military leaders have tended to use those posts as “parking places” for problem officers, like Prabowo and, later, Lieutenant General Djaja Suparman, assigned to Sesko-TNI in March 2000 after being relieved from Kostrad. Minority officers have also been posted in those billets (three of six Kodiklat Commanders since 1996 were Protestants, while three of eight Sesko-TNI Commanders since 1997 have been Christians), reflecting the unofficial glass ceiling for non-Muslim officers with respect to troop command.

[33] Subroto, Sintong Panjaitan, p. 8.

[34] “Theo Sjafei Interview” (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, Indonesia, Volume 67, April 1999), pp. 127-128.

[35] Sukmawati, Subagyo, p. 195.

[36] Confidential interview, November 2004.

[37] Interview with Fachrul Razi in Jakarta, November 10, 2009.

[38] Zon, The Politics of the May 1998 Riots, p. 39.

[39] Hafidz, Fading Away?, pp. 72-74.

[40] Interview with Prabowo Subianto at his Bojong Koneng ranch near Bogor, West Java, November 11, 2009.

[41] Political scientist and human rights advocate George Aditjondro is the best-known proponent for the Tidar Boys theory. According to him, Satgas Tebas was associated with Ongen Sangaji’s Ambonese Muslim gang – also among Wiranto’s Pam Swakarsa volunteers – and was suspected of sabotage and subversive activities in Ambon. George Junus Aditjondro, Guns, Pamphlets and Handie-Talkies: How the Military Exploited Local Ethno-Religious Tensions in Maluku to preserve their Political and Economic Privileges (Berlin: Humboldt University, a paper presented during a conference, July 2000).

[42] Tesoro, “I Never Betrayed My Country.”

[43] “Prabowo Denied US Visa,” The Straits Times, December 30, 2000.

[44] Dana Priest, The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003), pp. 242-243.

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