Only 18 months ago, many Asia correspondents were speculating that Indonesia's transition from dictatorship to democracy was looking more hopeful as the influence of the military in Indonesia's Parliament diminished. However, this transition was dealt a severe blow on 21 April 2004 by the nomination of former military chief General Wiranto as the presidential candidate for the Golkar party of ex-dictator Suharto, says TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign.
Wiranto was commander-in-chief of Indonesia's armed forces at the time of East Timor's 1999 vote for independence, when gross violations of human rights were perpetrated against the civilian population by the Indonesian army and its militia proxies. He has been indicted on crimes against humanity charges by East Timor's UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit.
Although polls indicate that Wiranto is trailing behind current President Megawati Sukarnoputri in the presidential race, he must be regarded as a serious contender for the July election because of the organizational strength of Golkar and its success in gaining the most votes in the parliamentary elections held on 5 April this year.
‘This is a major setback to efforts to improve respect for human rights and establish the rule of law – key elements in building a meaningful democracy in Indonesia,' says TAPOL spokesperson, Paul Barber.
ACTION: TAPOL is calling upon the international community to lobby their parliamentarians about the impact of Wiranto's nomination on Indonesia's democratic development.