This article is not in favor of or in any way promoting any of the presidential candidates. This is purely a personal opinion.
For the hundreds of thousands of this great nation’s military, the integrity of the republic is a price they are willing to die for. “NKRI harga mati” is their ideology and they will defend it at all cost.
My father and I, we seldom see things eye to eye. I can still remember the arguments we had during the days of Suharto’s fall in 1998. My father, an Army colonel, was born in West Sumatra, served his country for 3 decades, including operations in Egypt-Israel border with the UN forces, and has a degree from a military school in San Antonio, Texas, USA.
He, of course, a strong believer of the Suharto’s regime. Meanwhile, I was his rebellious son, a university student who marched on the street demanding the fall of Suharto. At the time, I didn’t understand his staunch support for the Orba regime, but now I have learned to understand his choices.
Common enemy is a strategy employed everywhere. American military does it, ours does it. Since the fall of Orla, communism is the face of evil used by the military to motivate and integrate their forces. In 1966, this fear of the threat of communism launched one of the darkest period, not only in our nation’s history, but also in the history of mankind. The “lost holocaust” of 1966, when our military systematically hunted the communists in our country. An estimated number of 200.000 to 500.000 people were killed or lost. Like the name of movie portraying the situation in Indonesia 1966, it was the year of living dangerously.
Suharto, the leader of this nation for 32 years, had what he called Trilogi Pembangunan. According to this tenets, the number one priority of his rule is national stability. Sadly, at all cost. Learning from the massacre of 1966, he used the idea of latent danger of communism to remove any political instability. This usually means labeling anyone who would stand in his way as communist, thus removing that person swiftly. Suharto’s Golkar ruled for 32 years was not by idly sitting on their asses. He and his party were ruthless.
In 1984, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP) had to change their logo from the Kabah, to a star. The proponent of change stated that this was to align their ideology to Pancasila. The opponent said it was simply to drive their muslim constituents away from the party. A move engineered by the ruling party, Golkar. On that year, Nadhatul Ulama also walked out of PPP. In 1982 general election, PPP gained 28% votes.In 1987, it decreased significantly to 16%. The ruling power successfully maintain their dominant force, in their eyes, securing the nation’s stability.
In 1996, Golkar wanted to deflate another political power. The saw the rise of popularity of Megawati, the daughter of the nation’s founding father. They saw her as a threat to the status quo. Soeharto and his advisers engineered a congress in Medan, North Sumatra, designed to dethrone Megawati from her leadership at PDI. Megawati refused to give up and started an open forum in PDI’s head office in Jakarta. The government won’t back down, they ordered the military to take over the office. The Chief of Staff of Jakarta’s army at the time, Indonesia’s current President, Major General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, ordered his troop to raid the office. In the chaos that ensued after the raid, 5 people were dead, parts of Jakarta were in riot, and the leader of Partai Rakyat Demokratik (PRD), Budiman Sudjatmiko, somehow took the blame and sentenced 13 years in prison.
In 1997, PDI’s vote dropped to 11%. Megawati went on to found PDI-Perjuangan. Again, it was an act of maintaining the rule of the dominant force, in order to ensure stability. And again, the military follow orders.
The Indonesian humanitarian crisis of 1997-1998, which many associated to current Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, was ignited by the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Many Indonesian corporations had to borrow billions of dollars due to the drop of Indonesian currency’s value. This started a snowball as many more corporations bought more dollars, decreasing Rupiah’s value even further. Our economy crumbled. Chaos ensued. Demonstrations erupted all over the nation. University students went to the streets. Including me.
One of the most prominent political activists that day were the PRD. They were the perfect scapegoat for the government for all the demonstrations and riots. At first I sympathized with their movement, but then I thought how stupid they were, choosing a socialist ideology and communism-inclined insignia in the middle of the Orba regime and their military indoctrinated that communism is the devil. A very big mistake. It only put the PRD, and their members, on the military’s sight with a clearer focus.
Let us see the situation here: national stability at all cost; riots everywhere; student demonstrations on the street everyday; economic meltdown; military who hates communism; an organization who weren’t afraid to show their inclination toward a fail but feared ideology, communism. A recipe for humanitarian tragedy.
The nation was on the verge of anarchy. Under orders to eliminate an alleged communist movement, of course the military would react without mercy. It is what they have been trained to do for decades. They saw a big threat to the integrity of the republic. I remember during the 80’s how the military would saw communism as this evil demonic beast lurking in the shadow to devour the sovereignty of our nation. This was what my father, an active military officer in 1998, believed. The communist were staging a guerilla warfare against the government.
Taking out demonstration leaders is not an uncommon tactic by the military/intelligence. It is written all over the pages of global history of nations in turmoil. When I was on the street in 1998, I heard news from our field coordinators that there already had been kidnapping of demonstration leaders. We were also given precautions on how to avoid sniper shots and tear gas attack. It was really dangerous out there at the time.
Now I understand the reasons for my father’s anger back then. Not only was I on the opposition of the government he defended, he knew, by taking a stand with the demonstrators, I was also endangering my life.
In 1998, Prabowo was the Chief of Kostrad, the Army’s division of strategic special forces. Wiranto, another of today’s prominent politician was the Chief of the Armed Forces. Another military general, Faisal Tanjung was the high ranking minister coordinating politics and national security.
Let say Prabowo did order the kidnapping of those activists, or at least he received the order from a higher authority to conduct the kidnapping. In his mind, the mind of his men, and in the mind of the rest of military forces of this nation, it was an act of patriotism. An act of saving the nation on the brink of chaos. Yes, kidnapping civilians is a cruel act against humanity. But the men in uniform saw it as an act of removing threats against the nation.
We need to understand the situation and the nature of these military men. They follow orders. When the integrity of their nation at stake, the will kill with no remorse. Sad and scary, but this is what soldiers do. From our troops in Timor Leste defending NKRI, to the American soldiers in Afghanistan fighting the source of terrorism.
For civilians, including me, the kidnapping of activists (many of them were student leaders and PRD members), was an act of disgrace. But through the eyes of the military men serving their nation, it was an act of heroism for the motherland. Even though I strongly disagree, I understand why my father saw it was a necessary act for this nation. And in a sense, Prabowo did nothing wrong.
So if you now will excuse me, I’m going to have lunch with my father and my son, maybe arguing on politics, over a nice Nasi Padang meal of our ancestors.