My Father Will Vote for Prabowo and I Understand Why

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.


10 thoughts on “My Father Will Vote for Prabowo and I Understand Why

  1. Sebelum ada yang menganggap bahwa artikel ini adalah dukungan terhadap salah satu Capres, sebaiknya saya jelaskan dulu inti dari artikel ini.

    Bila diterjemahkan ke Bahasa Indonesia, dari judul yang saya pilih seharusnya sudah terbaca bahwa artikel ini adalah tentang perbedaan pendapat antara saya dan Ayah saya. “Ayah saya memilih Prabowo dan saya memaklumi pilihannya”.

    Bila saya sehaluan dengan beliau di Pilpres kali ini, saya rasa saya tidak perlu menuliskannya dalam bentuk artikel. Tidak perlu bercerita mengenai sejarah perbedaan pendapat antara saya dan Ayah saya di tahun 1998, di mana saya turun jalan menuntut turunnya Suharto sementara Ayah saya tetap setia pada panglimanya.

    Di artikel ini saya berusaha memahami apa yang membuat Ayah saya begitu yakin akan pilihannya untuk memilih Prabowo. Karena sebelumnya saya tidak faham. Seperti para pendukung Jokowi umumnya, saya melihat ada catatan hitam besar pada Prabowo. Dan saya heran mengapa Ayah saya mengacuhkan hal tersebut. Setelah mencoba menyelami pola pikir seorang serdadu militer seperti Ayah saya, barulah saya mengerti alasan beliau.

    Jadi sekali lagi, artikel ini bukan pernyataan dukungan saya terhadap Capres yang namanya tercantum di judul.

  2. Menurut Ayah mas, Siapa “atasan” yg dimaksud Prabowo? Anggota DKP, atau seperti kata Agun Gumelar, Presiden Soeharto?

    Karena para Jendral DKP mengaku bahwa Prabowo melanhgar perintah dan sumpahnya. Hal yg sama dikatakan Habibie.

    • Saya tidak tahu dan saya belum pernah menanyakan pendapat Ayah saya. Tetapi yang saya ketahui adalah, saat itu Panglima ABRI adalah Wiranto, dan Panglima Tertinggi TNI saat itu ya tentu saja Presiden Soeharto.

  3. Some has concern on ‘the order’. Does for real Prabowo get the order from his ‘boss’ or he acts by his own?
    This point should be discussed further. Is it alleged true if he kidnapped without order from higher authority?

    Frankly speaking, I am on Prabowo side for today president election. But I still wonder about this matter..

    Thx 🙂

  4. Tulisan yang sangat menarik, Pak Arie. Saya bertanya-tanya apakah benar Prabowo pada waktu itu hanya sekedar menjalankan perintah atasan? Maksud saya, dia memang seorang prajurit. Patuh pada komandan. Tetapi, dia juga boleh jadi mengerti situasi politik saat itu. Bahkan lebih jauh, mungkin juga punya ambisi politik. Bukan tidak mungkin waktu itu dia memang punya skenario pribadi untuk keuntungannya sendiri. Dia muda, pintar, dan punya pengaruh. Sialnya saat itu nasib sedang tidak berpihak padanya sehingga, bukannya melesat karirnya, malah dipecat dari keprajuritan. Bagaimana menurut Anda?

    • Wallahualam. Saya tidak mau menerka-nerka kebenaran di balik itu semua. Saya hanya melihat dari Ayah saya dan pengalaman hampir 20 tahun tinggal di “barak” tentara. Mereka adalah orang-orang yang sangat mematuhi perintah. Kehormatan mereka tergantung pada kepatuhan mereka pada atasan.

  5. Though I understand that this is a personal piece, I somehow regret its lack of true solution for those who are willing to learn or those who can be steered to goodness. Let us see the bigger picture here: State controls the military, especially in the minds. If the military does something evil for the state, then the state is the bigger evil. Can we start educating the people (of the world, if we can) about the dangers of clinging to a state? Even though in the current political climate choosing to side with the lesser evil is necessary, educating the public about the importance of small communal values is of the utmost importance.

    Just offering my two cents. I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog 🙂

  6. Maaf kalau ada redundancy, saya hanya membaca kurang dari 10% komen2 diatas, tl;dr
    Saya termasuk yang dijuluki “swing voters”, bukan karena saya plinplan, tapi lebih karena saya penakut.
    Sebagai bagian “kaum minoritas” di negara ini, saya sangat mencintai bangsa dan tanah air, namun tidak dapat dipungkiri belakangan semakin lama semakin banyak hal dan peristiwa mengerikan terjadi pada “kaum minoritas”, yang membuat saya jadi penakut.

    Saya bukan pendukung Jokowi, meskipun jujur saya coblos jokowi di pilgub lalu. Bukan karena saya ngefans, tapi karena mengharapkan angin perubahan lebih baik, sebab gubernur sebelumnya rasanya tidak mampu menciptakan hal ini.

    Kembali ke topik pilpres, sebagai “minoritas”, saya pilih yang paling aman bagi saya. Rasanya tak perlu saya elaborasi apa yang saya maksud dengan paling aman bagi minoritas. Saya pasti memilih, karena kalau tidak saya takut (karena saya penakut) suara saya “dipakai” oleh orang lain.

    Saya coba menyerap semua informasi dan pemberitaan (yang sering kali membingungkan mana yang benar dan bohong, mana yang black campaign dan bukan) sebagai bahan saya menentukan pilihan yang paling aman bagi hidup saya di negara tercinta ini.

    Sampai saat ini, saya merasa kedua pilihan masih menakutkan, tapi rasanya jokowi kok nggak semenakutkan prabowo ya….
    BTW saya tidak expect yang mayoritas memahami ketakutan minoritas, namun saya harap yang mayoritas menyadari bahwa minoritas juga manusia yang setara dan punya hak asasi yang sama….


    NB: meskipun saya minoritas dan penakut , saya dulu juga ikut ada di jalanan pada tahun 98, bersama teman2 sekampus yang mahasiswanya banyak minoritas, yang salah satunya mati tertembak rezim yang kejam….
    mungkin dulu saya belum penakut karena masih bujangan, belum punya tanggungan anak istri….

  7. I see similar opinion around me abt the described candidate, is to reach the greatest Indonesia. For me personally I do dont care abt Prabowo with his heroic action (or whatever it’s accepted) in 1998, I just care abt the ending for the whole country. So it doesn’t matter to consider abt. In my opinion he and his people need to explain more abt bad gossips e.g. one of his companies, etc. We need clear answers for real materials. We’ll work with real ppl and materials, won’t we?

    As an experienced civil servant I disagree with ‘blusukan’. I mean he can do it at first days or weeks of his duty but after months…. a big no. It’s very silly if I cant call that he cant work.
    I do hate when one of Jokowi’s guys follows my twitter acc just to check what kinda statements will be posted by me there. It seems like they try to zip my mouth but they call it a democracy? They can do it to other swing voters but not me cuz I’ll say what I wanna say.

    I’m a swing voter and I’m still studying to vote for one of them or something else (hahahaha…).
    Just wish we had more than two candidates. Peace….!

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