JAKARTA, Indonesia – A controversial former military chief accused of atrocities during Indonesia’s brutal occupation of East Timor was appointed the country’s top security minister Wednesday, July 27 with activists calling it a step backwards for human rights.
Wiranto, named to the powerful post in a cabinet reshuffle, is among senior officers indicted by United Nations prosecutors over gross human rights abuses during the 24-year occupation of tiny East Timor.
Around 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed, mainly by Indonesian forces and their proxies, or died of starvation and illness during the occupation, which occurred during dictator Suharto’s 3-decade rule.
Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was head of the armed forces when the Indonesian army and paramilitaries went on a bloody rampage in East Timor after it voted to become independent in 1999.
He denies any wrongdoing has never faced court over the atrocities.
He replaces Luhut Panjaitan in the key role of chief security minister, overseeing 5 ministries including foreign, interior and defence. Observers suggest Panjaitan caused concern among the military elite and Islamic groups by taking unprecedented steps to probe a bloody 1960s purge of communists and their supporters.
“It is a setback,” Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, told AFP.
“The message might be that Jokowi (President Joko Widodo) is not going to be as progressive as before in pursuing his human rights agenda.”
Panjaitan moved to the post of coordinating minister for maritime affairs, still a key job at a time Indonesia is embroiled in rows with China over the South China Sea.
Despite the claims against him, Wiranto has managed to maintain a prominent position in Indonesian public life. In 2014 elections he was a presidential candidate, although did not make it to the run-off, and in 2009 he was the running mate of Jusuf Kalla, the current vice president.
East Timor formally became independent in 2002.
Widodo announced thirteen changes to his cabinet in the reshuffle, his second since taking power in 2014. Another key appointment is that of prominent reformist Sri Mulyani Indrawati, currently a World Bank managing director, to the post of finance minister. She previously held the post in 2005-10. – Rappler.com