JAKARTA: Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto reportedly revealed that former president Suharto ordered him to kidnap pro-democracy activists in May 1998, which saw him dismissed from the Indonesian military, according to Veterans Association (Pepabri) chairman retired General Agum Gumelar.
“Prabowo told me when he visited Pepabri recently, that he was ordered by former president Suharto to kidnap the activists. I was quite shocked, because he didn’t say anything about that when the military’s Officers Honorary Council questioned him,” said Agum in a live TV interview.
Agum acknowledged he was skeptical about the statement as he knew Suharto would not have ordered something so controversial during a chaotic time, even though Prabowo was then Suharto’s son-in-law.
Agum attended the live TV interview on Tuesday to answer questions regarding the reasons behind Prabowo’s dismissal from the miliraty – a topic that emerged during Monday evening’s live presidential candidate debate when rival vice presidential candidate Jusuf Kalla asked the question.
In his response, Prabowo answered: “I am a former soldier who did his duty as best as I could. Aside from that, it’s up to the judgment of my superiors.”
“I am the toughest human-rights defender in the republic,” he added.
His tone rose noticeably when Kalla pushed him to elaborate on incidents surrounding the fall of Suharto in May 1998.
However, a leaked document detailing the reasons behind the Prabowo’s dismissal from the military in 1998 is casting doubt on the former general’s suitability to serve as president, if elected on July 9.
The document – which was a scanned copy of the official letter signed by members of the Officers Honorary Council tasked with hearing the case of Prabowo’s complicity in the kidnapping of pro-democracy activists in 1998 – revealed that the former Army’s Special Forces commander was also fired from his position due to insubordination.
Among the signatories in the document were Lt Gen Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (now the incumbent President) and Agum.
Agum confirmed that the leaked document was valid.
He acknowledged Prabowo was an undisciplined soldier during the time, citing the activists’ kidnapping as one of his violations where he ignored orders from his superiors.
Issues surrounding Prabowo’s controversial past emerged recently due to public pressure, which forced the General Elections Commission to agree to the demand to include human rights in the broad topic of democracy and legal certainty in the first presidential candidate debate.
Prabowo’s supporters deem accusations regarding the presidential candidate’s track record as part of a smear campaign to dent his popularity. — The Jakarta Post / Asia News Network