02/28/2024, 12.15
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Jokowi rewards Prabowo's military past, controversy in Jakarta

by Mathias Hariyadi

The outgoing president awarded the rank of four-star general to the current Defence Minister who won the elections on 14 February. He overlooked the fact that he was dismissed from the army in 1998 following allegations of human rights violations in the repression of East Timor's independence uprisings.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Indonesian president has awarded Prabowo Subianto, the former commander of the army special forces who is the accredited winner of the recent elections and his probable successor, the promotion to the rank of four-star honorary general (he already had three) .

The recognition has sparked controversy because it comes less than 30 years after his dismissal from the army following accusations of human rights violations, when as commander of the third Kopassus group in the 1990s he attempted to quell the riots for the independence of East Timor with the help of irregular troops - real gangs of black-clad assassins who operated at night - in the major cities and villages of the region.

Events that culminated with the resignation of the then dictator Suharto, who was also his father-in-law, after 32 years of government in Indonesia (1967-1998).

Indonesian society remains strongly divided on Prabowo: despite the unofficial response of the polls (the official publication of the results is expected by March 20th) there are many people who have publicly opposed and even contested the result of the February 14th elections.

To date, this segment of the electorate has also accused Jokowi's administration of having practiced an "unethical" political maneuver by changing the minimum age so that his son Gibran Rakabuming Rama could run for vice president by running as Prabowo's deputy. And the next Indonesian Parliament will have to express its opinion on Jokowi's potential illicit "intervention" in the latest elections.

For his part, the spokesperson of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI), Major General Nugraha Gumilar, recalled that, based on the presidential decision of 22 November 1998, the then Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto had been relieved of his military duties but with honor: “Nothing ever referred to a 'dismissal', which is why Subianto is also granted a military pension. Furthermore, there was no judicial court ruling regarding the events of 1998."

With a very different style of behavior, after his two previous electoral defeats during the presidential campaign in 2014 and 2019, General Prabowo Subianto has this time radically changed his tone and has become more smiling when meeting people in the various territories and gaining a lot of popularity.

For most elderly Indonesians who lived through the social unrest in May 1998, General Subianto's hands are still bloody. On the other hand, however, there are also millions of young voters who have no idea about Prabowo's controversial "past life" and his ties to the authoritarian regime of President Suharto.

At the TNI headquarters, General Prabowo Subianto was awarded his four-star honorary rank by President Jokowi, who said, before attaching the four gold star lapels to Prabowo's blazer: “This honor is a form of appreciation, and reaffirms his devotion to the people and the country. I would like to congratulate General Prabowo Subianto."

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