Monday, December 30, 2013

Response to accusations relating to the East Timor Killings

On December 20, 2013, a noted Indonesian journalist, Mr. Aboeprijadi Santoso, wrote an article in The Jakarta Post titled: "What ever happened in Kraras,Timor Leste, ‘Pak’ Prabowo?" [].

The article draws a strong response from Mr. Prabowo Subianto, a frontrunner in Indonesia presidential race. His response was published in The Jakarta Post on Decmber 27, 2013 []. Mr. Prabowo vehemently denied his involvement in a massacre in Kraras, Timor Leste. He charges that the article is a 'personal attack on my military career and personal reputation, based on unproven allegations, innuendos and third-hand reports — none substantiated, by either the United Nations or current Timor Leste authorities.'

Mr. Aboeprijadi Santoso tries to clarify the matters. He sent a response to The Jakarta Post editors who, unfortunately, refused to publish it because they do not want 'to prolong the controversy.'

Since JoyoNews had published both Mr. Santoso's article and the response from Mr. Prabowo, we feel we are obliged to post Mr. Santoso's response too.


Aboeprijadi Santoso: A Reply to Mr. Prabowo

I should thank Mr. Prabowo Subianto for his response (The Jakarta Post Dec. 27) on my article titled “What ever happened in Kraras, Timor Leste, ‘Pak’ Prabowo?” (The Jakarta Post Dec. 20). His response, however, is deeply disappointing - a baseless denial.

First, he insists that he “was nowhere near the site of the “Kraras Massacre” that occurred in Viqueque district on Aug. 8, 1983”. That was the day when a number of hansips (local civil defense) deserted form the Indonesian army’s units stationed in Viqueque, attacked and killed 16 Indonesian soldiers.

Almost a month later, around Sept. 17, a number of massacres occured as reprisals killing about 300 unarmed locals (including those executed near the Luca, not Wituku, river). There is no doubt Prabowo was in East Timor in April and had covertly gone in and out of the country until at least August, perhaps even September.

Much throughout this period it was not clear his whereabout and what he was doing – much to the anger and worry of Col. Gatot Purwanto who was the then local commander, as he reported it to Governor Mario Carrascalao. (See Timor Archives,

and interview by Benedict Anderson etc with Mario Carrascalao in ‘Indonesia 76’, Cornell University, Oct. 2003. There should be more on this at the CAVR archives in Dili).

Second, he said he had never been near the site of the massacre, yet there was a report (in sources mentioned above) saying, I quote, “Prabowo went to Bibileo”. Perhaps it will be helpful to refresh his memory: do you remember the field in Bibileo with a building and a stone with this written on it: “Sekolah Dasar Negeri 08. Riun Yudha. Bibileo, Viqueque, Tut Wuri Handayani” (at the unit’s symbol)”. It’s still there.

The villagers I met were much younger in 1980s and naturally could not remember all details i.e. whether they had seen Prabowo on the days when the attacks and killings occurred in such a big field and when those events probably occurred in the afternoon or night. But why on earth could they three decades later have heard of and remember Prabowo’s name, mention it as an important name, and put a poster with his photograph in their house? I could go on with more details should Mr. Prabowo pretend to forget.

Third, Mr. Prabowo appears to be naive or pretends to be so when he said “Would Xanana and other Timorese freedom fighters, our nation’s former enemies, have befriended an Indonesian officer truly guilty of such despicable crimes..”

In doing so, he actually mistakenly transfers the issue to a political and diplomatic realm since this event, the so-called ‘friendship’, occurred – indeed could only occur - after the independence of Timor Leste. In other words, the geopolitics has dictated both sides, now those East Timorese are state officials representing their state, to act as politicians and diplomats. I happen to know and met with some of those freedom fighters when they were abroad during their struggle in the 1990's. They certainly took a very different attitude when they mentioned Mr. Prabowo’s name. It is interesting that Mr. Prabowo now mentions them as “Timorese freedom fighters”. Had he recognized this three decades ago, the massacres might not have happened.

It should also be stressed that having fought for decades and achieved freedom, the East Timorese resistance had also learned, not only from Indonesian struggle against Dutch colonialism, but in particular from Africa i.e. the Mozambique’s and Nelson Mandela’s struggle. At this point I fully agree with Mr Abdul Khalid response to Mr. Prabowo that “The East Timorese authorities are far more tolerant to you than a number of countries in the world”.

Fourth, to conclude, the only way to resolve the controversy would be for Mr. Prabowo to honestly provide details of his assignments, his posting dates and the operations under his command in East Timor at least during the period of April to Sept. 1983.

Only then it would be fair for the Indonesian electorate, including the supporters of his political party, whether or not it is politically and morally responsible to vote for his party and his president candidacy.

@ Aboeprijadi Santoso, journalist and Indonesian national residing in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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