Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Indonesia must ‘spread wealth evenly’

JAKARTA: Retired Indonesian general Wiranto, a controversial figure over rights abuses in East Timor who looks set to run for president next year, said his country needs to spread its wealth among the poor.
The former army chief, who has denied any wrongdoing in East Timor, was indicted by a UN panel over the bloodshed surrounding Dili’s 1999 independence vote, when about 1,000 East Timorese died. That episode had been resolved and would not be a hindrance to his own political ambitions or those of his party, Wiranto said in an interview at the headquarters of his Hanura (Peoples’ Conscience) party. “That’s just a part of left-over problems that has been resolved government-to-government,” he said, referring to a joint Indonesian and East Timor truth commission which blamed Indonesia’s military for rights violations. The commission had no prosecution powers. “If that was a problem, then I couldn’t have been an official presidential candidate in 2004,” he said. Wiranto, 61, stood in the last elections as a presidential candidate for the Golkar Party, the late president Suharto’s political machine. He finished behind President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former president Megawati Sukarnoputri. Wiranto, who appears to be pushing a nationalist and populist agenda, said Indonesia’s economic policies should be more independent and the poor were not benefiting enough from rises in world prices of natural resources such as coal and palm oil. “My view is at the moment there are a lot of riches not used for the maximum benefit of the people,” he said. “And to be frank, Indonesia is now in a position of a loser in this global competition,” said Wiranto, who is known as an accomplished singer and once made an album of love songs. Asked about his solutions, he declined to map out specific policies, saying he did not want to release them yet. He said Indonesia should manage its resources more independently but did not elaborate. Yudhoyono’s administration has suffered some criticism for not capitalising enough on rising commodity prices and has also struggled to attract more foreign investment in areas such as mining. Indonesia hosts global resource firms such as Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold but has seen little new investment in recent years. After the 2004 vote, Wiranto broke ties with Golkar after a power struggle and formed Hanura in late 2006. Wiranto, who is Javanese like most of Indonesia’s presidents, declined to confirm whether he would stand for president again as many people expect. He said his performance in the 2004 election showed he had a core support base on which to rely. “I garnered more than 26mn votes, or about 22%, and that’s the foundation I have been developing on ever since to build the party,” said Wiranto, whose career took off when he became Suharto’s adjutant in 1989. He rose to become military chief and defence minister. Although he initially survived the fallout from the East Timor violence, he was later fired as security minister by former President Abdurrahman Wahid in 2000. – Reuters (

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