Monday, July 14, 2014

War criminals behaving badly

 “All murderers are punished, unless they kill in large numbers, and to the sound of trumpets.”

These words are the first to appear in the opening scenes of the film “The Act of Killing,” which shows that the Indonesian Death Squads of the 60’s through the late 90’s are alive and well and highly supported in Indonesia.  They’re now dressed in the garb of the so-called “Pancasila Youth” paramilitary organization, which appears at legislative and political events of every type. They revel in being ‘gangsters’ and in the film they claim this word signifies ‘free men.’ Prabowo has admitted to being a part of these activities during his tenure as General in the TNI, though only the kidnapping bits, and only because he was ordered to.

And now, the post-election smear campaign, as brought to us by our Indonesian based cub reporters, has taken an unsettling turn: Prabowo’s supporters, having come up with nothing new to blame on Jokowi, are accusing his camp of the same anti-communist genocide, torture, and unlawful military action that Prabowo was accused of.

Jusuf Wanadi, Chinese Indonesian politician and his brother, well-known businessman Sofjan, have been supporters of Jokowi (which makes sense, since if Prabowo is elected and makes good on his uber-isolationist threats, it’ll be a cold day in the hot place before any type of significant company will want to do business there).  In his youth Jusuf was a student activist and in in 1971 co-founded the well-known Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a non-profit think tank that advised the government on social, international, political and economical issues, and which is still active today.  However, during Suharto’s presidency the group was seen as suspect because of its inclusion of Catholic and Chinese interests. Sofjan was an anti-communist activist during the 1960’s, and Prabowo has now tied all these tidbits into a neat package and delivered it as proof that everyone surrounding Jokowi was actually more involved in war crimes than he ever was.  They’re “colonialist,” they’re “imperialist . . .” but wait . . . wasn’t that Prabowo’s actual campaign platform?

Prabowo recently gave an interview to BBC in which he declared victory in the face of overwhelming polls to the contrary, and stated that if by some chance (voter fraud, he assumed) he lost, he would recede quietly into private life, where he really wanted to be anyway, because he is only running for president, you see, because his country needs him.

In a pig’s eye.

However, out of the gate he springs yesterday, maligning anyone who might have even dry-cleaned Jokowi’s suits. There’s talk of him even appealing the decision to the Constitutional court (Mahkamah Konstitusi) whose former chairman is (surprise!) a member of Prabowo’s campaign team.

I know southeast Asia well enough to know that there is no side, or party, or politician, who is not tied to Indonesia’s inglorious past in some way.  One side does not commit war crimes while the other side sits on the sidelines knitting mittens and smiling beatifically. 

But I also know that this last ditch “I’m not the war criminal—he is!” ploy reeks of desperation.  If it works, however . . . .well, look who we’ll be dealing with.  Sound the trumpets.

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