Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is better known as “Jokowi,” is up for re-election on Wednesday. His chief rival is Prabowo Subianto, a former special forces military commander and the former son-in-law of Indonesia’s longtime dictator Suharto. It is a rematch of the 2014 election that Jokowi won by almost 6 percentage points. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn has just uncovered shocking plans made by Prabowo for if he wins the presidency. According to minutes of a campaign strategy session obtained by Nairn, Prabowo has made plans to stage mass arrests of political opponents and his current allies. Nairn reports Prabowo also wants to restore Indonesia’s Army to the role it played in the U.S.-backed Suharto dictatorship which lasted from 1967 to 1998. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation and the third-largest democracy in the world behind India and the United States. We speak with Allan Nairn in Indonesia.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn to Indonesia ahead of Wednesday’s national presidential elections. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation, third-largest democracy in the world behind India and the United States. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, better known as “Jokowi,” is up re-election Wednesday. His chief rival, Prabowo Subianto, a former special forces military commander, the former son-in-law of Indonesia’s longtime dictator Suharto. It’s a rematch of the 2014 election that Jokowi won by almost 6 percentage points.
Investigative journalist Allan Nairn has just uncovered shocking plans made by Prabowo for if he wins the presidency. According to minutes of a campaign strategy session obtained by Allan Nairn, Prabowo has made plans to stage mass arrests of political opponents, as well as his current allies. Nairn reports Prabowo also wants to restore Indonesia’s Army to the role it played in the U.S.-backed Suharto dictatorship, which lasted from ’67 to ’98. Allan Nairn now joins us from Indonesia. He’s just published his latest report on his website, AllanNairn.org.
Allan, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about the significance of this election on Wednesday and what you’ve just uncovered.
ALLAN NAIRN: Thanks. Good to be with you.
The general, Prabowo, who has a real chance to be elected president, is the single most notorious massacre general in Indonesia. He has been associated with more mass killings of civilians than any other officer. He is also the officer who was the closest protégé of the U.S. government, working directly, during his career, with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Forces. He told me this in 2001, when we had two long discussions between adversaries. His statements about how he brought in U.S. troops into Indonesia and how they used the opportunity in Indonesia to do what he called recon for the invasion contingency—namely, they used the chance that Prabowo gave them to make contingency plans for a theoretical potential U.S. invasion of Indonesia in the future—that claim of his was backed up by Pentagon documents. And Prabowo said to me, “I was the Americans’ fair-haired boy.” He was Washington’s man in Jakarta for decades. But, after General Suharto, who had consolidated his power by massacring anywhere from a million—from 400,000 to a million civilians, with direct U.S. support, after Suharto was finally ousted in a democratic uprising in ’98, General Prabowo was no longer useful to Washington, and they just dumped him overnight, after he lost an internal power struggle with another general. Now Prabowo, who has been associated with at least two coup attempts, and who told me, when I spoke to him years ago, that Indonesia was not ready for democracy and that he thought—dreamed about seizing power and being called a fascist dictator, he now has a real chance to win the presidency.
And in the report I put out today, I refer to the minutes of a meeting which took place at one of Prabowo’s homes in Jakarta on December 21st of last year. This was a meeting with Prabowo, six other generals, several admirals and three of his civilian operatives, at least those that were named in the minutes, which leaked out through the aparat, the military police and intelligence system of Indonesia. According to that, they made specific plans for what they would do if Prabowo assumed power.
One of them was to stage mass arrests of political opponents, and they specified the political parties that were anti-Prabowo that would be targeted. Second, though, was more novel, that they would also do mass arrests of allies of Prabowo. There seemed to be two motivations. One, to consolidate power in Prabowo’s own hands, to eliminate rivals, to eliminate other leaders, both in the opposition and in the camp that now supports him. To be targeted for arrest, according to these minutes, were the Demokrat party of former President General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and also the Islamist forces, ranging from the political party PKS to the FPI, the remnants of HTI, Islamist militia groups, and other kinds of mass organizations. These groups will also be targeted for arrest.
This, in accord with the second motivation, which was to curry favor with the United States. According to these minutes and to discussions I’ve had with people from the Prabowo circle in verifying this document and the material for this article, Prabowo is very eager to get back in the good graces of Washington, and so he’s actually seriously talking about arresting these Islamist groups that are now the driving force of his campaign. On the ground, they are the ones that are giving it energy, that are giving it organizational structure and, in my opinion, are giving him a real chance to win on Wednesday and defeat President Jokowi, the civilian incumbent. So, what they’re talking about is a political Night of the Long Knives, where both opponents and allies from outside Prabowo’s own party would be cast aside, eliminated, locked up.
In order to do this, they talked about deploying the attorney general of—Prabowo’s new attorney general, his new chief of the National Police, the ostensibly independent Corruption Eradication Commission, and also BIN, the national intelligence agency, which has a—the state intelligence body, which has a liaison relationship with the CIA and which sometimes does assassinations and, in fact, is perhaps best known for its arsenic assassination in 2004 of the great human rights hero Munir, who was a friend of mine.
Also, in this meeting, according to the minutes and my discussions with people who are familiar with it, they also talked about restoring the Indonesian Army to the role it played during the new order Suharto dictatorship. This was the time of the mass slaughter and a time when the Army was the ultimate arbiter of politics, even down to the neighborhood and village level. So, if General Prabowo wins this election—and he has a real chance—the consequences would be very severe for the chance of any future organizing, activism or movement toward anything resembling a real democracy in Indonesia.
And there’s a great irony here, because if this does turn out to be a close election, as I believe it will, there’s a chance that it’s the very victims of General Prabowo and their families, their descendants, the descendants of their families, and those who admire the brave struggle of many of these victims—they could be the ones who end up giving Prabowo the victory, because President Jokowi, who defeated Prabowo the last time around, in 2014, has disappointed the activist community. He said he would bring many of these generals, mass-murdering generals, to trial. He didn’t. He’s clearly afraid of the Army. He has brought some of these generals, like Hendropriyono and Wiranto, into his circle, to, according to his theory, protect him from the rest of the Army, which he doesn’t really have control over. And so, in their disappointment, many activists are talking about golput, essentially abstaining from voting. And there are indications that this golput vote, or nonvote, could be rather significant. And if it’s close, it could put Prabowo over the top.
AMY GOODMAN: Allan—
ALLAN NAIRN: There is some—
AMY GOODMAN: Allan, if you could, in the last minute, talk about the role of Freeport-McMoRan, one of the largest gold and copper mining operations in the world, based here in the United States?
ALLAN NAIRN: Yes. They operate in West Papua, which is de facto occupied by the security forces of Indonesia. They’ve stripped the mountains, spoiled the streams, done billions of dollars in environmental damage. Prabowo, General Prabowo, in his campaign, rails against foreigners, rails against foreign corporations and the extraction of Indonesia’s wealth. But, in fact, privately, Prabowo intervened to help Freeport-McMoRan, according to the vice chairman of his own political party, who told me how Prabowo intervened to kill a workers’ rights lawsuit against Freeport. And in terms of the election, I would say, ”Nurut saya: Jangan golput, use the vote.” This election could prove to be a turning point for Indonesia.
AMY GOODMAN: Allan Nairn, I want to thank you for being with us, activist, award-winning investigative journalist. To see his coverage of Indonesia, go to democracynow.org. Speaking to us form Jakarta, Indonesia, ahead of Indonesia’s Wednesday elections. Indonesia, the largest Muslim population in the world. Allan has been reporting from there for decades.