Indonesian Former General Accused On May 1998 Case
Former Major General Kivlan Zen and Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Wiranto. Photo by TheInsiderStories.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The issue of masterminding the May 1998 riots suddenly sprang up again amid the heat of the 2019 presidential election. The battle between the retired general around the candidater number one Joko Widodo.

This originated from the accusation of former Chief Staff of the Army Strategic Reserve Command Major General Kivlan Zen who accused the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Wiranto as the mastermind of the May 1998 riots and helped depose President Suharto.

The May 1998 riots were indeed a dark record of the history of the Indonesian people. According to a number of historical records, May 15 was the height of the riots that occurred on May 12-15 in 1998.

The Joint Team of Fact Finding Seekers from May 13-15, 1998 noted that as many as 1,217 people were killed, 31 victims were missing, and 52 Chinese women were raped. This riot occurred in several cities, such as Jakarta, Solo, Medan and Yogyakarta.

The riots were triggered by a number of factors, such as the Asian financial crisis that affected Indonesia, the death of four Trisakti students who were shot during a demonstration on May 12, 1998, then the mass attempt to overthrow Suharto.

Until now, the ranks of former military generals were accused of being the party most responsible for the May 1998 riots.

A number of parties accused Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto of being a brain of chaos in Jakarta. But there were also those who considered the riots planned by General Wiranto at the time the Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces.

This was told by Zen in his book entitled Conflict and Integration of the Army. According to him, this was evident from the attitude of Wiranto who suddenly left Jakarta when the situation was precarious. Moreover, the minister at that time openly asked Suharto to resign from his position.

He assessed that Wiranto should not have to leave Jakarta. Moreover, his departure was only to become an Inspector of Ceremony in order to hand over the responsibility of the Military Rapid Reaction Striker in Malang on May 14, 1998. Even though at that time Jakarta was already precarious. Burning and riots occur everywhere.

In addition, according to Zen, the mistake made by Wiranto was not to grant Military Headquarters permission to lend Hercules planes to bring Army Strategic Command troops from East Java and Makassar to Jakarta.

Because he did not get permission, Subianto rented a plane belonging to Mandala in Makassar and a plane belonging to Garuda in Surabaya. This is done because of the urgent situation.

It was this army which BJ Habibie regarded as a wild army and could be dangerous. A number of people even accused Subianto of attempting a coup. Since then, Subianto has been accused of being the mastermind of the May 1998 riots.

At that time, he served as Commander in Chief of the Forces responsible for the May 98 tragedy. Subianto denied accusations of his conduct during the May 98 riots.

“Historical evidence shows that I did not carry out a coup, because I believed in the principles of democracy,” Subianto said when interviewed in 2009.

Wiranto was furious at Zen’ accusation that he was masterminding the 1998 riots while insisting that he was not involved in the bloody incident. He recounted that he actually carried out various persuasive, educative, compromising and dialogical steps with reformist activists in 1998 to avoid chaos. At that time, Wiranto believed that national riots would harm Indonesian people.

“I am not the mastermind behind the riots. I prevent riots from happening. Three days I was able to secure this country,” he said this week.

He then challenged Zen to make an oath. Wiranto wanted the public to know who was actually the mastermind behind the 1998 riots.

“In order to be clear. I used to quietly just. Now I open up. Therefore, I dare, say dare to swear pocong alone. 1998 That was part of the riots. Lets make on oath. Who the real mastermind of the riot, so that it can be heard in the community so that the problem is clear. Don’t just accuse it,” said Wiranto.

Zen also challenged the former Army Chief to hold open debates. Even Zen invited Wiranto to testify before the Human Rights Court and explain the chronology of events that occurred in 1998.

Zen also mentioned Rp10 billion (US$71.42 million) non-budget fund, which was claimed to be received by Wiranto in 2003. At that time, the minsiter denied using the funds for personal gain. He said the funds were used to finance tactical activities to safeguard the reform agenda.

Interestingly, the mystery behind the May 1998 riots was revealed by the military itself. Until now, no person or party has been responsible and punished for crimes against humanity which killed and injured many Indonesian citizens, including women who were victims of rape.

This can be an encouragement for Widodo, who has long been urged to form an Independent Fact Finding Team in this case. Later, the team will provide recommendations on how this humanitarian case must be resolved. This also testing Widodo was really serious in resolving cases of human rights violations.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: