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Kopassus, intelligence, in covert operation to influence election
Allan Nairn - July 5, 2014
According to documented accounts of recent meetings at Kopassus headquarters, the operation is designed to ensure that the July 9 vote count will be won by General Prabowo Subianto, the former Kopassus commander who was a longtime protege of the Pentagon and US intelligence.
Polls suggest that General Prabowo is currently running neck-and-neck with his civilian opponent, Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, the governor of Jakarta.
Prabowo and Jokowi are scheduled to face off in their final televised debate this evening.
The vote across the archipelago and the Indonesian global diaspora is expected to be the second-largest in the world this year. The largest was completed last May in India.
Prabowo has been implicated in killing civilians and in torture. Though currently running as an ardent nationalist, he spent his army career in collaboration with the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and with top US leadership, as well as with US Special Forces whom he brought, armed, into Indonesia.
Prabowo has called for rolling back Indonesians' right to vote in direct elections. He has suggested that this be done after consultation with " the political elite."
In two off-the-record 2001 discussions with me Prabowo said Indonesia " is not ready for democracy." He said that the country's then-president, the popular civilian Muslim cleric Gus Dur, was an "embarrass[ment]" to Indonesia because Gus Dur was legally blind. Prabowo lamented that the army obeyed Gus Dur, and mused about his own political future. "Do I have the guts," Prabowo asked himself, "am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?"
My reporting and commentary about General Prabowo has become an issue in this election.
The Prabowo campaign denounced me as " an enemy of the nation" and suggested the army should capture me. The armed forces stated I have " become an operational target." General Prabowo himself gave a speech on Thursday in which he implored Indonesia's poor to discount my reporting about him because I am a foreigner.
The accounts below come from individuals who are involved in the Kopassus/BIN operation. They spoke to me on condition of anonymity.
The accounts of meetings at Kopassus headquarters in Cijantung come from sources who were present. A July 4 call for comment to General Prabowo went unanswered. The call was made to a private cell phone number through which I have contacted Prabowo previously.
The Kopassus headquarters in Cijantung, East Jakarta, is a famous venue in Indonesia.
It is the site where pro-democracy activists who were kidnapped by Prabowo's Kopassus were tortured and, apparently, executed, in 1997-'98. This was during uprising against General Prabowo's father-in-law, the US-backed dictator, General Suharto.
Thirteen of those abductees are still missing, presumed dead. One of Prabowo's top campaigners (Gen. Kivlan Zein) says he knows where the bodies are buried.
Cijantung is also one of the sites of US training of Kopassus, and of numerous visits to Kopassus by US dignitaries. Under Prabowo these included generals, Commanders in Chief Pacific(CINCPACs), and Secretaries of Defense.
On a date this week which the sources involved have asked that I not specify, senior Kopassus operatives held a nighttime meeting at Cijantung.
The topic was a covert operation to make Prabowo president. Among those present were veterans of covert ops in Aceh and West Papua.
The lead commander started the session by saying "You just relax. We've all worked, friends have worked, and we've won – Kopassus and Prabowo's people, we've won." ("Kamu nyantai aja, kita udah kerja, teman-teman udah kerja semua dan kita menang – Kopassus dan orangnya Prabowo, kita menang").
They referred to it as a "special operation" ("operas khusus") by "this special force" ("pasukan khusus ini").
Although it is extraordinary – stealing a civilian election for one of the candidates, the commander referred to it as an extension of normal special forces tactics "an operation 'a la Kopassus.'" ("operasi 'a la Kopassus').
According to a participant, the operation started after Indonesia's legislative elections in April when Prabowo and Jokowi emerged as the two presidential candidates.
Under Indonesian law, the armed forces and intelligence agencies must be neutral. Active members of the armed forces, the TNI, do not even have the right to vote.
The current president of Indonesia is another retired general, Prabowo's former superior, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Susilo has been technically neutral in the election, though he has sent recent public signals that he is backing Prabowo.
According to the contents of this and other meetings and to those directly involved, the operation involves ballot tampering, street violence, and threats against Jokowi supporters, and could involve, in extremis, "the elimination of people" ("habisi orang") if need be.
It also involves lesser actions, including those necessitated by – in their view – the fact that my article quoting Prabowo insulting Gus Dur has become a grassroots issue.
Last week, after I released the article, banners began appearing on the streets juxtaposing a photo of the well-remembered Gus Dur alongside the Prabowo quotation:
"The military even obeys a blind president! Imagine! Look at him, he's embarrassing! Look at Tony Blair, Bush, Putin. Young, ganteng [handsome] – and we have a blind man!"
According to one operative, the Gus Dur banner matter, "really frightened, really hurt" ("soal spanduk itu sangat takuti di dalam, sangat buat mereka ini merugikan...") the Kopassus/BIN team leadership.
So street men with Kopassus motorcycles have been assigned to go out and yank down those Gus Dur banners. The issue, nonetheless, still stands.
This past Thursday, at their request, I met in Jakarta with the Gus Dur family. (See "Regarding the Late Gus Dur," "Terkait Almarhum Gus Dur").
The ballot tampering part of the Kopassus/BIN operation – at least as discussed at the level my sources know of, does not involve the national central vote tabulation, but rather the count in key local precincts.
It involves the ongoing deployment of covert money, "money that is not seen, money from the side of the road" ("uang itu tidak kelihatan, uang di pinggir jalan").
The purpose of that money, almost all in cash, is to "play with the ballot papers" ("main dengan kertas suara") by placing agents inside counting rooms or paying off state employees who guard the ballot boxes.
This effort is particularly concentrated in Central, West, and East Java, but is said to involve parts of all provinces.
According to participants, the money is being distributed via Kopassus and BIN, but the ultimate source of the funds is a secret,"very closed" matter ("sangat tertutup sumbernya dari mana").
According to those involved, the operation is being run by senior commanders. In the case of Kopassus, they are actually unsure of the role of top Kopassus commander, General Agus Sutomo, but it was claimed at one Cijantung meeting that approval had come from the President, General Susilo, as "a direct order" ("perintah langsung") in recent weeks, and that operational coordination was coming – outside the chain of command – from Prabowo.
(Prabowo was actually fired from the army after he lost a '98 power struggle. Gen. Susilo was one of the generals who signed the order that removed him).
In the case of BIN, though, the current BIN commander, ex army general Marciano Norman, is said to fully on board with the operation. Marciano is close to Aburizal Bakrie, the oligarch and Prabowo supporter.
BIN has a relationship with the CIA. But it is not clear how, if at all, the CIA relates to this.
Many Indonesians have stated their worry that this election could involve violence. The Kopassus/BIN operation has quietly started deploying it on Prabowo's side.
Among those in the room at some Cijantung meetings were organizers of civilian agents whose task from Kopassus is to "ribut di bawah," make trouble from below
Some participants spoke of personally leading paid crowds that attacked and broke up pro-Jokowi or other gatherings. They have worked with private Prabowo street militias that have gotten training in Bogor. Some such units are described as "having been trained, and frequently rob/plunder wherever" ("..sudah berlatih, [dan] sering merampok ke mana mana").
This often-used Kopassus/BIN tactic has supplemented another standard approach: anonymous calls and text messages threatening the target or their loved ones with death, or worse. An old leaked Kopassus training manual actually refers to this formally, saying that Kopassus men must be trained "in the tactic and technique of terror."
As to carrying through on those threats, Kopassus political murder has a long history. BIN is known for its elaborate technique, like the arsenic used to kill Munir.
But assassination in a national election is a sensitive matter. At one of the Cijantung meetings it was stated that if worse came to worse they might have to "take people, finish people off" ("ambil orang, habisi orang"), as General Prabowo's Kopassus did during the '97-'98 crisis.
But today it is a different world. Covert operators must be politically sensitive. One made the comment regarding some targets, "one can wound them," ("bisa melukai"), perhaps not kill them.
But more to the point, it was stated at one session, regarding killing: "under current conditions, people from the [Jokowi] top ranks, don't" ("paling tidak, dalam kondisi ini, dari kubu [Jokowi], jangan." But as to "small [Jokowi] employees – who knows? It's nothing to worry about." ("karyawan kecil – entah, nggak apa-apa.").
This policy closely parallels what Prabowo told me about massacre, in 2001: don't do it in a capital, in front of witnesses, but "in villages where no one will ever know." (See: " Do I have the guts," Prabowo asked, "am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?").
Referring to planning for these possible upcoming killings/woundings, one of the Kopassus Cijantung commanders said: "orang sipil tidak bisa, hanya Kopassus yang bisa" – civilians will not be handling them, "only Kopassus."
This is a reference to the fact that much of the operational work on the ground is being done by civilians who covertly work as full or part-time Kopassus agents.
On November 9, 2010 I released secret Kopassus documents that, among other things, included a list of activists targeted by Kopassus, but which also detailed the network of Kopassus civilian agents, in that case in West Papua.
Based on Kopassus personnel files I reported at that time that the web of agents included: politicians, "reporters for a local newspaper and for a national TV news channel, students, hotel staff, a court employee, a senior civil servant who works on art and culture, a 14 year old child...farmer[s]... worker[s]... a motorcycle taxi driver, [and] a cellphone kiosk clerk who watches people who buy SIM card numbers, and a driver for a car rental company..."
With networks such as this, Kopassus is in good position to watch – and act against – people of interest to them in this upcoming election and its aftermath.