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How Wiranto Fell from Power

Timeline: How Wiranto Fell from Power

July, 1999

- Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Wiranto holds a "commanders call" of his loyal generals at military headquarters in Jakarta to discuss the upcoming presidential election. They agree that nationalist heroine Megawati Sukarnoputri, leader of the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, should be elected President and that General Wiranto should run the government from behind the scenes as Vice-President.

September, 1999

- East Timor votes for independence from Indonesia in a referendum organized by the U.N. Enraged, Indonesian soldiers and East Timorese militias armed and trained by the Indonesian military run amok, razing entire towns. The U.N. starts gathering evidence for a tribunal on crimes against humanity.

- Wiranto and his generals take over the daily workings of the presidential palace and setting the agenda for then-President Habibie's meetings.

- Wiranto creates a new job, Deputy Armed Forces commander, to take over his daily duties to give himself time to run the government.

- Wiranto, in his capacity as Minister of Defense, rams a bill through Parliament requiring active military officers to resign from the military if they are appointed to a public office, such as the President's Cabinet.

October, 1999

- Moderate Muslim cleric Abdurrahman Wahid, leader of the 34 million-member Nahdlatul Ulama, is elected President, defeating Megawati by a narrow margin. Megawati supporters riot in Jakarta and Bali.

- Negotiations continue all night for the nomination of candidates for the vice-presidential election the next day. Wiranto turns on Megawati, Wahid's candidate for Vice-President, and attempts to knock her out of the race so that he can take the job for himself and exert control over the new government. Shortly before the vote starts in Parliament the next morning, Wahid convinces Wiranto to drop out of the race so that the pro-Megawati riots will stop. In return, he promises Wiranto a powerful position in the Cabinet.

November, 1999

- Wiranto is named Coordinating Minister of Defense & Security, a previously ceremonial post that he quickly redesigns along the model of Henry Kissinger's role as chief of the Vietnam-era U.S. National Security Council.

- Wiranto clashes with Wahid over how to deal with violence in the remote provinces of Aceh and Maluku. Wiranto wants to impose martial law and personally run the operation, but Wahid opposes him on both counts.

- Wiranto refuses to resign from the military despite his ascension to the President's Cabinet, violating the law that he himself pushed through parliament.

December, 1999

- A commission of inquiry set up by National Commission on Human Rights nears its conclusion that Wiranto was responsible for the September bloodbath in East Timor. Wahid, who had previously given Wiranto the benefit of the doubt, begins to perceive the general as a war criminal.

- Wahid tells Wiranto to submit to a war-crimes tribunal in Indonesia or else prepare himself to be sent to Geneva or the Hague for a U.N. tribunal on crimes against humanity. The general refuses both options.

- Wahid reshuffles the military, replacing generals identified as Wiranto supporters, even firing the military spokesman for saying in public that the President has no right to interfere in military affairs.

January, 2000

- Floating a trial balloon, Wahid circulates rumors that the next head to roll is Wiranto's.

- Wahid orders Armed Forces Commander Admiral Widodo to discharge Wiranto from military service.

- In a show of strength, Wahid leaves for Davos, Switzerland, on a 16-day visit to Europe and the Middle East, leaving Megawati in charge of the government. From Davos, Wahid demands Wiranto's resignation from the Cabinet.

- The commission of inquiry presents a report holding Wiranto and five other generals responsible for mass murder, torture, rape, looting, and attempts to cover up atrocities in East Timor.

February, 2000

- Wiranto refuses to step down. Tells reporters outside a Cabinet meeting run by Megawati on Feb. 2 that he wants to meet with Wahid after he returns to Jakarta in mid-February. Standoff begins.

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Showdown in Jakarta (int'l edition)

TABLE: How Wiranto Fell from Power (extended)

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