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May 2004 Special Issue

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The general and the cleric

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta

The pairing of Gen. (ret) Wiranto and the cleric Solahuddin Wahid won the all-important top spot on the ballot papers during the draw held by the General Elections Commission (KPU).

Wiranto, born in Yogyakarta on April 4, 1947, became the candidate of the Golkar Party after he surprisingly defeated party leader Akbar Tandjung during the party's presidential convention.

Wiranto starts off on solid ground in the race following the party's gains in the April 5 legislative election, when it garnered the largest number of votes at 24.5 million, or 21.6 percent of the total votes cast.

The ticket received a major boost when the National Awakening Party (PKB), co-founded by Solahuddin's brother, former president Abdurrahman Wahid, formally declared its support for the pair last week. The PKB's main support base is Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), in which Solahuddin is an executive; he is also a former deputy chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). This has led to controversy as a commission team led by Solahuddin had tried in vain on a number of occasions to summon former senior officers including Wiranto, following its investigations into the riots that preceded the resignation of president Soeharto in 1999.

Wiranto started his military career as an infantry platoon commander upon his graduation from the Military Academy in 1968. His postings included serving as Soeharto's adjutant in 1984, commander of the Jakarta garrison in 1993, and Jakarta military commander in 1994.

Soeharto named Wiranto military chief in the last months of his rule, and he kept this position under Soeharto's successor, B.J. Habibie. The subsequent president, Abdurrahman Wahid, named Wiranto, by then officially retired from the military, as defense minister.

Wahid then sacked Wiranto in February 2000 after a human rights commission team found he had failed to ensure security in East Timor. United Nations-funded prosecutors in East Timor have charged Wiranto with command responsibility for army-backed atrocities against independence supporters in the then-Indonesian province in 1999. An arrest warrant has been issued recently.

Solahuddin was born in Jombang, East Java, on Sept. 11, 1942. He began his organizational career as a member of the NU's youth movement, PMII, when he studied at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in 1964. In 1999 he was appointed as the vice chairman of NU in 1999.

He then became vice-chairman of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) in 2001 before taking up his post at the rights commission in 2002.

Recently, Solahuddin was quoted as saying that he did not want to become a mere figurehead vice president. He said that he had asked Wiranto and Golkar prior to his joining the Wiranto ticket to give him a special assignments so as to ensure the realization of the pairing's campaign promises of improving law enforcement and human rights, and eradicating of corruption.

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