The Verdict on Prabowo Subianto – A Translation

KEP03VIII1996DKP Header


A leaked document sheds some light on a notorious human rights case, but also poses many questions and leaves much unsaid

This post looks at the controversy surrounding a leaked document dealing with the end of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s Career in the Indonesian Army, digging behind some of the headlines, and provides an English translation (the first English translation available in full to my knowledge – so an Indonotes exclusive of sorts).

The Controversy

The Jakarta Post provides a helpful summary of the controversy:

“A leaked document circulating on the Internet detailing the reasons behind the dismissal of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto from military service on Aug. 21, 1998, has cast doubts on the former general’s suitability to serve as president, if elected on July 9. The document, which was a scanned copy of the official letter signed by members of the Indonesian Military’s (TNI) Officer’s Honorary Council (DKP) tasked with hearing the cases of Prabowo’s complicity in the kidnapping of pro-democracy activists in 1998…

Signatories in the document include then Lt. Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the current President; then Army chief of staff Gen. Soebagyo Hadi Siswoyo; Lt. Gen. Fachrul Razi; and Lt. Gen. Agum Gumelar…

The document states Prabowo, as Kopassus commander, overstepped his authority by ordering the Mawar and Melati units to “arrest and detain” the activists of the radical People’s Democratic Party (PRD)… The document states the DKP not only dismissed Prabowo on charges of human rights violations in relation to the abductions, but also on a number of other actions that demonstrated his insubordination and disregard for the military code.”


At this point there is not much doubt as to the authenticity as it has already been verified by several of the original signatories.


It should be noted that this only scratches the surface of the culpability for the wide ranging human rights abuses that took place during the death throes of Suharto’s regime. For example, one figure who has had little mention during the recent controversy around the letter is the late Feisal Tanjung, at the time commander of the armed forces. Also General Hartono, under whose authority Prabowo seems to have claimed to act, has gained little attention. And this is all sidestepping the anti-Chinese rioting and violence in Aceh and East Timor that occurred over the last years of Suharto’s regime and early years of the post Suharto Era.

Moreover, following the leak there seems to have been little discussion of the objectivity of the signatories to the ruling, which was questioned at the time.[1] There are an interesting mix of characters including those with reasons not to rock the boat to much but also those with good reason for wanting to side-line Prabowo Subianto:

Subagyo Hadi Siswoyo: Who had previously served and Suharto’s bodyguard (Suharto being Prabowo Subianto’s father in law).[2]

Agum Gumelar: Who had experience as chief of staff for a regional command with forces fighting in Aceh[3], and who had been shunted from a long career in Kopassus following a misstep in allowing Megawati to become chairperson of the PDI.[4] A couple of years later Prabowo would take his old job as head of Kopassus.

Djamari Chaniago: Who was regarded as a ‘Wiranto Loyalist’[5] (Wiranto being one of Prabowo Subianto’s main rivals at the time) and who at the time of the ruling was in command of a large number of troops stationed in East Timor who would later be accused of serious human rights abuses.[6]

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: Future President, at this stage seen as a ‘close associate’ of Wiranto [7], and who was Chief of Staff in the Jakarta region during the attack on the PDI headquarters in 1996.[8]


Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia


Officers’ Honour Council

Decision of the Officers’ Honour Council

Number: KEP/03/VIII/1998/DKP

The Officers’ Honour Council is formed based on the Decree of the Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces: Skep/533/P/VII/1998 dated 24 July 1998 after sitting in session on dates 10, 11 and 18 August 1998 three times. The hearings examine the case of the investigated party:

Name:  Prabowo Subianto

Age/Date of Birth: 47 Years / 17 October 1951

Rank: Lieutenant General Indonesian Army

Post: Senior Officer Indonesian Armed Forces Headquarters

Unit: Indonesian Armed Forces Headquarters

Recalling: The Decree of the Commander of Indonesian Armed Forces: SKEP/838/XI/ 1995 dated 27 November 1995 regarding the Ratification of Interim Text of Administrative Guidelines for the Officers’ Honour Council within the domain of the Indonesian Armed Forces.

Reading: The Report of the Session of the Officers’ Honour Council Number: BAS/003/VII/1998/DKP and other letters in connection with the aforementioned case.

Considering: That before the Council determines a decision, the Council has examined the investigated party and witnesses that in essence can be summarised as follows:

a. [He] intentionally acted incorrectly in the analysis of orders regarding the Army Chief of Staff’s[9]  telegram Number : STR/41/1997 dated 4 February 1997 and STR/92/1997 dated 11 March 1997 although knowing that the Army Chief of Staff as source (pembina) did not have the authority to issue this order.

b. Intentionally made the Army Chief of Staff’s order, that was known by him to have been given without proper authority, a basis for circulating the written order : Sprin/689/IX/1997 dated 23 September 1997 to the Merpati[10]  taskforce to undertake special operations in the sphere of national stability.

c. Carried out and managed operations in the sphere of national stability which was not within his authority but was under the authority of the Commander of the Armed Forces.[11]

Actions such as the aforementioned were repeatedly committed by the Senior Officer who was involved with

1. The involvement of a special taskforce in East Timor and Aceh

2. The freeing of hostages in Wamena Irja[12]

3. The involvement of Kopassus[13]  in the safety of the President in Vancouver Canada

d. Ordering members of the Mawar[14]  taskforce, the Merpati taskforce via Infantry Colonel  Chairawan (Commander Group-4)[15]  and Infantry Major Bambang Kristiono to perform the uncovering, arrest and detention of activists from radical groups and the PRD,[16] which was known not to be within his authority and as a result Andi Arief, Aan Rusdianto, Mugiyanto, Nezar Patria, Haryanto Taslam, Rahardjo Waluyojati, Faisol Reza, Pius Lustrilanang and Desmond J Mahesa became victims.

Infantry Colonel Chairawan, Infantry Major Bambang, the officers and junior soldiers who were members of the Merpati and Mawar task forces were convinced of the validity of the task because according to the Commanding General “it had been reported to the [military] Command”  and “was on the orders of [military] Command.”

e. Did not report the operation he undertook to the Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, and only reported in at the beginning of April 1998 after the insistence of the head of military intelligence.[17]

f. Did not involve staff with correct authority[18]  in staff procedures, management and oversight.

g. Did not perform the duties and responsibilities of command in the management of the actions of the Merpati and Mawar units.

h. Often went abroad without the authorisation of Army Chief of Staff or the Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces

i. The aforementioned actions points a to h affirm that

1. The actions of Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto tend toward a habit of ignoring the system of operations, hierarchy, discipline and law that prevails in the sphere of the Indonesian army.

2. Do not reflect an ethic of professionalism in the taking of decisions, the consideration of norms of law, norms that prevail in the life of the nation and state, norms that prevail in the sphere of the Indonesian Army/Indonesian Armed Forces and norms for the engagement of Kopassus itself.

3. Did not reflect commander responsibility towards duties and towards soldiers.

4. Did not reflect the officer ethic especially the elements of defending truth and justice, loyalty and obedience, humanity and upholding high the name and honour of the Indonesian Armed Forces officer corps.

5. Did not reflect concern for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of the Sumpah Prajurit[19]

6. Did not reflect concern toward  the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th of the Sapta Marga[20]

7. Committed the offences:

a) Insubordination (Article. 103  KUHPM)[21]

b) Ordered the Commander of Group-4/Sandha[22]  Kopassus[23]  and members of the Merpati and Mawar units to deprive the liberty of others (Article. 55 (1) to 2 in connection with Article 333 KUHP[24]) and kidnapping (Article 55 (1) to 2 in connection with Article 328 KUHP)

i. The above actions are not fitting with the life of a soldier and the life of an Officer of the Indonesian Army

j. The aforementioned actions damage the honour of Kopassus, The Indonesian Army, The Indonesian Armed Forces, the Nation and State.

In accordance with the above, the Examined Officer under the name Lieutenant General (Indonesian Army) Prabowo Subianto is proposed to face administrative sanctions in the form of ending of his military service.

Thus is the decision confirmed on Friday 21st August 1998 by the Council.

SECRETARY                                                                              CHAIRMAN

DJAMARI CHANIAGO                                                            SUBAGYO HADI SISWOYO

LIEUTENANT GENERAL TNI                                               GENERAL TNI






















[1] Theo Sjafei Interview, Forum 10.8.98 , Indonesia. Volume 67 (1999), 127-132

[2] Theo Sjafei Interview, Forum 10.8.98 , Indonesia. Volume 67 (1999), 127-132

[3] Geoffrey B. Robinson, Rawan Is as Rawan Does: The Origins of Disorder in New Order Aceh, Indonesia. Volume 66 (1998), p. 155.

[4] Jun Honna, Military Ideology in Response to Democratic Pressure During the Late Suharto Era: Political and Institutional Contexts, Indonesia. Volume 67 (1999), pp 94-5.

[5] Power Politics and the Indonesian Military, Damien Kingsbury, p. 180

[6] Masters of Terror: Indonesia’s Military and Violence in East Timor, edited by Richard Tanter, Desmond Ball, Van Gerry Klinken, p. 84-5

[7] The Editors, Current Data on the Indonesian Military Elite, Indonesia. Volume 67(1999), 133-162.

[8] Emerging Democracy in Indonesia, ed. ISEAS, p. 125

[9] Gen. R. Hartono (he was then replaced by Wiranto on June 6,1997)

[10] Merpati literally means Dove

[11] Feisal Tanjung

[12] Irja = Irian Jaya a.k.a. West Papua

[13] Special Forces Unit

[14] Mawar literally meaning ‘rose’

[15] A unit within Kopassus

[16] Partai Rakyat Demokratic (Democratic People’s Party), a left wing pro democracy party formed in 1996

[17] This would be Major General Zacky Anwar Makarim (who held the post Aug 1997-Jan 1999)

[18] The military jargon term ‘Organik’ is used here

[19] Soldier’s oath: the second, third and fourth parts refer to following the law, upholding soldierly discipline, following superiors’ order and fulfilling onesduties with a feeling of reponsibility toward the military and Indonesian state.

[20] Another military oath: parts 3,5, 6 and 7 include the defence of integrity, truth and justice; the upholding of discipline, obedience and soldiers’ honour; loyalty to state and nation.

[21] KUHMP = Kitab Undang-undang Hukum Pidana Militer, the military criminal code

[22] Sandha, shortening of Sandhi Yudaha, loosely translated as covert warfare

[23] Special Forces

[24] KUHP = Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana, the Criminal Code


The Source Text

KEP03VIII1996DKP page 1 KEP03VIII1996DKP page 2 KEP03VIII1996DKP page 3

KEP03VIII1996DKP page 4