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Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo

Voters in Indonesia, the world's third largest democracy, head to the polls 09 July 2014 to choose a new president in a race described as one of the tightest in recent history. Some 190 million Indonesians, including about 67 million first-time voters, will choose between two candidates with very distinct leadership styles. Both men are vying to replace President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has served the maximum two-term limit.

Former Army General Prabowo Subianto is a fiery speaker whose campaign has centered on nationalism. The son of a noted economist and former government minister is admired for his firmness, a quality supporters say is required to maintain unity in a sprawling archipelago that is home to hundreds of different ethnicities and cultures. Prabowo was briefly married to the daughter of former dictator Suharto, the country's second president, who held power for 31 years until his resignation in 1998.

Prabowo Subianto is a good public speaker, making points forcefully and intelligently. He also has a common touch, working crowds of farmers and the urban poor with some ease (Prabowo served as head of a national farmer's organization for several years). Aside from his relative effectiveness on the stump, Prabowo is a wealthy businessman linked to a family that is rich. On the downside for Prabowo has been his poor human rights record while in the military, and a reputation for erratic behavior and anger management problems. In 1983 he married the daughter of President Suharto, Siti Hediati Harijadi (Titiek).

LtGen (ret) Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo, a former commander of Kopassus and Kostrad, is not a suspect in the 1999 violence in East Timor. Although a major influence on Indonesian counter-insurgency tactics in East Timor beginning in 1989/90, he was out of the country throughout 1999. Having been dismissed from his Kostrad command in May 1998, and from the military entirely in August 1998, Prabowo had no TNI position in 1999. Instead he was in self-imposed exile in Jordan, doing business with his wealthy brother. The many rumours, all of them unproven, that he was still in Indonesia anyway, and directing clandestine operations in East Timor, indicate the power he once held.

Among the many 1999 militia leaders who were Prabowo's proteges were Eurico Guterres, Lafaek Saburai, Martinho Fernandes, and Joni Marquez. Governor Abilio Soares owed his career largely to Prabowo's support. Many of the soldiers (especially in Kopassus) who directed the militias in 1999 had been Prabowo's subordinates at some stage. Among them were: MajGen Adam Damiri, MajGen Mahidin Simbolon, BrigGen Amirul Isnaeni, Col Gerhan Lentara, and LtCol Wioyotomo Nugroho. Others had been his colleagues: Gen Subagyo H S, MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim, MajGen Sjafrie Syamsuddin, MajGen Kiki Syahnakri, LtGen Johny Lumintang, and Col Pramono Edhie Wibowo.

Prabowo was born on 17 October 1951 in Jakarta, the son of noted economist (and dissident politician) Professor Sumitro Djojohadikusumo. His father, as well as being considered one of the architects of the Indonesian economy as a minister in a number of cabinets under President Sukarno was also involved in the Permesta rebellion against the Indonesian government centered on Sumatra and Sulawesi in 1958 [1957?]. Allegedly backed by the CIA, the movement was a complete failure and only achieved a distancing of Sukarno from the military and a closer relationship with the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI).

While his father was on the run for supporting the failed regional revolt, Prabowo grew up in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Britain. He graduated from the military academy in 1974.

In 1976 he went to East Timor as part of Tim Nanggala X, a special forces unit that belonged to Kopassandha, later called Kopassus. He undertook anti-terrorist training in the US (Fort Bragg, 1980; Fort Benning, 1985), and in West Germany (GSG-9, about 1981), scoring 'top graduate' each time. In 1983, sent to East Timor as a major in charge of Kopassus Detachment 81 (D81), he established the Tim Alfa militia in Lospalos. He was involved in the Kraras massacre of September 1983. In 1988-89 he was in East Timor again, in command of the Kostrad combat Battalion 328. He turned it into such a highly trained unit that it was chosen as the best battalion in East Timor.

After eight years in Kostrad he returned to Kopassus in 1993 as commander of its Group 3, a special forces training unit in Batujajar, West Java, that also played a role training militia leaders. He rose to Deputy Commander of Kopassus in 1994-95, and to Kopassus Commander in 1995-98. In March 1998 he was moved back to Kostrad, becoming Kostrad Commander.

The dramatic period leading up to the resignation of Suharto in May 1998 saw growing suspicion of Prabowos role in a number of incidents. He was considered responsible for ordering the shooting of students at Trisakti University as they returned to campus after a demonstration, killing four and sparking three days of riots that dramatically weakened Suhartos hold on power. The president, on a visit to Egypt, was reported to have been alarmed that Prabowo's actions to secure the presidential palace, considered by some to represent an attempt at a coup.

With Suhartos resignation, Prabowo is also reported to have been involved in an altercation outside the home of the new president, BJ Habibie, which was also believed to have been a move to overthrow the new government. However, with Suharto gone, his fortunes quickly declined. He was exposed as having organised the kidnapping of anti-Suharto activists early in 1998, and was finally dismissed from the armed forces in August 1998 after an internal inquiry (DKP).

When Hashim Djojohadikusumo and brother [Maj. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto, established Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) in 2008, they had difficulties recruiting people as party executives. They believed they had no other choice except to give some positions in the party to family members or people they could trust.

Former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and Prabowo Subianto registered themselves as candidates for the presidency and vice presidency at the General Election Commission (KPU) on 16 May 2009. In the 2009 presidential election, Prabowo Subianto plowed in huge sums of money to the campaign, seemingly in a dress rehearsal for a presidential run in 2014. Megawati's "people's economy" platform proposed the strongest role for government intervention. Megawati's protectionist economic policies were reinforced by running mate Prabowo Subianto's populist rhetoric, including calls for debt rescheduling. The Megawati campaign highlighting increasing inequality, urban-rural disparities, and Java-outer island divides during the Yudhoyono administration. The "people's economy" platform focused on developing the informal sector, increasing agricultural productivity, and implementing a bottom-up approach to economic development. Prabowo - who is fiercely ambitious - seemed to be assiduously setting himself up for a run at the presidency in the future by paying his dues on the campaign trail now.

Prabowo Subianto was born in Jakarta on 17 October 1951. His father is Soemitro Djojohadikusumo (1917-2001), a prominent New Order-era economist and a minister during Sukarno and Suharto presidencies. His brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo is the owner of the Arsari Group of companies and the deputy chief patron of Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party. Prabowo was educated in international schools in Kuala Lumpur, Zurich and London before returning to Indonesia in 1970 to enroll in the prestigious Armed Forces Academy (now Military Academy) in Magelang, Central Java.

Prabowo developed his business skills while in Jordan, developing the oil and gas company Karazanbasmunai in Kazakhstan. Back in Indonesia, he is CEO of palm oil company PT Tidar Kerinci Agung, mining company PT Nusantara Energy and president director of fishery company PT Jaladri Nusantara.

Prabowo married Suhartos daughter Siti Hediati Hariyadi (known as Titiek Soeharto) in 1983 but they were divorced in 1998. They have one son, Didit Hediprasetyo, a renowned fashion designer whose works have featured in international fashion shows.

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Page last modified: 08-07-2014 14:57:16 ZULU