Indonesia’s President names relative as Army chief

Rights groups say Pramono Edhie Wibowo may have been responsible for abuses in East Timor in 1999.

Jakarta: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday appointed his brother-in-law -- who rights groups say may have been responsible for abuses in East Timor in 1999 -- as the nation`s new Army chief.

The promotion of Pramono Edhie Wibowo from lieutenant-general to full general raised speculation that Yudhoyono, a former general himself, is grooming his wife`s younger brother to be Indonesia`s next president.

Wibowo, 56, graduated from the military academy in 1980, led the Kopassus special forces in 1999 and is a former aide to ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri, the Jakarta Post newspaper reported.

Currently, the head of the Army’s Kostrad strategic command, he replaces General George Toisutta, who is retiring.

Officials said Wibowo was selected on a high-level military panel`s recommendation, but rights activists questioned his alleged involvement in abuses following the East Timor independence referendum in 1999.

Haris Azhar, of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, said Wibowo was suspected of an attack on the Dili home of a bishop who had campaigned for an end to the military’s aggression in East Timor.

"He falls in the grey area, we don`t know for sure whether he`s involved or not as there`s not been an investigation," he said.

"But the appointment indicated nepotism since he is the president`s brother-in-in-law. It seems that the president is preparing him to continue the family regime in leading the country," he added.

Indonesia`s constitution bars Yudhoyono from contesting the next elections in 2014 and the liberal ex-general has said his wife and sons will not stand for the presidency.

Yudhoyono has won two elections on the back of promises to stamp out chronic corruption but his efforts have been thwarted by vested interests including lawmakers and police.

His Democratic Party, established in 2001 after the fall of military dictator Suharto, won 20 percent of votes in the 2009 legislative polls to become the strongest party in Parliament.

But its clean image has been muddied by a recent scandal involving former party treasurer Mohammed Nazaruddin, who has fled the country in the face of a corruption probe, analysts said.

A poll this week found Yudhoyono`s approval rating slid below 50 percent for the first time.

Bureau Report

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