After Years of Solitude in Jordan

Former Commander of the Indonesian Army Strategic Reserve Command runs for President.

Rabu, 19 November 2008, 10:34 Arfi Bambani Amri, Siswanto
Gerindra Presidential Candidate Prabowo Subianto
Gerindra Presidential Candidate Prabowo Subianto (Antara/ Widodo S Jusuf)

VIVAnews – He spoke in front of hundreds of administrators of Gerindra Party (Great Indonesia Movement Party). In short, he stated that he is joining Gerindra's struggle in the next General Elections. In response, they cheered, “Long live Prabowo! Long live Gerindra!!”

Their cheering was referred to Prabowo Subianto, formerly the Commander of the Indonesian Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad), who was attending a party held to celebrate Gerindra's success in entering the 2009 elections, at Mount Putri, Bogor, 12 July 2008. At the same time, Prabowo declared his resignation from Golkar (the Functional Group Party).

From then on, Prabowo no longer hesitated in reaffirming his stance on running for President in the 2009 elections. Previously, he was considered to be a bit reluctant to go forward. He was still calculating, afraid that he would not have significant support. “If there are responses and real support, then every citizen has a duty to go forward. But if there are no support or response, then I would have to be realistic,” he said.

Together with Gerindra, Prabowo prioritizes the people's economic welfare. This is in accordance with his current position as head of a nationwide farmers’ organization, the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI). Prabowo is also the head of the Association of Indonesian Market Traders (APPSI). That is why in his television advertisements Prabowo puts himself up as someone close to farmers, fishermen and laborers of the nation.

Prabowo's Journey

Born in Jakarta on 17 October 1951, Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo is the third child of Sumitro Djojohadikusuma and Dora Sigar. Prabowo spent his childhood and part of his teenage years on the run. His father fled from Indonesia due to a difference of opinion with then President Soekarno.

For a period of about ten years Prabowo spent his childhood in Singapore, Malaysia, Hongkong, Switzerland and England. The experience molded his character to become independent, adaptive, and hardworking.
Since early on, his father, Sumitro, had planted the principles of the will to struggle in Prabowo. Sumitro deliberately immortalize his brother's name, Subianto, who died fighting the Japanese, in his son's middle name. His hope was that Prabowo would later become a fighter like his Banyumas-born uncle, who, according to him, inherited a tradition of opposition.

At 16, in 1967, Prabowo completed high school in London. He was admitted to three universities in the United States: Colorado, George Washington, and Rhode Island. But his father put a hold on Prabowo's college life, for fear of possible psychological impact on going to college at too young of an age.

His father brought him back to Indonesia, so that he would get to know the country he was from. This is what made Prabowo, an admirer of the Commander General Sudirman, choose to go to Magelang, Central Java, and enter the National Military Academy. This is where important career episodes for Prabowo started.

Prabowo was the academy's valedictorian of 1974. Two years later, Prabowo became the platoon commander of the Para Commando first group of the Sandy Yudha Command Force (Kopassandha) to be assigned to East Timor as part of the Naggala team. In 1977, Prabowo was the Company Commander of the Para Commando first group Kopassandha, with the rank of First Lieutenant.

After three years, he was assigned to participate in an anti-terrorist training in Fort Braggs, United States of America. In 1981, Prabowo carved an outstanding achievement as the best graduate on the GSG-9 Anti Terrorist training in West Germany. 1983, Prabowo was Vice Commander of the 81st Detachment of Indonesian Military Special Force (KOPASSUS).

In that same year, he married Siti Hediati Harijadi, the daughter of former President Soeharto. Not long after the wedding, he was again sent on an operation to East Timor. There, Prabowo and his troops were missing in action for 12 hours when they were ambushed by the enemy. Fortunately, he survived.

After that, he obtained various military achievements. In 1995, he was trusted to become the General of the Indonesian Military Special Force (KOPASSUS). It was then that Prabowo was accused of being responsible for the kidnappings and disappearance of several activists, which was done by a team called “Tim Mawar” (the “Rose Team”). To this day, the victims are still nowhere to be found.

In 1998, Prabowo was appointed the Commander of the Indonesian Army Strategic Reserve Command. He didn't hold this position for long because of the May 1998 incident. The May incident is believed to be a scenario of political power, a controversy, involving an internal military dispute between Prabowo and the Indonesian Military Commander Wiranto.

As a result, Prabowo was transferred. He became Commander of Indonesian General Staff and Command College. Through the Honorary Board of Military Officers (DKP), Wiranto discharged Lieutenant General Prabowo from military service.

From the Market to the Palace

After being discharged from the military, Prabowo went to Jordan. He obtained citizenship status there and was treated well by the King of Jordan, a friend of his during military training. In Jordan he entered the business world. Three years later, he returned to Indonesia.

Upon his return, Prabowo founded the Nusantara Energy, together with Johan Teguh Sugianto and Widjono Hardjanto. As stated in his personal website, www.prabowosubianto.net, Nusantara Energy consolidates many companies in the pulp insdustry, forestry, agriculture, mining, commercial fishery and professional services. PT Kiani Kertas, PT Kiani Lestari, PT Nusantara Berau Coal, are three of his many subsidiaries. The total number of workers in Nusantara Energy amounts to 10,000 people, with total assets amounting to US$10 billion. Nusantara Energy is located in the Bidakara Tower, South Jakarta.

In the political arena, the name Prabowo again emerged during the 2004 Golkar (Funcitonal Group Party) convention for presidential candidate. Prabowo used a media consultant to improve his image. Alex Castinallos, the campaign consultant of the Republican Party of the United States that put Geroge W. Bush in the Oval Office, and an advertisement media consultant, David Axelrod, were signed by Prabowo's campaign team. Prabowo made it to the final round but failed to win the election.

Prabowo's campaign team has devised a strategy for the 2009 elections. “Since 2004, the team has prepared a strategy,” a Gerindra leader said to VIVAnews. The team conducted researches on the kind of presidential figure that people are looking for, as well as the organizations that Prabowo would have to approach on his journey to the Presidential Palace.

On the Fourth National Convention of the HKTI, and the fifth Farmers Congress on 5th December 2004, he was elected as Chairman of HKTI for the 2004-2009 period. He replaced Siswono Yudho Husodo, with a vote of 309, defeating HKTI Secretary General Agusdin Pulungan, who only received 15 votes, and one abstain, from a total of 325 votes. Recently, in June, Prabowo was also voted as Chairman of Market Merchants Association of Indonesia (APPSI).

Before leading APPSI, Prabowo secretly assisted in the founding of Gerindra. The initiative for the founding of this party came from some of the leaders of HKTI who are not satisfied with Golkar, as well as some of Prabowo's close friends, including Fadli Zon. “Early 2007, I have proposed for a party of farmers and fishermen, but have yet to receive a response,” said Gerindra chairman Suhandri, during an interview with VIVAnews, September 2008.

Nearing the administrative verification of political parties participating in the General Elections at the Department of Justice and Human rights in mid 2007, Prabowo contacted Suhardi and asked about the proposal for the new party. Prabowo agreed to help, but asked the party to be named Gerindra (Great Indonesia Movement). Suhardi enthusiastically mustered everything he had in order to be ready in two months for verification at the Department of Justice and Human Rights. In the mean time, Prabowo had not officially resigned from Golkar.

Gerindra finally passed the verification process, both from the Department of Justice and Human Rights, and from the General Elections Commission (KPU). Then on 12 July 2008, Prabowo delivered his resignation letter from Golkar to its head chairman, Vice President Jusuf Kalla. Prabowo legally joined Gerindra, the party that he helped all this time behind the scene. His path to the Palace is getting clearer.

Prabowo's seriousness in running for President can be seen in the amount of money he has spent for commercials. Gerindra's vice secretary, Abdul Haris Bobihoe, disclosed that more than Rp 1 trillion (about US$100 million) has been prepared for advertisements. No less than 10 television advertising concepts with 30-60 seconds duration have been made with various approaches. It will be divided in 3 phases: first, introduction; second, a public figure in a political party; and third, persuasion.

“All of this is being conceptualized by the same consultant team as it was in 2004,” Haris said. So it can be assured that Prabowo's media consultant team is still Alex Castinallos and David Axelrod, the two people responsible for getting George W. Bush back in the White House for the second time.

What has been the result of Prabowo's and Gerindra's campaign? In the 3 months of rigorous advertisements, Gerindra has managed to become the most known new party, overcoming the popularity of even Hanura (The People's Conscience Party) which is older. In a survey conducted by the National Survey Department in September 2008, 65.4% of 400 respondents knew Gerindra. While only 51.9% knew Hanura.

Now, Prabowo's name is more familiar in the ears of the people and he would perhaps have a chance as Indonesia’s president, not just a president of farmers. That said, Prabowo's new saying is, “I am Prabowo Subianto, for the new Indonesia!”


Translated by: Archie Ardian, Ramona Sofianne Dewi

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