After denying responsibility for a rash of stamped banknotes linking Prabowo Subianto to a Javanese myth about a just king, the Indonesian presidential hopeful's Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) has now released a video on its YouTube channel (above) tracing Prabowo's noble lineage and portraying him as a born economist, businessman, soldier and servant of the people.
The 33-minute video titled Prabowo Sang Patriot ('Prabowo the Patriot') is produced by Hashim Djojohadikusomo, Prabowo's billionaire brother, who also features in interviews in the video praising his brother's leadership qualities.
The video begins by tracing Prabowo's ancestry back to Sultan Agung, ruler of the Mataram sultanate in the 17th century, and to Raden Tumenggung Kertanegara III, who fought on the side of Prince Diponegoro against the Dutch in the 19th century Java War. More recent renowned figures in the family are Prabowo's grandfather Margono Djojohadikusomo, founder of Bank Negara Indonesia, and his father Sumitro Djojohadikusomo, a prominent economist.
This section employs the help of Oxford University historian Dr Peter Carey, who in a mix of Indonesian and English describes the family heritage as one unlikely to produce a 'lickspittle' or a 'yes-man'. Dr Carey, however, is not asked to repeat his assessment of Prabowo as presented in the book The East Timor Question: The Struggle for Independence from Indonesia, in which he describes Prabowo and his special forces troops as having 'earned a sinister reputation for violence against the local population.'
The narrator in Prabowo Sang Patriot quickly glosses over the former Kopassus Major-General's role in the occupied territory before cutting to a segment on his ascent of Mount Everest as leader of a national team of climbers.
More time is given to Prabowo's role in leading the state response to the 1998 riots in Jakarta, shortly before Suharto stepped down as president. Fadli Zon, deputy chairman of Prabowo’s Gerindra party and author of the book Politik Huru-Hara Mei 1998 ('The Political Riot of May 1998'), dismisses reports of Prabowo igniting anti-Chinese riots as slander.
Fadli also questions why Prabowo was left to handle the riots while he says former military chief General Wiranto and other top generals left the capital to attend a ceremonial event in Malang, East Java. The dig at Wiranto, another presidential hopeful, has caused a stir in local media.
Prabowo's brother Hashim, who serves as Vice Chairman of Gerindra's Board of Trustees, has denied the video is intended as campaign material, calling it 'more of a testimony from people who know Prabowo'.
In an election where the Indonesian public is said to favour non-establishment figures, this introduction to Prabowo's old-guard background may not have the effect the Gerindra campaign team would hope. With a modest 23,000 views since it was posted in mid-February, the video could go the way of the defaced banknotes with regards to just how much credibility it can buy.