HOW THE AUSTRALIAN SAS RAISED THE GHOSTS OF INDONESIA’S BRUTAL PAST
A row over ‘offensive’ training materials that led to Jakarta briefly break
HOW THE AUSTRALIAN SAS RAISED THE GHOSTS OF INDONESIA’S BRUTAL PAST
A row over ‘offensive’ training materials that led to Jakarta briefly breaking military ties with Canberra highlights sensitivities regarding Indonesia’s secular ideology
BY JOHN MCBETH
8 JAN 2017
Indonesian President Joko Widodo sits in the cockpit of a Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft next to his military chief Gatot Nurmantyo. Photo: AFP
It is turning out to be a storm in a smaller-than-usual teacup, but the latest spat between Jakarta and Canberra over what was perceived to be insulting content in military training materials underlines once again the sensitivities surrounding Indonesia’s often brutal past.
It also speaks to the current state of Jakarta’s domestic politics, with government sources revealing that President Joko Widodo didn’t know armed forces chief General Gatot Nurmantyo had suspended all military cooperation with Australia over the issue.
Indeed, the sources say he only woke up to what was happening when his close adviser, chief maritime minister and retired special forces general Luhut Panjaitan, received a call last month from an Australian friend asking what more could be done beyond an apology and an investigation.
As the episode broke in the media this week, political coordinating minister Wiranto, a one-time military commander himself, issued a hasty statement saying only language classes had been suspended, not the entire military relationship.
Australia’s Defence Minister Marise Payne has said the Australian military must ensure it produces “culturally appropriate” training material. Photo: AFP
Widodo also sought to play down the fallout, saying relations remained in good shape. So did normally hard-nosed Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu in a January 5 phone conversation with his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne. Payne has said the Australian military must produce “culturally appropriate” training material, which apparently means avoiding any reference to East Timor and Papua where Indonesia has a checkered past.
The original complaint came from a special forces (Kopassus) language instructor and went up the chain of command to Nurmantyo, an ultra-nationalist with ambitions to run in the 2019 presidential elections.
The armed forces chief is already in Widodo’s bad books for his alleged links with some of the Muslim groups that took part in the recent mass demonstrations against Jakarta Governor Basuki Purnama, who is currently on trial for blasphemy. The protests have rattled Widodo because at one point it appeared they were also directed at weakening him now Indonesia is only two years out from its next presidential election when he is expected to seek a second term.
Protesters surround the entrance to the North Jakarta Court as Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – a Christian – attends his ongoing trial for blasphemy. Photo: AFP
Nurmantyo has often caused a stir with his wild conspiracy theories, expressed in public speeches and in social media, about how foreigners are engaged in a proxy war to undermine and take over Indonesia.
Last November, he claimed in a filmed lecture that Australia was trying to recruit young Indonesian officers, undergoing advanced training at various bases across the country, to be either spies or agents of influence.
Conservative elements in the Indonesian Armed Forces have always been suspicious of foreign-trained officers, seeing them as being too favourably disposed towards Western views and attitudes.
Nurmantyo’s predecessor, General Moeldoko, had similar presidential ambitions, but he quickly disappeared after retiring in July 2015. Observers believe the same future awaits Nurmantyo, who is unlikely to find a political party to support him.
General Gatot Nurmantyo, left, with his predecessor General Moeldoko. Photo: AFP
What offended the complainant, a Kopassus lieutenant, was the use of what he considered to be a derogatory Wikipedia biography of the late Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s father-in-law.
The legendary special forces general, whose own son also later commanded the elite regiment, led the purge against the Communist Party of Indonesia in the mid-1960s which claimed the lives of an estimated 500,000 people. He also oversaw the so-called Act of Free Choice, a United Nations-sanctioned referendum – albeit involving only 1,025 Papuan leaders – under which the former Dutch-controlled territory reverted to Indonesian rule in 1969.
Suspicious of the popular Wibowo as a potential rival for power, Suharto shuffled him off as ambassador to South Korea in 1973. He served there for five years, before returning to fill a variety of backwater posts until his death in 1989 at the age of 64.
Indonesian Army special forces, or Kopassus, in Denpasar. Photo: AFP
The Wibowo biography was not the only source of the lieutenant’s wrath. He was also upset over a poster on a wall at the Australian Special Air Service’s Perth headquarters, which ridiculed Pancasila, the ideology that defines Indonesia as a secular state. The offending poster instead referred to it as Pancagila, the last five letters making the Indonesian word for ‘crazy’, and replaced the five principles of Pancasila with snide references to corruption.
Pancasila made up a big chunk of military instruction during the 32-year rule of President Suharto, something that always bemused foreign officers attending courses at Indonesia’s Army Command and Staff School. One of those officers has a much different view now. “What I saw only partially then, but understood later, was without Pancasila, Indonesia will revert to religion or ethnicity and that means a civil war worse than Aleppo [Syria],” he says.
Pancasila is nowhere near as prominent in Indonesian education as it once was, but Widodo and other political and moderate religious leaders want to change that as they come under mounting pressure from hard-line Muslim groups seeking to turn the country into a Sharia state.
It is ironic then that Pancasila has more relevance in unifying today’s democratic Indonesia than it did under Suharto, the authoritarian who used it as an instrument of power to keep a firm lid on Islamic activism. In that, the Australians would have been well advised to remove the offensive poster – rather than have an overzealous lieutenant turn it into a diplomatic incident. ■
John McBeth is the author of The Loner: President Yudhoyono’s Decade of Trial and Indecision
TUESDAY, 10 JANUARY, 2017 | 21:36 WIB
2) Imparsial Criticizes Defense Program
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial) Al Araf, asserted that the ‘defend the nation’ program initiated by the Defense Ministry is not in accordance with Law No. 3/2002 on Nationa Security (The Law).
Al Araf, quoting Article 9 of the Law, said in a written statement on Tuesday, January 10, 2017, that "referring to the Article, the ‘defend the nation’ program can only be initiated if there is a legal framework [on the program]."
Al Araf argued that the lack of legal framework on the program will resulted in abuse of power. In addition, the program will put unnecessary burden to the State Budget.
Al Araf said that the currently available defense budget is not enough to modernize Indonesia’s primary weapons defense system or to improve soldiers’ welfare. Al Araf added that the two factors are important to establish a highly-trained and professional army.
"If the program uses budget other than the defense budget without proper regulation, it will definitely present possibilities for [budget] misappropriation," Al Araf said.
Al Araf said that the ‘defend the nation’ program should be implemented in the form of increasing public involvement in developing the country by maintain its unity in diversity principle.
3) Indonesia to issue new mining rules this week -minister
(Recasts, adds quotes)
By Wilda Asmarini and Bernadette Christina Munthe
JAKARTA, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Indonesia will issue new rules for miners this week, the mining minister said late on Tuesday, which will cover contracts and permits, exports, taxes, divestment obligations and domestic processing requirements, among other issues.
Indonesia announced in 2014 a ban on ore shipments to push miners to build smelters to process ore locally, but gave some concessions to concentrate producers after protests from the industry. As part of this push, a ban on the export of mineral concentrates from Indonesia is due to kick in on Jan. 12.
Rules now being drafted will allow concentrate shipments to continue beyond that deadline in certain cases, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
The new rules were needed "to clarify agreements on downstream mineral processing and other related matters," Jonan said, referring to directions from President Joko Widodo and rules on domestic processing set out in the 2009 Mining Law.
The rules would have to maximise returns on Indonesia’s natural resources, as mandated in the Constitution, while also considering increasing state revenues and employment opportunities, he said.
"The government hopes for the creation of new work areas," he said. Foreign mine investors would need to divest 51 percent of their holdings "wherever possible," he added.
Traders have been closely watching the situation given Indonesia is a major producer of metals such as copper and nickel.
Any relaxation of Indonesia’s ban on ore exports could impact nickel prices and nickel smelter investors, which have been supported by supply restrictions, including from the Philippines, which took Indonesia’s place as the world’s top nickel ore exporter in 2014.
No mention was made of nickel or bauxite on Tuesday, but Jonan said the new rules would include obligations on domestic processing of low-grade ores. Last month Jonan said the government was considering allowing some nickel ore and bauxite exports.
A change to the existing rules is critical for Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport McMoRan, whose Grasberg operation in Indonesia currently exports around two-thirds of its output as copper concentrate.
Freeport, along with state-controlled PT Aneka Tambang Tbk and other major miners, had lobbied President Joko Widodo’s administration to ease the ban to allow more time for them to build the necessary smelters to process all the ore at home.
A continuation of concentrate exports would be linked to the development of smelters, Jonan said on Tuesday, stopping short of providing details.
In December, the government said Freeport would first need to switch over from its current contract of work (COW) to a special mining licence in order to clinch a new export permit.
This would mean Freeport needs first to agree on new fiscal terms including taxes and royalties among other things, issues that may take longer to resolve.
Freeport’s exports from Indonesia were held up for more than six months in 2014 in a fractious export tax dispute connected to the country’s mining rules, costing Southeast Asia’s top economy more than $1 billion and putting thousands of jobs at risk. [http://reut.rs/2icUZEQ ]
"Hopefully in 1, 2, 3 days this week this will all be finished," Jonan said.
(Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)