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The Indonesian military and terrorism.

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Friday 12 September 2003

Bruce Haigh, former diplomat


The Indonesian Military and Terrorism  


Analysis of the factors contributing to acts of terror, particularly in our region, has ignored the historical, cultural, social, political and religious environment in which these acts have taken place. 


Fanatical adherence to Islam has been an easy concept for the media and other commentators to latch onto as an explanation of the causes of terrorism. 


It is similar to subscribing to the theory of monolithic communism during the Cold War. Certainly the various communist parties around the world gave more than lip service to the political theory that underpinned organised communism. There were varying degrees of co-operation between communist organisations within the broad framework of fighting capitalism. 


However the differences between communist parties and states were marked.  

Much to its cost America discovered that Vietnamese communism had as much to do with nationalism as it did with a more equitable distribution of wealth.  


In Indonesia in the early 1960’s the Army and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) maintained a loose balance of power under President Sukarno. The balance was destroyed in September 1965.Six generals were kidnapped by the PKI and killed in a coup attempt crushed by General Soeharto. The army used the opportunity to consolidate its hold on power in the process killing over 500 000 PKI members and supporters of Sukarno. 


Under President Soeharto the military (TNI) consolidated their hold on power. With the collapse of the Soeharto regime in 1998 the TNI lost power and status, compounded by the election of Megawati. 


The TNI remains angry and resentful at is fall from grace. Australia is seen as having played a role in the humiliation of the TNI over East Timor. 


The TNI has been linked to Islamic extremists involved in bombings in Jakarta and was instrumental in the training and arming of more than 1000 Islamic radicals sent to Malukas to carry out acts of terrorism in 1999-2000. 


The TNI formed and backed the militia in East Timor prior to Independence and it is training and supporting members of the Islamic Laskar Jihad against Papuan separatists. Members of Kopassus were involved in the murder of Freeport mine employees in 2002.Aceh is presently subjected to repressive military operations. 


The TNI maintains a large network of informers. Religious and other organisations do not exist in isolation from the military. University lecturers, journalists, army officers, businessmen, doctors, lawyers and skilled tradesmen are members of or have close contact with fundamental Islamic groups and with individuals who are members of these groups including Jemaah Islamiah (JI).  


The Indonesian police have alleged that the method of attack and the substances used in the recent Marriott attack were the same as that employed in the Bali bombing. If JI was responsible it could mean that it has a more extensive and sophisticated network than investigations over Bali uncovered. This implies a need for protection. The TNI is in a position to provide assistance.  


It is difficult to believe that the TNI did not have some knowledge of the Bali and Marriott bombings. If it did not know then its influence has been significantly undermined which would be of concern to the TNI, yet the TNI does not demonstrate concern.  


The TNI and JI have common cause in seeking the overthrow of Megawati - JI and other fundamental groups in the establishment of an Islamic state and the TNI in regaining the position it enjoyed under Soeharto. 


It is said that the AFP, are aware of TNI involvement. Why then do they not make this public? Could it be that this information is being suppressed against the possibility that the TNI might be successful and that it will move against JI and other fundamental groups just as it did against the PKI. An outcome approved of by the US and Australia in 1965 just as it might be now. 


Both Bush and Howard see Megawati and her government as weak particularly in terms of the war against terror, which now dominates the foreign policy of both men.  


Guests on this program:


Bruce Haigh  

Former diplomat  

Worked for Dept of Foreign Affairs between 1972 and 1994, running the Indonesia desk from 1983 to 1985