TNI suspected of role in Bali bombings

Issue 

BY GRAHAM MATTHEWS

MELBOURNE — Some 400 people on October 23 attended a forum on the Bali bombings. It was organised by Asialink and was also simulcast on Radio National and was addressed by academics Arief Budiman, Merle Ricklefs and Tim Lindsey, as well as Greg Fergin, political counsellor for the US embassy.

“There is bound to be some link to the [Indonesian] military, not the high command necessarily but rogue elements within it”, Lindsay declared. He explained that the Indonesian military (TNI) excelled at using bands of militia, disaffected youth and thugs to achieve its goals. This was evident in East Timor in 1999 and as early as 1965 when it organised gangs to attack left-wing activists and sympathisers. “International intervention” might be crucial to ensure that the government of Megawati Sukarnoputri does not fall victim to the TNI's tactics, Lindsay said.

Budiman argued that the TNI stood to gain from the blasts, as did the US and its pro-war agenda. “From the professionalism of the blasts, we think that international terrorists or the military were behind them”, he said.

While the TNI's role in Indonesian politics has been gradually reduced — the military stands to lose its parliamentary representation in 2004 — it remains “the strongest political institution” in the country, Budiman explained. In contrast, “radical Islam” was a negligible part of the Indonesian political landscape.

Ricklefs warned that Jemaah Islamiyah and other radical Islamic groups could be linked to the TNI. Realising that it was a suspect in the minds of many Indonesians, Ricklefs noted, the military has officially denied involvement in the blasts.

Fergin was heavily criticised for his promise that the US would be pumping tens of millions of dollars into “training and education” of the Indonesian police and military. Host Peter Mares argued that “the military was the greatest source of terror for many Indonesians, especially for those living in Aceh and West Papua”.

Fergin said it was important to continue to “engage” with the TNI. Mares retorted that decades of “engagement” by Australian and US governments had not made an impact on its human rights abuses.

Mares said the key to defeating terrorism was to strengthen the democratic structures in Indonesia and “work with the mass of the largely liberal Indonesian Muslims”.

From Green Left Weekly, October 30, 2002.
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