Subject: SMH: Should the military be on the list of Bali suspects?

Should the military be on the list of suspects?

Sydney Morning Herald/Age October 17, 2002

By Hamish McDonald

Although the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has dismissed the line of suspicion as "silly", some officials in his entourage must have wondered as they did the rounds of Indonesian military and police chiefs in Jakarta yesterday how clean were some of the hands they were shaking.

There is a long history of political manipulators within the Indonesian armed forces, or TNI, playing with the fire of Islamic extremism and staging incidents of terrorism.

There is also the institution itself carrying out state terror as in Aceh, Ambon and East Timor - either directly or through militia proxies.

David Jenkins, a journalist, recalled the Machiavellian use of former Darul Islam fanatics by the intelligence chief Ali Murtopo during ex-president Soeharto's New Order, leading to acts of terror, such as the 1980 hijacking of a Garuda Airlines jet, that were used to justify political crackdowns.

The bombings that hit Jakarta in the second half of 2000 included a car-bomb explosion outside the home of the Philippines ambassador, which killed two people, and a huge car-bomb blast in the underground car park of the Jakarta Stock Exchange, which killed 15 people and for which two members of the army special forces or Kopassus received jail terms.

The explosive used in at least one of these bombings was C-4, the charge used in the Sari nightclub bombing. It is widely used by armies and terror groups, such as in the al-Qaeda boat attack on the destroyer USS Cole.

If the Bali explosive is traced by some chemical signature to stocks held by the TNI, the possibility still remains it could have been obtained by al-Qaeda or the South-East Asian network of Jemaah Islamiah from sympathisers or corrupt elements within the military. Once obtained, getting a large amount of C-4 into a parked car in Kuta would not have required any special logistical or security assistance.

President, Megawati Soekarnoputri's 14 months in office have seen several blows at entrenched New Order or "status-quo" forces.

The heaviest was the four-year jail term recently given to the parliamentary speaker and Golkar party chief, Akbar Tanjung, who remains in his posts while his case is under appeal. Another has been the constitutional changes which will end the TNI's special representation in the legislature in a couple of years.

Jakarta's failure of accountability for the atrocities in Timor remains a huge obstacle to resumed military ties with the Americans. The TNI's image is also tarnished by the evident backing of its Strategic Reserve Command and other elements for the Laskar Jihad, a force of several thousand young Islamic fanatics set against the Christian communities in the Moluccan islands and in the coastal towns of Papua.

What is emerging as the deliberate staging by Kopassus soldiers of a freedom fighter "ambush" last month near the Freeport mine at Timika, Papua, seems to have been the first deliberate targeting of foreigners. Three schoolteachers, two American and one Indonesian, were murdered.

The upsurge in Laskar Jihad activity and the Timika murders follow the posting as Papuan regional military commander of Major-General Mahidin Simbolon, who was a key figure in orchestrating the East Timor violence in 1999.

The promptness with which the Laskar Jihad announced on Tuesday it was disbanding and withdrawing from Ambon only serves to illustrate the degree to which it was inspired from above.

The Bali bombing may well have been solely the work of Islamic extremists, rather than an effort by the "status-quo" forces to undermine Megawati or bring US support back to the TNI.

If foreign support is directed not just to the hunt for terrorists, but behind a decisive cleaning-up of the TNI, Indonesia and our region will be made more secure.


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