Posts made in March, 2018

The Maluku Civil War: Military and Political Exploitation

Posted by on Mar 25, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Maluku Civil War: Military and Political Exploitation

The late-1998 to early-2002 Maluku conflict marked the most significant convergence between military and Islamic interests since the 1965-1966 upheaval, when army units and Muslim vigilantes teamed to eradicate hundreds of thousands of suspected communists. In Maluku, and later Central Sulawesi, New Order hard-liners and military recidivists sought to undermine the country’s democratic government. Their interests coincided with the fundamentalist Muslim goal to create an Islamic State, rather than a pluralist, secular democracy. As they had done in the past, shady New Order figures manipulated Islamic emotions, this time evoking fears of a Christian conspiracy to create an independent state in eastern Indonesia. Muslim politicians, Soeharto cronies, and a diverse group of military officers provided funds, training, logistic support and a degree of direction to the jihad groups. It was hardly a coincidence that many jihad fighters in Maluku and Central Sulawesi had earlier participated in General Wiranto’s Volunteer Security Force (Pam Swakarsa) in Jakarta. The involvement by provocateurs, the influx of Muslim fighters and use of military weapons increased casualties and prolonged the conflict. Appointed by President Abdurrahman Wahid in October 1999, Professor Juwono Sudarsono was Indonesia’s first civilian Defense Minister in over forty years. In a remarkable interview published in July 2000, Pak Juwono charged rogue officers were provoking the Maluku conflict – and suggested former President Soeharto’s supporters sought to destabilize the Wahid government and divert attention from New Order wrongdoing: There are also indications that they are associated with former President Soeharto and B.J. Habibie’s cronies. … Let’s just describe the problem as one involving certain army personnel, because although the command structure and commanders have changed, there are many from the ancient regime still filling lower positions. The Army should get rid of these soldiers. … The problems in Maluku started in January 1999. Back then there should already have been military action, but people complained that the military might take excessive measures. Now that we have decreed a state of civil emergency, we are condemned again. … There must be financial support from Jakarta, that’s why we have to cut off the links with this cancer. … The Ministry of Defense is not directly in charge of the chain of command. I cannot order them around … both the Minister of Defense and the military chiefs are subordinates of the President. We are equals. All I can give is advice and policy inputs. [1] The performance by security forces in Maluku was dreadful from the start. Armed Forces Headquarters (under General Wiranto and Admiral Widodo) did little to stop senior officers from meddling in the conflict. TNI did not deploy adequate forces or its most capable units to Maluku, ostensibly due to commitments for the 1999 national elections and the disastrous East Timor consultation. That strategic error allowed the conflict to escalate. The police and army units were handcuffed as military and political elements exploited the conflict to serve their own interests. Such blatant political meddling inhibited security forces from taking firm action against jihad groups until finally in 2002 President Megawati, Generals Endriartono Sutarto and Ryamizard Ryacudu made a political commitment to...

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