Extremists ‘threaten Indonesia’s security’

A TOP military general has warned of threats from extremist and radical groups which could undermine Indonesia’s national security.

Commander of the elite Special Forces (Kopassus), Maj-Gen Prabowo Subianto, said that these groups had strong Marxist and communist leanings with the potential to wreak havoc in the country.

He said in a recent interview with the Indonesian weekly magazine, Gatra: “They hate the establishment. They are unhappy with the success of the New Order government because it has not given them a chance to play out their roles according to their ideology.”

He said that documents seized by the military from various such groups showed that they were inclined towards organising mass demonstrations. They were also targeting the country’s poor.

Maj-Gen Prabowo, who is President Suharto’s son-in-law, added: “They want to bring down the government and divide this country by using class theory.”

He added that these groups, although numbering between only 1,000 and 2,000 people per 10 million in Jakarta, were “well organised”. He said: “They could damage buildings and private property and cause massive traffic jams.”

He added it was likely that they were receiving training from non-governmental organisations in organising strikes and inciting sectors of the population. Like extremist groups in other countries, there was evidence that they were arming themselves with molotov cocktails and other weapons.

Maj-Gen Prabowo’s comments echo calls by senior officers, including armed forces chief Feisal Tanjung and chief of socio-political affairs Syarwan Hamid, over the past year for greater vigilance against leftist and communist elements operating in Indonesia.

Last July, the security forces detained several members of the People’s Democratic Party for subversive activities and linked them to the banned Indonesian Communist Party.

In the Gatra interview, Maj-Gen Prabowo also touched on the recent riots in the country and the military’s response to them.

He stressed that it was not right to blame the security apparatus for failing to anticipate such problems.

He said: “The rioters are trained agitators who are looking for gaps to divide society. It will be a challenge for the military to seek out these groups and destroy them.”

He noted that a “flexible fighting force” like the Kopassus could play a bigger role in low-intensity conflicts if there was ethnic violence in the country.

Last year, Kopassus was expanded from 6,000 personnel to its current strength of 10,000. Kopassus task forces are deployed in East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya.

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