Abri denies involvement in polls campaign violence
THE Indonesian Armed Forces (Abri) has denied any involvement in the country’s election violence, suggesting instead that the banned People’s Democratic Party (PRD) was behind the recent unrest.
Giving his assessment of the violence, Abri’s chief of socio-political affairs, Lieutenant-General Syarwan Hamid, hit out at any notion that the military was profiting from the chaos.
“That is naive and simply does not make sense,” news reports yesterday quoted him as saying. He said that if Abri wanted to create trouble, “all we have to do is sleep for two days”.
“Every day our soldiers are in the field showing patience and restraint. No one has died because of an Abri shooting,” he stressed, adding that “our soldiers are in the field to find the wisest ways to safeguard the election”.
Military analysts and diplomats said that his rebuttal was in response to rumours and conspiracy theories circulating in Jakarta that the military had “engineered” the unrest.
“One theory is that Abri starts the fire and puts it out so that Indonesians will continue to be dependent on them for security,” said one diplomat.
Another conspiracy theory is that military-sponsored elements had infiltrated the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) to stir-up problems at rallies. The apparent aim is to destroy PPP’s credibility and gain political capital for the ruling Golkar party.
Analysts, however, doubted if Abri had any “vested interests” in creating problems.
Noted political observer Dr Salim Said said: “Conspiracy theories are always sexy. But the difficulty is proving them. It seems illogical that a pro-establishment organisation like Abri would want to bring down the government.
“In this instance, it is very clear that leftist elements in the form of the PRD are behind the recent violence. The PRD is also probably circulating rumours that the military is responsible for the riots.”
Last July, security forces detained several PRD members for subversive activities and linked them to the banned Indonesian Communist Party. Nine PRD members, including its leader Budiman Sudjatmiko, were in jail but sources said many members were still involved in political activities.
A senior Indonesian military intelligence officer said that many PRD activists had gone “underground”, making them difficult to trace.
Lt-Gen Syarwan said on Tuesday that Abri had evidence linking the PRD to the campaigns. “There are indications that the PRD has sparked all the riots. Their objective is to spoil the general election,” he said. He indicated that the violence pointed to PRD’s involvement.
The military had also learned of a series of meetings to foil the polls. Leaflets found during the campaign endorsed some of the PRD’s aims such as replacing the current government and repealing political laws. He said that PRD members were disseminating malicious rumours to stir trouble.