Indonesian Reaction to its Military Chief Travel ban by United States

Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. with Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo. Photo by: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (ViaNews) – Most Indonesians keep wondering about the reasons behind the U.S. ban on Indonesia’s Military Head. General Gatot Nurmantyo was denied entry to the United States a week ago and the U.S administration has already issued a formal apology. Despite that, lingering questions persist regarding the sudden decision to refuse entry to the general.

General Nurmantyo was planning to travel to Washington with his wife and delegation. He was invited to attend a conference on countering extremism on 23 and 24 October.

Nurmantyo’s presence was at the invitation of General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. But suddenly something happened. Just a moment before departing, the Emirates informed that the general had been denied entry by The US Customs and Border Protection.

According to Indonesia’s military spokesman, Major General Wuryanto, there was a notice from the airline that Nurmantyo was not allowed to visit the U.S despite obtaining a visa.

The US Custom and Border Protection Agency is a body with full authority to allow or ban goods or people to and from entering the country.

The U.S embassy in Indonesia admitted having an “administrative error” and apologised for the inconvenience. The Indonesian government still demands further clarification.

Aaron Connelly, a researcher from Lowy Institute, concluded that it was uncommon for a country to ban high-ranked military officials. Therefore, an administrative error was the most logical reason. The immigration should have informed the airline that Nurmantyo and his delegation should be allowed in the county.

History of Travel Bans on Indonesian Generals

Some of the Indonesian generals are still on the US blacklist due to human rights violations in the past (notably during the reform era in 1998 and East Timor). For example, Prabowo Subianto, Wiranto (the current Minister of Politics, Law, and Security), and Sjafrie Sjamsoedin. Nurmantyo himself is not blacklisted.

Other Speculations Behind The Ban

Social media reacted uncontrollably. From ordinary citizens to politicians and experts keep speculating about the reason why the U.S blocked Nurmantyo’s visit while he was already at the airport.

Tubagus Hasanudin, an Indonesian politician from the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) assumed that the reason which prevented Nurmantyo from attending the conference was politically motivated. According to Jakarta’s news publication Merdeka, Fahri Hamzah, the House of Representative Deputy Speaker raised a suspicion that the U.S had a hidden agenda, especially in the political years of 2018-2019. In addition, the U.S classified documents stating that the Indonesian Military was responsible for the 1965 genocide in an attempt to curb communism may contribute to the issuance of the travel ban.

Is Nurmantyo a feared figure by the West? According to ABC Australia, Nurmantyo was reported as being “deeply suspicious of the US and Australia.” The New York Times, as they quoted from Reuters, argued that Nurmantyo kept raising the West’s proxy war against Indonesia. He’s also considered one of the potential presidential candidates in the upcoming 2019 election.

What should both countries do?

The U.S has apologised for blocking Nurmantyo from entering the country. Indonesia has confirmed that the ban doesn’t affect both countries’ relationship.

Indonesia and the U.S have a warm relationship, and both play a vital role in stabilising the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, the ties must be reflected in the way they respect each other.

Indonesians are looking forward to receiving a clarification from the U.S administration (who’s still investigating the case) and the government is expected to take a tough act on the Trump’s administration.

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