Tuesday, August 11, 2009
  A Balanced View?

The media-friendly shootout in Cilacap raises some interesting questions, the possible answers to which I'm going to leave to folk who don't actually live here in Indonesia.

In case you're wondering why, consider this: just because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get me. So, if what I post here reaches the ears of certain military figures, please note that I do nothing other than raise questions because I'm a sceptical observer rather than a bigoted activist and my blog is an attempt to make sense of this fascinating and diverse country.

Who is (was?) Noordin Top?

England have withdrawn from the World Badminton Championships in the Indian city of Hyderabad because of "a specific terrorist threat" against the championships. This might seem to be irrelevant, but consider that the threat comes from Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is Urdu for Soldiers of the Pure, a Pakistan-based organisation fighting against Indian control in Kashmir.

It has been blamed for a number of terrorist incidents in India including the October 2005 bomb attacks in Delhi, which killed more than 60 people, and is alleged to have played a part in the armed raid on the Indian parliament in December 2001. Most recently it was linked with the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, which killed at least 188 people.

Here we have a nationalist group, much like the Basque group ETA and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), fighting for the resolution of a historical cause, in the case of L-e-T dating from the partition of India in 1947.

Noordin Top's operatives don't have a comparable cause.

Peter Beaumont, writing nigh on seven years ago, suggested that a defining element (of the current 'wave' suicide bombers) is a special kind of nihilistic destructiveness born of a psychological malaise widespread among many radicalised and often well-educated young Islamic men who believe that a world dominated by Western political ideals, culture and economics holds nothing for them.

It has created an existential crisis characterised by a narcissistic cult of death and destruction, postmodern in its fascination with technology and the media of communication, that yet utterly rejects all aspects of Western culture.

I've never understood the term 'postmodern', but that aside we are given a rationale for all the recent bombing outrages in Indonesia, from Bali in 2002, to an earlier attack on the JW Marriott Hotel in 2003, to the Australian Embassy in 2004, to last month's hotel bombings. That one of the recent hotel suicide bombers was just 18 or 19 seems to prove his hypothesis.

But that still doesn't explain Noordin Top's motivation.

One can but conjecture; after all, few of us are as satanic as he seems to be (have been?).

One interesting line of thought has it that he is (was?) but a tool of the military, and, in particular, Kopassus, the army's special forces once led by failed vice-presidential candidate, the billionaire self-styled 'friend of the poor', Gen. (ret) Subianto Prabowo.

Noordin generally holed up in the Cilacap area of Central Java, the Kopassus regular training ground.

It is well-known that the army is still clinging on to many of its businesses which have funded their operations over the years. In Green Indonesia, I showed the links between the army, a conglomerate which fronts for it, and the political élite (of all the major political groups) and agri-business.

It is also public knowledge that there are factions within the army which are not happy with former general SBY as the current and future President. Earlier this year they formed a group called, in rough English, 'Anyone but SBY' (ABS), an effort doomed to failure as he was perceived as being 'better than the rest'.

During his press conference shortly after the hotel bombings, he alluded to a plot against him, apparently to prevent him taking office for a second time. The majority of the poulation presumed that he was making a pre-emptive strike against Prabowo. Could the cell of bombers wiped out in Bekasi have been part of that plot?

One could go further with this line of thought. For example, what is the connection between the military and Freeport in Papua? Given that Freeport is a major American corporation, could there be a tie-in with the US-Indonesia Society, a ... group launched in 1994 and backed by the military - Gen. Prabowo was one of its key sponsors, US corporations and former government officials?

The FBI and the Indonesian police believed that the military were behind the killing of three American teachers in Papua in 2002, and considered to be an attempt to discredit the Free Papua Movement (OPM)

Furthermore, it was alleged in 2002 that the Indonesian military and government figures had links with terror groups.

So, my main question is this: has a renegade military group, and Kopassus in particular, been using Noordin Top for its own nefarious purposes?

In the aftermath of the weekend's telethon, another issue is emerging. Having scared the wits out of the farmers and kin dwelling near Noordin Top's supposed hideout, it's now being suggested that this has all been a dramatic display to bolster SBY's image.

That's as maybe, but it could be that he's bolstering his international credentials as I can't see that he's lost much, if any, credibility with the 60% of the electorate who recently voted for him.

However, domestically, he's made one quite worrying decision.

The raids on various hideouts have been carried out by the police who have only been distinct from the army for five years or so. There is still incomplete co-ordination between the multifarious intelligence agencies. SBY has stated that military intelligence should have a role in monitoring 'terrorist' activities in 30 provinces, a decision which can only remind adults of the dwi-fungsi role of the army back in the days of Suharto's autocratic rule, when dissension was verboten, often on pain of torture and/or disappearance.

Given that SBY doesn't have to face the electorate again, he is 'free' to make his mark on the future direction of Indonesian society. One must hope, pray even, that we are not about to see a return to authoritarian rule by a former general.

I am indebted to Aangirfan for many of the links in this post.


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