Proxy wars? Indonesia’s generals invent a shadowy new threat

Warren Doull

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Proxy wars? Indonesia’s generals invent a shadowy new threat


Could the threat of 'foreign proxies' replace the Suharto-era threat of communism?

Since 2014 a new ideology has been rising in Indonesia. “Fear of foreign proxies” emphasizes that Indonesia is threatened by proxy wars.

According to Indonesian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, the “proxies” to be feared by Indonesians include what appear to be shadowy organizations that defy identification but nonetheless constitute an unspecified but growing threat – small countries, NGOs, civil society organizations, mass media or individuals, acting as stand-ins for more powerful hidden entities to attack Indonesia’s interests.

These threats, Gatot implied, could include Indonesian organizations and individuals. In fact, his list seemed to include most organizations that might demand accountability from the rapidly consolidating power of the oligarchy. As “fear of foreign proxies” spreads, these organizations or individuals may find it more difficult to criticize corruption, environmental pillaging and trampling of marginal ethnic groups because oligarchies may label them as proxies for foreign interests.

Could this new ideology be manipulated by Indonesia’s elites to consolidate their growing power and block dissent? Could the threat of foreign proxies replace the Suharto-era threat of communism, allowing Indonesia’s oligarchs to brand dissenters as “proxies?”

'SOCIALIZATION'. A conference organized by the Indonesian army in Bandar Lampung on October 23, 2014 on the role of the youth in facing the 'proxy war'. Photo from the TNI website.

In April 2014, Gen. Gatot told university students in Bandung that “proxy wars” present a growing threat to Indonesia and that Indonesian youth have a role to play in defending against them. Since the election of President Joko Widodo, this ideology has been gaining momentum. In September 2014, Gatot warned students in Yogyakarta about the threats. In early October 2014, Hanura parliamentarian Dr. Susaningtyas Kertopati joined him.

In mid-October 2014, Gatot was spreading the ideology to eastern Indonesia. He told university students in Ambon that the spread of narcotics into Indonesia was part of an international conspiracy to destroy the country. Then he continued on to Merauke and told Papuans that oil interests had used a proxy war in 1999 to separate Timor-Leste from Indonesia. At the end of October, he was telling university students in Bali that foreign interests might seek to restrict development and education. Similarly in October 2014, other military officials ran a seminar in Lampung titled “the role of youth in facing proxy wars.”

In 2015, the military campaign against “proxies” has continued right across Indonesia. A major ideological campaign is underway.  

Why is this campaign being run now?  

With the KPK’s neutralization, NGOs and civil society organizations are two remaining voices to hold the oligarchs accountable. What may have started as a well-intentioned campaign by the military may well be soon manipulated by elites to less nationalistic purposes. –

This is an excerpt of the piece published by Asia Sentinel. Read the full article here.



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