INDONESIA’s government is demanding a full explanation for why its powerful military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo was rejected from flying to the United States on Saturday.
Gatot was scheduled to fly to Washington DC to attend a conference on countering violent extremism upon the invitation from chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr, before he was prevented from boarding his Emirates flight.
In a statement on Sunday, the US embassy in Jakarta said that “the Embassy was, and remains, prepared to facilitate the General’s travel to the United States.”
“We remain committed to our Strategic Partnership with Indonesia as a way to deliver security and prosperity to both our nations and peoples.”
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis apologised for the incident to his Indonesian counterpart, Ryamizard Ryacudu, on the sidelines of an Asean meeting in the Philippines, and the two were photographed shaking hands.
Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the Indonesian government was still awaiting a detailed explanation as to why Gatot was prevented from boarding the flight.
Yup. The incident involving entry denial to Gatot—which we now know wasn’t a “glitch”—has now become a political/bilateral fallout 🤦🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/fNUqK3Nz5v
— Evan A. Laksmana (@EvanLaksmana) October 24, 2017
“We conveyed that we still await clarification, an explanation why this happened,” Retno told reporters after meeting the deputy US ambassador in Jakarta on Monday.
“There is a sense of urgency to this that we have conveyed to them,” she said, adding that American officials were “trying to coordinate with relevant authorities in the US to find out what really happened.”
Early in the week, banners appeared on the streets of Jakarta calling for Americans to go home and for the US ambassador to be deported.
Gatot scandal: 'Go Home Americans!' Wonder if they paid extra for the rush job. pic.twitter.com/U8vzg0008o
— Adam Harvey (@adharves) October 23, 2017
General Gatot has frequently courted controversy in Indonesia, actively promoting the notion that the country is besieged by “proxy wars” involving foreign states and even a renewed communist threat.
Early in 2017, he was personally responsible for temporarily suspending defence cooperation with Australia after material alleged to insult Indonesia’s state ideology of Pancasila was found at an Australian army base.
Acting without the prior approval of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the politically ambitious general then caused a major impasse with Indonesia’s closest neighbour.
Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, generally enjoys good ties with the US. But ties have sometimes been strained over American resource companies operating in Indonesia or alleged rights abuses involving Indonesia’s military.
Additional reporting by Reuters