A variety of civil society groups have sent flower boards to the Jakarta Military Command (Kodam Jaya) headquarters in Cililitan, East Jakarta, to thank the Indonesian Military (TNI) for removing banners supporting Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab.
However, activists have questioned the military’s perceived involvement in civilian matters by removing the offending banners.
Dozens of flower boards bearing messages of appreciation on November 23 lined the fence surrounding Kodam Jaya, reported kompas.com.
“Bravo Pangdam Jaya [Kodam Jaya commander], the best for the people, the best for the Indonesian Military,” read one flower board from a group calling itself Benteng NKRI, the fortress of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.
Another flower board from the ITS Alumni read: “Thank you to the TNI for taking stern action by removing banners that caused public unrest.”
Kodam Jaya commander Major General Dudung Abdurachman said the messages of appreciation were addressed to not just the TNI, but also other institutions like the National Police, the Jakarta Metropolitan Police and the Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP), which he said had helped to remove the banners.
“Now that the situation is safer, public aspiration will improve,” Dudung said on November 22 as quoted by kompas.com.
Earlier, the commander said he had ordered his subordinates to take down all banners in the capital that depicted the firebrand cleric, as the banners had no permits and thus violated public order.
He also related that the Jakarta Satpol PP had initially removed the banners, only for FPI supporters to replace them later, which had prompted the military to remove them permanently.
“Over the past two months, a joint team from the [Jakarta] Satpol PP, the National Police and the TNI has been taking down the banners. But the FPI keeps asking us to reinstall them. Who are they? Why should the government be afraid of them?” said Dudung.
He added that since late in September, the joint team had taken down almost 900 banners in the capital that referred to the controversial cleric.
Kodam Jaya spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Herwin Budi alleged that the banners supporting Rizieq incited public disorder, as some called for a “moral revolution”.
“What’s wrong in Indonesia that there is a [need for] a moral revolution? The content [of the banners] is provocative,” said Herwin.
Despite the dozens of flower boards and their messages of appreciation from civil groups, activists have questioned the TNI’s move, criticising the military for intervening to deal with “the antics” of the cleric and his supporters.
Pro-democracy activist Gufron Mabruri of human rights monitor Imparsial said that the perceived military intervention could intimidate the public.
“What is so urgent that the TNI had to become involved in taking down the FPI’s banners? This could intimidate the people and imply that the country is at risk of being torn apart and descending into chaos because of the provocative actions of a few,” Ghufron said.
Researcher Khairul Fahmi from the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies shared a similar view.
“The military should not be as aggressive as it was this past week. It should not insinuate that the country is under serious threat. There should not be any overlap in authorities and functions between state organisations,” he said.
The Jakarta Post/ASIA NEWS NETWORK