Power Politics and the Indonesian Military

Power Politics and the Indonesian Military

Power Politics and the Indonesian Military

Power Politics and the Indonesian Military

Synopsis

Throughout the postwar history of Indonesia, the military has played a key role in the politics of the country. Based on extensive research, this book examines the role of the military historically, the different ways it is involved in politics, and considers how the role of the military might develop in what is still an uncertain future.

Excerpt

We were woken shortly after midnight by gunfire coming from just across the empty block of land next to our house that, all of a sudden, seemed awfully exposed. the small group in the house quickly gathered in the most secure room, barricaded the window with a cupboard, gathered lengths of timber to use as clubs, and sat in the dark and waited as the gunfire rang on the high, eerie wind. Each of us later admitted that night, trapped deep in our own thoughts, we believed we were going to die.

The heavily armed police who were supposed to protect us had disappeared early that evening, the first ominous sign that things were not right. in the morning, one of our group left the town with a large group from another house. There was, he noted, no safety. Within three days, another of our group had descended into a deep psychological breakdown, unable to function, hardly able to speak. the hot morning wind blew down the town's deserted main street, the only people left being the United Nations workers, soldiers, the ever-present, often violent and increasingly surly militiamen, and a handful of accredited observers. the police had retreated to their headquarters, reluctant to come out. Within a week, their headquarters was the site of a wholesale massacre of dozens of innocent civilians, and the town was in the process of being completely razed. the time was East Timor's referendum on independence, in 1999, and the town was Maliana, near the West Timor border. It was a place of fear and, disturbingly, was typical of much of that territory at that time.

There are few - if any - human responses that are as gripping or as potentially overwhelming as fear. Real fear has a physical as well as psychological quality: the body is confused, at once both deadened and too responsive. It is a precursor to blind panic, or immobilisation. I have seen people across Indonesia expressing fear, in ways that make their behaviour seem irrational or which have at times locked them into a passive acceptance of violence. I have seen such fear in East Timor and West Timor, in Aceh, West Papua, Ambon and Central Sulawesi, and among ethnic Chinese, as well as among citizens of Jakarta and Java. I know that fear exists, or has existed, in many other places besides. There was real fear in South Sumatra when soldiers massacred more than a hundred women and children near

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