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Indonesia military denies Ahok protests part of army-backed plot to oust Jokowi

Asian Correspondent - April 22, 2017

From the ashes of the recent Jakarta poll has arisen a story of an insidious behind-the-scenes campaign to overthrow Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, but the country's military, whose members have been linked to the plot, has quickly moved to stop its spread.

On Friday, The Jakarta Post quoted a statement from the military denying the campaign allegedly backed by US President Donald Trump's Indonesian associates, retired and current army generals and a local Islamic hardliner movement.

The statement also said local news site Tirto would be reported to the police for republishing an Indonesian version of the story that first appeared earlier this week in The Intercept, a US-based independent online magazine that publishes stories from whistleblower sources.

Tirto, said the military, should be "investigated and proceeded against in line with existing laws" for publishing a story that was either "not true" or a "hoax".

In The Intercept story, Indonesia-based journalist Allan Cairn [sic – should be Nairn] claimed to be in possession of numerous intelligence reports that he said, along with interviews he conducted, pointed to the existence of such a plot against Jokowi.

He wrote that apart from retired and current army generals and the IS-linked hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (PFI), prominent supporters of the movement simply called "the coup" include Fadli Zon, vice speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives, and Hary Tanoe, Trump's business partner who is building two Trump resorts in the country.

Most notably, he claimed many in the know have dismissed the movement against Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and the stirring of religious hatred over the Christian governor's blasphemy slip-up last year as mere pretext for a larger objective, specifically:

"Sidelining the country's president, Jokowi, and helping the army avoid consequences for its mass killings of civilians – such as the 1965 massacres that were endorsed by the US government, which armed and backed the Indonesian military."

Citing an interview with retired Gen Kivlan Zein Kivlan, the man who helped FPI organise last year's anti-Ahok protest, Cairn wrote the blasphemy case was merely a "gift" that came along at an opportune time.

He said he was surprised by Kivlan's offhanded remark that Ahok's comments regarding the Quran – the comment that led to his blasphemy trial – were merely a "slip of the tongue".

"The required public stance of movement leaders was to claim to be forever wounded by Ahok's remark asking people not to be deceived by rivals trying to use a Quranic verse against him.

"But here was one of them," Cairn wrote, referring to Kivlan, "with a small smile – acknowledging that strategically Ahok's statement was welcome, because it had enabled the FPI and its sponsors to shift the balance of power inside the state, elevate themselves from street killers to theologians, and alter the cultural climate to boot.

"And here he was, accepting that the fateful remark was 'a slip of the tongue'."

Another interviewee of Cairn's reportedly backed the claim. Retired Adm Soleman Ponto, who is not a supporter of the so-called coup movement, said the Ahok issue was merely a religious hook to gain mass support but, "Jokowi is their final destination."

As a result of the protests against Ahok and a fatigued campaign, the minority Christian governor lost the Jakarta poll on Wednesday, conceding defeat to rival Anies Baswedan, a successful businessman backed by Hary.

Cairn also cited five Indonesian intelligence reports discussing the source of FPI's funds, one of which claimed some originated from Tommy Suharto, the son of former dictator Suharto. Kivlan, wrote the journalist, confirmed this to be true.

Another report said some funds came from Trump's billionaire business partner Hary. Cairn claimed he sat with several of the movement's key figures who said Hary was one of their most important supporters.

A third report said FPI's funds came from former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). SBY, however, has denied this.

On the movement's likely overthrow tactic, Cairn quoted Soleman saying it would not be an army assault on the palace in a straight coup d'etat but more a "a coup d'etat by law".

The possible scenarios are that FPI-led protestors would enter palace and congress grounds and set up camp there until someone made them leave. The army would then "do nothing" and let the president fall.

Another possibility is that the FPI-led rallies would get out of hand and the army would then step in to assume control. This particular scenario, Cairn wrote, was painted to him in finer detail during on-the-record interviews he had with movement leaders Ustad Muhammad Khattath and Haji Usamah Hisyam.

Asian Correspondent has not been able to verify the credibility of The Intercept's report.

According to Cairn, however, "This account of the movement to overthrow President Jokowi is based on dozens of interviews and is supplemented by internal army, police and intelligence documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Many sources on both sides of the coup spoke on condition of anonymity. Two of them expressed apparently well-founded concerns about their safety."

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/04/indonesia-military-denies-ahok-protests-part-army-backed-plot-oust-jokowi/