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Legislator: FPI has the military backing
Hans David Tampubolon and Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Mataram
The police are reluctant to get tough with the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI) group because of its ties to the Indonesian Military (TNI), a legislator says.
“There is information saying the FPI is a pet of the TNI, and the police hesitate to deal face-to-face with the military, because police consider the armed forces their elder brother,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari, an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician.
She added the FPI was originally established to accommodate the interests of hard-line Muslim groups that had suffered from oppression by the government during the New Order era.
“The organization is now part of the conflict management strategy the TNI exercises to maintain its power. The FPI serves as a stepping stone for the military to re-enter politics,” she said.
It was a blatant accusation of the military’s role in supporting the FPI, which is known for anti-vice raids executed under the pretext of enforcing of Islamic law. Most recently, FPI members raided and dissolved a discussion on a health bill in the East Java town of Banyuwangi last Thursday between PDI-P members of the House of Representatives’ Commission IX on people’s welfare.
Commission head Ribka Tjiptaning, also from the PDI-P, filed a report with National Police against the FPI on Monday and demanded the group’s dissolution and a probe of the Banyuwangi police chief’s decision to allow hard-liners to break up the event.
Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. I Wayan Midhio said Tuesday that the accusation was groundless and denied a link between the TNI and the FPI.
“TNI does not have a pet. TNI is a group of professional soldiers who obey the law. Since the reform era, TNI has focused on professionalism,” he said.
On Monday, a caucus consisting House legislators from various parties said that the government, TNI and Home Affairs Ministry were responsible for the birth of the FPI and demanded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to exercise his authority and dissolve the group.
Eva said government favoritism of the FPI was evident in a lack of follow-up actions against the group, despite its acts of violence.
“In 2008, [Yudhoyono] looked as if he had enough of the FPI and called for a coordination meeting between several institutions, such as the TNI, police, and Home Affairs Ministry. However, the meeting failed to generate a significant outcome,” Eva said. Yudhoyono’s decision came in response to an attack by members of FPI and other hard-line Muslim groups on freedom of religion supporters who rallied in defense of Ahmadiyah followers at the National Monument in Central Jakarta on June 1, 2008, she added.
“After the meeting, the Home Ministry said the FPI could not be dissolved because it had never been listed with the ministry. However, I found out the FPI was indeed on the list. This means the ministry also has blood on their hands,” she added.
Eva said the FPI was registered under Home Ministry Decree No. 69/ D111.3/VIII/2006.
Home Ministry spokesman Saut Situmorang said that the FPI had been listed as a mass organization and that there were procedures that must be followed to dissolve an organization.
“We need to secure the Supreme Court’s approval to disband a mass organization,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Edward Aritonang said Tuesday the police do not have the authority to dissolve a mass organization such as the FPI.