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Indonesia demands answers after top general denied entry to US

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 October, 2017, 10:32pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 October, 2017, 10:32pm

Indonesia intends to send a diplomatic note to the US secretary of state and summon Washington’s deputy ambassador in Jakarta to explain why the head of its military was denied entry to the United States, Indonesian officials said on Sunday.

Armed Forces Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo was about to board a flight on Saturday when the airline told him that the US Customs and Border Protection had denied him entry, military spokesman Wuryanto told a news conference in Jakarta.

Nurmantyo was going to the US at the invitation of General Joseph Dunford Jnr, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, to attend a Chiefs of Defence Conference on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington this week, Wuryanto said.

It was not clear why he was stopped from entering the US, Wuryanto said, adding that the general did not have any problem during his visit to the US in February 2016.

“We’ve asked for clarification to the US, to the Department of State as well as the embassy in Jakarta and until now we’re still waiting for that clarification,” Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said.

The ministry’s spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir earlier said Indonesia’s embassy in Washington was to send a diplomatic note to the US secretary of state demanding an explanation for the incident.

The ministry will also summon the US deputy ambassador in Jakarta on Monday, Nasir said, adding that the ambassador is not in Indonesia at the moment.

The US embassy in Jakarta said in a statement it was in touch with Nurmantyo’s staff to facilitate his travel, but did not explain further.

“US Ambassador Joseph Donovan has apologised to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi for any inconvenience to General Gatot,” the embassy wrote. “We remain committed to our Strategic Partnership with Indonesia as a way to deliver security and prosperity to both our nations and peoples.”

Nurmantyo has frequently courted controversy in Indonesia because of his actions and what analysts perceive as his political ambitions. The general promotes the notion that Indonesia is besieged by “proxy wars” involving foreign states and even a renewed communist threat.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said this month that the armed forces should stay out of politics and ensure their loyalty is only to the state and the government.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, generally enjoys good ties with the US although in the past ties between the two countries’ armed forces have been strained by allegations of rights abuses involving Indonesia’s military.