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Profile: Megawati Sukarnoputri
Megawati Sukarnoputri was a participant or observer in the following events:
Members of the Laskar Jihad militia at a public rally. [Source: Associated Press]Beginning in January 1999, violence starts to rage in the Maluku islands (also known as the Spice Islands) in Indonesia. Christian and Muslim villages are intermingled all over the Malukus, and the different religions have largely coexisted peacefully in about equal numbers for hundreds of years. It is not clear who is behind the new violence, but long-time Indonesian dictator Suharto was deposed the year before, overturning the political order. In January 2000, a paramilitary organization called Laskar Jihad is founded on the Indonesian island of Java. [Conboy, 2003, pp. 236] The group grew out of a militia created a couple of years earlier by an Indonesian military general. [Asia Times, 11/7/2002]
Militants Not Stopped from Fighting - Its leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, had fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980s and met Osama bin Laden there. In early April 2000, Thalib meets with Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid and warns that his group will get active in the Malukus if Wahid does not do more to help Muslims there. Wahid angrily dismisses him as a dangerous fanatic. In May 2000, 3,000 members recruited in Java depart for the Malukus after weeks of training. Even though they had announced in advance that they were going to the Malukus to fight Christians, the government makes no attempt to stop them. In fact, Wahid had ordered a naval blockade of the Malukus to prevent their arrival but the navy makes no effort to stop them, and they are even sent on government-owned ships. Their arrival in the Malukus greatly increases the violence there. After arriving in the Malukus, they receive considerable support and training from al-Qaeda linked figures (see Late 2000-Mid-2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 11/20/2000; Conboy, 2003, pp. 236; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 4/1/2007]
Indonesian Military Complicity - Lieutenant General Agus Wirahadikusuma, a reformist and ally of Wahid, accuses unnamed hardline officers of creating the group to destabilize Indonesia. The Guardian will later comment, “While his claims were denied, they have since been proven correct.… [The military’s] connivance with radical Islamists appears to be encouraging increased public resentment about the civilian politicians’ inability to maintain law and order and stimulate economic recovery.” Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group, an international think tank, says, “If you scratch below the surface of any radical Islamic group in Indonesia you will find the hand of the military at work. And with many of them you don’t really have to go beneath the surface.” [Guardian, 10/15/2002] The International Crisis Group, an international think tank, reports in late 2001 that the “conclusion is unavoidable that [Laskar Jihad] received the backing of elements in the military and police. It was obviously military officers who provided them with military training and neither the military nor the police made any serious effort to carry out the president’s order preventing them from going to Maluku. And, once in Maluku, they often obtained standard military arms and on several occasions were openly backed by military personnel and indeed units.” [International Crisis Group, 10/10/2001] The US ambassador to Indonesia, Larry Gelbard, will later complain that the “only time an Army general acted firmly against an indigenous terrorist group, Laskar Jihad, it resulted in his removal from his command, a powerful lesson to others.” [Human Rights Watch, 12/2002]
Indonesian President Unable to Stop the Group - Wahid complains that elements of the armed forces are trying to foment instability to create an authoritarian backlash, but he seems unable to stop the violence. [Christian Science Monitor, 11/20/2000] About 10,000 people are killed and 500,000 are driven from their homes. The violence largely coincides with the time Wahid is president of Indonesia, from 1999 to 2001. Wahid is attempting to rein in the military and reduce its role in politics. There is a surge of violence there just before Wahid is impeached, on July 23, 2001. His successor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is much less antagonistic towards the military, and the situation in the Malukus calms down considerably. The last major outbreak of violence there takes place in February 2002. UPI will later comment, “While the army as such is usually not present in overwhelming numbers in Ambon, it is quite easy for well-connected politicians and generals in Jakarta to set off violence there if they really want to.” [United Press International, 4/26/2004]
Group Continues to Fight Elsewhere - Laskar Jihad will officially disband one day before the 2002 Bali bombings, but in fact apparently continues to operate in remote regions in Indonesia (see October 11-14, 2002).
Hamzah Haz. [Source: Secretary of Vice President of Republic of Indonesia]Hamzah Haz supports many Islamist militants during his time as vice president of Indonesia from 2001 to 2004. Hamzah serves under President Megawati Sukarnoputri, but he heads a different political party than she does, and his party, the
United Development Party (PPP) has a more Muslim orientation. Prior to the October 2002 Bali bombings, Hamzah describes himself as “very close” to Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual head of the al-Qaeda affiliate group Jemaah Islamiyah. Just one week before the Bali bombings, he says, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first.” In May 2002, he kisses both of Bashir’s cheeks in public. And in August 2002, he publicly invites Bashir to dinner. Hamzah also calls himself “very close” to Jafar Umar Thalib, the head of Laskar Jihad, an Indonesian paramilitary group responsible for killing thousands of Christians in the province of Maluku (see January 1999-July 2001). [Age (Melbourne), 10/14/2002; Time, 10/21/2002] After the Bali bombings, Hamzah tones down his support for militants such as Bashir and Thalib. However, he continues to ridicule suggestions Indonesia has a serious terrorist problem. In September 2003, he says, “Who is the real terrorist? It is the United States for they have attacked Iraq. In fact they are the king of terrorists.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/5/2003]
US officials hold a secret meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and strongly urge her to allow the US to rendition Abu Bakar Bashir out of the country. Bashir is a radical Islamist imam alleged to be the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), al-Qaeda’s main Southeast Asian affiliate. US ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce, National Security Council official Karen Brooks, and a CIA official meet with Megawati at her home in Jakarta. The interpreter is an American named Fred Burks, who will later reveal details of the meeting during an Indonesian trial. Burks claims the CIA official tells Megawati that Bashir was responsible for a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia in 2000 and asks to rendition him. Megawati had allowed the US to rendition two suspects earlier in the year, Omar al-Faruq and Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (see June 5, 2002 and Early January-January 9, 2002).
But neither of them are Indonesian citizens, whereas Bashir is. Megawati rejects the request, saying Bashir is too popular to simply disappear without repercussions. (Megawati’s Vice President Hamzah Haz describes himself as “very close” to Bashir, and shortly after this meeting he says publicly, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first” (see July 23, 2001-October 20, 2004).) Burks claims that Megawati says: “I can’t render somebody like him. People will find out.” Boyce will later claim that the US did press forcefully for Indonesia to arrest Bashir because the CIA had just learned from interrogating al-Faruq that Bashir was the head of a terrorist network that was about to attack Indonesia. However, he will deny the US wanted to rendition him. Boyce will later call the meeting the centerpiece of a month-long series of meetings with Indonesian officials in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack in Indonesia. [BBC, 1/3/2005; Boston Globe, 3/2/2005] However, the Bali bombings take place one month later, killing over 200 (see October 12, 2002). In 2005, Bashir will be acquitted of charges that he was involved in any terrorist acts and set free after serving a year in prison on minor charges (see March 3, 2005).
Ralph Boyce meeting with Megawati Sukarnoputri in September 2004. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]Ralph Boyce, the US ambassador to Indonesia, warns Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her top advisers that a group linked to al-Qaeda is planning an attack in Indonesia. The warning does not specify when and where an attack might occur, but it is the latest of several warnings based on the interrogations of al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq and Mohammed Mansour Jabarah (see June 5, 2002 and August 21, 2002). Boyce gives Megawati until October 24 to take action. He says that if Indonesia does not take action by then, the US is going to order all but the most essential US diplomats out of the country as a public warning that Indonesia is a safe haven for terrorists. An unnamed US official will later tell the New York Times: “We told them: ‘Wrap it up. Block it. Demonstrate that you are serious about eliminating the threat against us.’” Boyce publicly warns that the US is considering withdrawing non-essential personnel just hours before two bombs explode in Bali on October 12 (see October 12, 2002). As part of an effort to convince Megawati of the threat, the US allows Indonesian intelligence and police officials to interview al-Faruq, who is in US custody and being held in a secret location. Their interrogation of al-Faruq is still taking place when the Bali bombings occur. [Australian Financial Review, 10/14/2002; New York Times, 10/16/2002]
Megawati Sukarnoputri. [Source: Secretary of Vice President of Republic of Indonesia]The New York Times reports that Indonesia’s intelligence agency and its director are well regarded by the US. “But there are still senior intelligence officers here who believe that the CIA was behind the bombing,” according to a Western security official. As a result, the Bush administration has asked Megawati Sukarnoputri, president of Indonesia from 2001 to 2004, to publicly refute theories, popular in Indonesia, that the CIA was involved in the Bali bombings that took place one month earlier (see October 12, 2002). Megawati refuses to do so, and in fact condemns the US, saying, “a superpower that forced the rest of the world to go along with it,” adding, “We see how ambition to conquer other nations has led to a situation where there is no more peace unless the whole world is complying with the will of the one with the power and strength.” [New York Times, 11/25/2002]
Omar al-Faruq. [Source: Public domain]In a meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, President Bush falsely promises to let Hambali stand trial in Indonesia. Hambali, an Indonesian citizen wanted for a string of attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002), was recently arrested in Thailand and taken in US custody (see August 12, 2003). White House communications director Dan Bartlett tells reporters that Bush has “committed to work with [the Indonesian authorities] at an appropriate time, that he would work to make sure that Hambali was handed over.” An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman adds: “Absolutely, Bush promised to hand over Hambali to Indonesia for trial. The only condition is that the process of interrogation (by US agents) has to be completed. Bush said that still needed more time.” The US has been sharing some information from Hambali’s interrogation with Indonesian authorities, but does not allow them to question him directly, allegedly for fear of information leaks. [Associated Press, 10/24/2003] In 2002, the US did allow Indonesian investigators to directly interrogate another Indonesian in US custody, Omar al-Faruq. Ironically, it appears that extensive details of al-Faruq’s interrogation were leaked to the media, but by US officials, not Indonesian ones (see June 5, 2002). The US will not allow Indonesian officials to directly interrogate Hambali during a 2005 trial of his alleged close associate Abu Bakar Bashir, allowing Bashir to go free (see March 3, 2005). In late 2005, Hank Crumpton, a senior State Department official visiting Indonesia, again makes the promise that the US will eventually turn Hambali over to the Indonesian government. [New York Times, 10/19/2005] But in 2006, the US transfers Hambali to the Guantanamo prison with the intention of eventually trying him before a military tribunal (see September 2-3, 2006).
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