Indonesia Suspends Military Cooperation with Australia over Insult to ‘State Ideology’

An Australian solider guards an area during a joint street patrol with Iraqi security forces in Sammawa, south of Baghdad June 22, 2006. REUTERS/Mohammed Jalil/Pool
REUTERS/Mohammed Jalil/Pool

On Wednesday, Indonesia announced that military cooperation with Australia would be suspended indefinitely over an Australian “insult” to the state ideology of Indonesia.

More specifically, as the Associated Press reports, the imbroglio was caused by an Indonesian “instructor” seeing something he disagreed with on a poster:

The decision was made after reports emerged of an Indonesian instructor saying that a “laminated paper” displayed at the Australian Special Forces base where he worked was insulting.

Indonesian media reports said the paper contained words that demeaned Pancasila — a set of vague principles that mandates belief in one God and unity among Indonesia’s 250 million people.

Pancasila has five principles, as laid out by the Republic of Indonesia:

  1. Belief in the one and only God
  2. Just and civilized humanity
  3. The unity of Indonesia
  4. Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives
  5. Social justice for the whole of the people of Indonesia

The brief dispatch from the Associated Press leaves readers hanging about which of these principles the Aussies allegedly denigrated. According to Australia’s ABC News, it was Number Three, the “unity of Indonesia”:

Sources familiar with the incident have confirmed the “laminated material” concerned West Papua, which is an Indonesian province that has tried to seek independence from Jakarta.

Defense Minister Marise Payne confirmed the complaints concerned “some teaching materials and remarks” at an Army language training facility in Australia, and that some military cooperation with Indonesia was now on hold.

According to the Sydney Morning Heraldthe crisis began when a trainer for the Kopassus, the Indonesian special forces command, was visiting an Australian military academy to teach classes on the Indonesian language. He was outraged to find “teaching materials that were ridiculing the Indonesian military.”

The SMH cites sources who said some of these materials “appeared to be truly insulting,” while others “seemed to be scholarly critical assessments of the Indonesian military’s past behaviour in 1965 or the East Timor invasion.”

The Kopassus trainer said he “heard offensive material in class including that the late Indonesian military leader Sarwo Edhie Wibowo was a mass murderer and that a TNI police officer murdered his friend while drunk.” The TNI is Indonesia’s military.

The last straw was the laminated sheet the Associated Press referred to, which, according to Indonesian military posts on the social media service WhatsApp, also mocked Pancasila by calling it “Pancagila,” which translates to “five crazy principles.”

Presumably, some effort will be made to determine whether this was a simple spelling error during the investigation announced by the Australian Army.

Australian officials expressed hope that the impasse with Indonesia could be resolved soon, and full military cooperation restored. Indonesian military spokesman Maj. Gen. Wuryanto likewise stressed that the suspension was temporary: “The reason for the cessation is only a technical problem. The usual bilateral co-operation of the armed forces is no more or no less. It’s only that affairs need to be refined, just that.”