Unredacted US diplomatic cables published by antisecrecy website WikiLeaks on Friday allege collusion between Indonesian Security Forces and The Radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
Though the claims are not new, the leaked cables go into far greater detail than before and name the sources providing the US Embassy in Jakarta with information on a number of recent controversies, each of which has the potential to embarrass the Indonesian government.
One of the cables states that a contact within the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Yahya Asagaf, had “sufficiently close contacts within” the Front, known as the FPI, to warn the embassy that it would be attacked by the vigilante group on Feb. 19, 2006, during protests against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
The cable says the contact alleged that then National Police Chief Gen. Sutanto, the current head of BIN, had provided the FPI with funds prior to the attack, but cut off the funding after the incident.
“When we questioned [the contact’s] allegation that Sutanto funded FPI, Yahya said the police chief found it useful to have FPI available to him as an ‘attack dog,’” the cable says.
“When pressed further on the usefulness of FPI playing this role, noting that the police should be sufficiently capable of intimidation, Yahya characterized FPI as a tool that could spare the security forces from criticism for human rights violations, and he said funding FPI was a ‘tradition’ of the Police and BIN.”
The contact said the FPI had obtained the “majority of its funds from the security forces” but faced a “budget crunch” after the attack.
Another cable also alleges the FPI had close contacts with former Jakarta Police Chief Nugroho Djayusman, who admitted the connections to embassy officials.
“He then explained defensively that it was natural for him, as the Jakarta Police Chief, to have contacts with all sorts of organizations,” the cable continues. “This was necessary because the sudden release of energy from the Islamists, who had been repressed under [former dictator] Suharto, could have posed a security risk.
“‘But it doesn’t mean I was involved,’ he said, distancing himself from responsibility for any violent activities.”
The cable said that Nugroho illustrated his point by claiming that Sutanto lacked useful connections, “and when the violent FPI demonstration took place, Sutanto had to call Nugroho to request assistance.”
“Nugroho told us that he then called FPI Chairman Habib Rizieq and arranged the surrender of three men who had arranged the violence outside of the US Embassy. “
Nugroho, a controversial figure also blamed for failing to prevent the deadly anti-Chinese riots after the downfall of Suharto in 1998, also took a swipe at the FPI’s Islamic credentials.
Though he acknowledged the FPI had a “clear track record of violence” he labeled the group a “small, relatively insignificant group” that was “not ideological, except insofar as it opposed gambling, prostitution and pornography.”
“By contrast, he noted that ‘Ngruki’ (shorthand for [Abu Bakar] Bashir’s pesantren and, one can assume, the Jemaah Islamiyah organization) was a much more serious ideological group.”
In a later cable in the second quarter of 2006, Yenny Wahid, the daughter of former President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, said the retired group of security officers who had helped form and finance the FPI — including Nugroho — had lost control of the group, saying they had “‘created a monster’ that now functioned independently of its former sponsors and did not feel beholden to them.”
“Although anyone with money could hire FPI for political purposes, no one outside of the group could control FPI head Habib Rizieq, who functions as his own boss,” the cable said.