Headlines

Govt closes ranks on coup
paranoia

Deeply disappointed: Siti Hamzah, political activist and member of the People’s Democratic Fortress (Bandera), buried herself as part of a protest in Diponegoro, Jakarta, on Friday. Siti and her friends were rejecting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — Boediono government because it has failed to enhance the people’s welfare, ignored the needs of the common man and served the interests of foreign investors. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)
Deeply disappointed: Siti Hamzah, political activist and member of the People’s Democratic Fortress (Bandera), buried herself as part of a protest in Diponegoro, Jakarta, on Friday. Siti and her friends were rejecting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — Boediono government because it has failed to enhance the people’s welfare, ignored the needs of the common man and served the interests of foreign investors. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)

A top minister says the Indonesian Military (TNI) is ready to attack those who would topple President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, amid government fears that a planned protest may lead to a coup.

Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro warned on Friday that any move to remove Yudhoyono before his term ended in 2014 would meet an immediate response.

“I believe that there will be no such a plot. However, if there are groups wanting to topple the government, we will attack them. Don’t you ever play around with the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia,” Purnomo said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Meanwhile, Army chief Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, Yudhoyono’s brother-in-law, said that the Army would never back the removal of the President.

“A coup plot is usually supported by the military. I guarantee that there is no such movement within the TNI, at least the Army,” Pramono said. “I have told my juniors not to even think about a coup.”

Yudhoyono met with the heads of state institutions at the State Palace on Friday, discussing the current political situation ahead of the 2014 legislative and presidential elections.

People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Taufiq Kiemas, who is also the husband of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, downplayed coup fears after the meeting. “If you want to change the President, run in the election. That is the legitimate way, according to the 1945 Constitution.”

While many dismissed coup rumors as baseless government paranoia in the run up to a protest planned for next week by playwright Ratna Sarumpaet, Yudhoyono has made several statements voicing his apparent concern.

“There has been another dimension to the political tension that does not correlate with the upcoming elections,” Yudhoyono said during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday. “The actors have been very active in the political arena today. I hereby am calling on all parties to think about the interests of our people.”

This is not the first time Yudhoyono has expressed concerns on attempts to tar him by his rivals.

Before departing for Europe earlier this month, Yudhoyono cited intelligence reports saying that “unidentified parties” had tried to take advantage of the political crisis plaguing his Democratic Party to distract and disrupt the work of his government.

Immediately upon his return, Yudhoyono held a series of closed-door meetings with the nation’s top figures, including retired military generals and religious leaders.

Official paranoia has been thought to have been heightened by the national rally planned for March 25 by Sarumpaet’s Sovereign Indonesian People’s Assembly (MKRI) to call for Yudhoyono’s resignation.

In press statements, the MKRI has called for the creation of a transitional administration to take over power from Yudhoyono and to lead the nation until a new government can be elected in the 2014 elections.

Sarumpaet has previously said that Yudhoyono has been a failure.

Despite the MKRI’s assurances that the rally would be peaceful, National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman alleged that the group was plotting to overthrow Yudhoyono.

Speaking to the press after a meeting at the palace, outgoing Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mahfud MD downplayed the MRKI, saying that it was impossible for the group to remove the President and install a provisional administration.

“The MKRI is obscure. It has no followers,” Mahfud said.

Other officials, however, remained unconvinced. Lawmaker Mahfudz Siddiq, chairman of House Commission I on defense, said that anyone planning a coup was a terrorist. “They can be punished if the people become restless and feel terrorized due to the rumors,” the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician said.

Meanwhile, an analyst from the Pol-Tracking Institute, Hanta Yuda, said that Yudhoyono himself first started to spread rumors of a coup to the public.

“Regardless of whether it’s true that Yudhoyono took the information from intelligence reports or not, the insinuation first came from his mouth,” Hanta said. “Yet, the media has continued to reproduce the speculation.”

Separately, rights activist and former presidential advisor Adnan Buyung Nasution has called the government irrational for its response to the planned protest.

“The government thinks that aspirations for change are the same thing as a coup d’etat. To me this is what paranoid people do,” Adnan said.

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