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The Jakarta Post
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Foreign researchers’ access to TNI museums restricted

  • Moses Ompusunggu

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, February 9, 2018 | 06:12 pm
Foreign researchers’ access to TNI museums restricted   The Satria Mandala museum, managed by the Indonesian Military (TNI), displays the weaponry system owned by the TNI. (Kompas/Agnes Theodora Wolkh Wagunu)

Foreign researchers can no longer freely enter museums run by the Indonesian Military (TNI) without permission from the TNI headquarters, in a new policy that one local historian says shows Indonesia to be “allergic to foreigners.” 

In August last year, the TNI reportedly issued a policy temporarily banning foreign nationals from entering Indonesia's main military museum, the Satriamandala Museum, located on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Jakarta, Jl. Gatot Subroto in Kuningan, without permission from the military’s headquarters.

The Jakarta Post recently obtained an undated photograph showing two flyers announcing the temporary ban on foreigners visiting the museum.

"For the moment, visitors from abroad are not allowed to enter/visit Satriamandala Museum before receiving a permit from the TNI headquarter[s]," the announcement displayed in the photograph read. 

The Post visited Satriamandala Museum on Thursday, and found that the announcement had been taken down.

A museum official said that since January the restriction had been relaxed by allowing foreigners to enter the museum for recreational purposes only. Foreigners who wanted to visit the museum for research purposes were still obliged to obtain a permit from the intelligence assistant to the TNI commander, the official said.

The regulation is said to have been implemented at two other museums managed by the TNI's History Center namely the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) Betrayal Museum in Lubang Buaya, East Jakarta, and the Indonesian Soldier Museum within the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) complex, also in East Jakarta.

Two kids play with old heavy machine guns once used by the Indonesian Military (TNI) at the Satria Mandala military museum in Jakarta on Sunday. As apart of the celebration of TNI.Two kids play with old heavy machine guns once used by the Indonesian Military (TNI) at the Satria Mandala military museum in Jakarta on Sunday. As apart of the celebration of TNI. (The Jakarta Post/JP)

Renowned historian Asvi Warman Adam told the Post that two of his foreign colleagues had been affected by the restriction.

One tried to enter Satriamandala, Asvi said, while the other researcher attempted to enter the PKI Museum in Lubang Buaya. "[This policy] creates a negative image of Indonesia as a state that is undemocratic, isolated and being allergic to foreigners," Asvi said, recalling there had been no such obligation previously.

The University of Indonesia historian called the regulation "discriminatory" given that it did not apply to Indonesian researchers. "Museums are not archives. In museums, the dioramas are for the public," Asvi said.

TNI spokesman Brig. Gen. Sabrar Fadhilah insisted the policy regarding foreign researchers was a "procedure" that had to be implemented for "foreigners who want to enter military institutions" and that it aimed to ensure impartiality in research.

"It's like somebody, a foreigner, who wanted to come to your house to research whether or not your house was formerly owned by the Dutch. That person must secure your permission," Sabrar said in a phone interview on Friday.

"I think there has to be a process to ensure research is not conducted haphazardly," Sabrar said.

Lesson learned – Then Maj.Gen.Soeharto (right) let an operation to remove the bodies of military generals, who were killed and dumped into a well at the G30S coup headquarters called “Lubang Buaya” in the 1965 incident. Lesson learned – Then Maj.Gen.Soeharto (right) let an operation to remove the bodies of military generals, who were killed and dumped into a well at the G30S coup headquarters called “Lubang Buaya” in the 1965 incident. (Tempo/-)

Established in October 1972, Satriamandala Museum is Indonesia's foremost military museum and houses a trove of artifacts, weapons and vehicles. The name of the museum is derived from the Sanskrit words meaning "a sacred place of knights."

Prior to its establishment, the museum's main building was formerly the home of Indonesia's founding father Sukarno, who stepped down from power following the attempted coup in 1965, which has been blamed on the now-defunct PKI.

It has four rooms dedicated to artefacts that once belonged to four of the country’s most prominent military figures: Soeharto, who rose to power as president in 1967 and governed the country for more than three decades until his downfall in 1998; Abdul Harris Nasution, a military strategist and a close ally of Soeharto, best known for escaping an assassination attempt during the attempted 1965 coup; national hero Sudirman, Indonesia's first military commander; and Oerip Soemohardjo, Indonesia's first armed forces chief of staff.

Notable exhibits include a litter used to carry Sudirman during his seven months of guerilla fighting in Java against Dutch imperialists, and Indonesia's first presidential aircraft named the RI Seulawah 1. 

The museum also contains dioramas showcasing the history of Indonesia’s military, including the country's volatile formative years, between 1945 and1949, which are now being scrutinized by a large-scale Dutch-funded research project involving local historians from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta. (ahw)

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