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Jakarta Post

Our double standards on Jerusalem and Ba’asyir

  • Kornelius Purba

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, January 23, 2019   /   09:07 am
Our double standards on Jerusalem and Ba’asyir The deaths of 202 people in a terrorist attack are commemorated by friends and family at the Bali Bombing monument in Kuta, Bali, on Oct. 12, 2010. (JP/Stanny Angga)

Right or wrong, Indonesia is always right no matter what. How about other nations? It totally depends on our own judgement. Other nations must always readjust themselves to our position. Indonesia strongly protested Australia’s intention to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem last year and even threatened to drop a crucial economic deal between the two countries unless Australia retracted its intention. But is that not a blatant violation of our neighbor’s sovereignty? 

“Indonesia conveys our strong concern on the announcement and questions the merit of the announcement,” Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on the issue in a joint press briefing with visiting Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki last October.

It seems only Indonesia has the prerogative to protest the decisions of other sovereign countries. Witness our reaction to Australia, which protested the planned release of a spiritual leader infamous for his influence on terrorists. We ignored the feeling of Australians who lost 88 citizens in the Oct. 12, 2002, terrorist attack in Bali. Neither do we care how they must still be traumatized over the bombing attack on their embassy in Jakarta on Sept. 9, 2004. 

The planned released of cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir “is our domestic affair”, said the inactive chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, Ma’ruf Amin, who is also President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s running mate in April’s presidential election. 

“Does Australia think they control us?” Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison telephoned Jokowi to express his government’s position against the plan to release Ba’asyir from prison for humanitarian reasons. Vice President Jusuf Kalla echoed Ma’aruf and Luhut’s sentiments on Tuesday, while officials are backtracking on the controversial plan. 

Indonesians tend to think our beloved country is the center of the world. We often judge other people based on own our values or religious interpretations. When others express different views about our culture, religion and systems we tend to be defensive, if not angry, and accuse them of being infidels or blasphemous.

Morrison promised to consider relocating the Australian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during the election campaign last October, following in the footsteps of United States President Donald Trump. As indicated by Retno, Jokowi conveyed his strong objection to the plan in a telephone call with Morrison. 

Indonesia insisted that the embassy’s relocation would hurt the feelings of mostly Muslim Indonesians and other predominantly Muslim nations. Reports said Indonesia threatened to indefinitely delay signing the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. As if the agreement just serves the interest of Australia. 

“Indonesia has asked Australia and other countries to keep supporting the Palestine-Israel peace process in accordance with the principles that have been previously agreed upon, and not the action that could threaten the peace process itself and global security,” Retno warned Australia. 

Indonesian protesters threatened to occupy the Australian Embassy in Jakarta unless Canberra retracted its Jerusalem relocation policy. Even when presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto rightly said the issue was within Australia’s sovoreignity, his supporters were angry.

“[…] as the supporters of Palestine, we certainly have our own opinions. But Australia is an independent and sovereign country, we must respect their sovereignty,” said Prabowo who is running against Jokowi in April. 

The subject of the latest controversy, Ba’asyir, who is the convicted spiritual leader of terror group Jamaah Islamiyah, was imprisoned for two-and-a-half years for being the mastermind behind the 2005 Bali bombing. However, he was acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2006. In 2011, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting a jihadi military training camp in Aceh. 

“I am considering his health, especially his access to medical services,” Jokowi said over the weekend when asked about his reasons of the planned release. “The main concern is humanitarian reasons. He is old,” he explained on Friday.

Citing legal obstacles, his own Cabinet members have expresed reservations about the plan. But we do not need to ask a genius to support public suspicion that Jokowi’s plan is strongly related to his ambition to defeat Prabowo again in their rematch.

We strictly stick to noninterference in our domestic affairs when we dislike other people’s concerns. Yet, we always condemn the execution of Indonesian convicts in other countries such as Saudi Arabia and proudly shout out the government’s success in saving Indonesians from the death penalty. And when other countries protest the execution of their citizens, the government simply answers, “It’s none of your business.” 

But will Jokowi listen to the tearful protests of the families of those butchered by the terrorists in Bali and in other places in Indonesia?

Jokowi, this is not just our domestic issue. This is a universal concern. Many predict you will easily win the presidential election in April. Please make a decision after listening to your own conscience and not just to ensure your political victory. It is not just you; the whole nation will pay dearly for any blunder you make now.