JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - An Indonesian lawmaker on Wednesday accused the security forces of secretly supporting Islamist vigilantes as a kind of paramilitary force to intimidate opponents and commercial rivals. Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari said extremist vigilantes known for violent attacks on bars, minorities and human rights advocates had direct links to military and police generals.
“The organisation is now part of the conflict management strategy the Indonesian military exercises to maintain its power,” she told AFP, referring to the stick-wielding fanatics known as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
“There are several military personnel who still ’use’ the services of the FPI... I suspect they maintain and protect the FPI because they still have interests with them.”
The FPI is known for threatening, intimidating and physically attacking Indonesians with almost complete impunity, despite repeated calls for the government to ban the organisation.
On Sunday it threatened “war” against the Christian minority in the Jakarta suburb of Bekasi and urged all mosques in the city to create armed militias. Sundari is a member of a group of MPs who has demanded the government crack down on the vigilantes after they burst into an official meeting on health care in East Java last week and accused the organisers of being communists.
FPI chairman Habib Rizieq hit back at the group’s critics, saying they were part of a conspiracy among communists and liberals against the imposition of sharia or Islamic law in the secular but mainly Muslim country.
“Police should not discriminate — whoever propagates communism should be brought to justice as it is a criminal offence,” he told a press conference at FPI headquarters in Jakarta.
He did not renounce violence and when a journalist asked him to respond to community concerns about violence he accused him of being a communist.
The military, known as the TNI, and the police have denied any links to Islamist vigilente groups. “The TNI does not have a pet,” Defence Ministry spokesman Bigadier general I Wayan Midhio was quoted as saying in The Jakarta Post.
National police spokesman Edward Aritonang said violence by FPI members was under investigation.