Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. (Reuters Photo/Romeo Ranoco)

Gov't Wants Explanation Why US Blocked Indonesian Military Chief's Entry


OCTOBER 23, 2017

Jakarta. The government has called upon the United States for an explanation of its refusal to allow Indonesian Military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo entry, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Monday (23/10).

"I have received information that the situation has been resolved, the restriction has been lifted and General Gatot is welcome to continue his visit to the United States. ... But that is not enough. We still require an explanation why the incident happened," Retno told reporters after her meeting with Erin McKee, the deputy chief of mission of the US Embassy in Indonesia.

On Saturday, Gatot was about to board an Emirates flight from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, when the airline's representative informed him that he had been barred from entering the United States.

Gatot was invited by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to a conference on extremist organizations, held in Washington DC on Oct. 23-24.

Following the incident, the Indonesian Embassy in Washington DC sent a diplomatic note to the US authorities, requesting "clarification on the causes of the incident."

"This contradicts the invitation by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman to Gen. Gatot to attend the chiefs of defense conference," the embassy said in a statement.

During the meeting with the foreign minister, the United States reaffirmed the importance of its strategic relations with Indonesia.

"We deeply regret the inconvenience that the incident caused and we apologize ... There is absolutely no issue of his [Gatot's] ability to travel to the United States. We welcome him," McKee said.

She added that the embassy is "working hard to understand what transpired around this incident," but did not offer any further explanation.

According to McKee, the embassy is currently trying "to facilitate communication" between Gatot and Dunford.

Foreign policy experts and members of the public have responded to the incident on social media and on the ground.

"With regard to the travel problems experienced by the TNI [Indonesian Military] chief, the Indonesian government should protest to the US authorities rather than request clarification," Dino Patti Djalal, former ambassador to the United States, said in a tweet on Sunday.

According to a Jakarta Globe witness, a banner saying: "America, We Are Not Afraid, Bravo TNI!" was seen in front of Jakarta's Gambir train station, near the US Embassy, on Monday.

Separately, Chief Security Minister Wiranto said: "We're still waiting for the US authorities to explain what's behind this incident. We'll have to wait and see."

Additional reporting by Alin Almanar