[Updated on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 9:45 a.m]
Jakarta. The Indonesian Military, or TNI, said on Sunday that it had punished two Army personnel over allegations that they had attempted to intimidate residents of a Jakarta ward to vote for presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto, a former Army general.
Corporal Rusfandi, a member of the military command in the subdistrict of Gambir, Central Jakarta, was proven guilty of a disciplinary violation and was sentenced to 21 days in detention and subjected to a three-year delay in a scheduled promotion.
Rusfandi’s immediate supervisor, Captain Saliman, was censured and given a six-month delay in promotion, but not ordered jailed.
Rusfandi is alleged to have canvassed homes in the largely ethnic Chinese ward of Cideng, collecting data on residents and telling them to vote for Prabowo.
However, Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Andika Perkasa said Rusfandi was not guilty of the alleged intimidation. He said the corporal had been collecting data, but only to gauge the electoral preference of the Cideng residents.
During that process, Andika said, there was a misunderstanding and the residents thought that Rusfandi was trying to coerce them into voting for Prabowo, the former chief of the Army Special Forces, or Kopassus.
“That was a mistake,” Andika said in a press statement on Sunday. “When A.T. [a Cideng resident] did not immediately give an answer, Corporal Rusfandi tried to get it by pointing to a picture of a political party of one of the presidential candidates.”
That picture, Andika said, happened to be that of Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra.
“That gave A.T. the impression that Corporal Rusfandi was ‘directing’ him to vote for the said presidential candidate. But that was not what he intended to do,” Andika said.
He added that the Army had never instructed its personnel to do such data collection, and that only Rusfandi had done so, on his own initiative.
He said Rusfandi’s captain had also been punished because he was found to have failed to properly train the corporal, who was promoted to the post of babinsa — a non-commissioned officer in charge of liaising with local residents — after originally working as a driver for the Gambir military command.
Rusfandi was previously based at an Army post in Medan, North Sumatra.
The notion of the military strong-arming residents to vote for a given candidate has caused a nationwide uproar, thanks largely to its echoes to the authoritarian rule of the late strongman Suharto, who was formerly Prabowo’s father-in-law.
The campaign team of rival candidate Joko Widodo has reported the Cideng incident to the Elections Supervisory Body, or Bawaslu, but TNI commander Gen. Moeldoko said on Sunday that the poll watchdog had not yet brought the matter up with the TNI.
Moeldoko stressed that all serving TNI personnel would remain neutral ahead of the July 9 election.
“I can assure you our babinsa have been working their best. They’re just human, not ghosts; there’s no need to fear them,” he said. “I will defend my babinsa when they’re not involved in negative things.”
Prabowo’s brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, who is also the deputy chief patron of Gerindra, has denied that the candidate had mobilized TNI personnel in his campaign, although Joko’s team has cast doubt on that notion, calling it a “structured” campaign.