Indonesia summons US envoy after military chief is denied entry

General Gatot Nurmantyo was about to board a flight to the US last Saturday when he was told he had been denied entry.
General Gatot Nurmantyo was about to board a flight to the US last Saturday when he was told he had been denied entry.

JAKARTA • Indonesia has sent a diplomatic note to the US Secretary of State and summoned Washington's ambassador in Jakarta to explain why the head of its military was denied entry into the United States.

General Gatot Nurmantyo, commander of Indonesia's Armed Forces (TNI), was about to board an Emirates flight last Saturday when the airline informed him that the US authorities had denied him entry, Reuters reported.

Gen Gatot was going to the US at the invitation of General Joseph F. Dunford Jr, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former head of the US Marine Corps.

He was also due to take part in a forum organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington today.

"The TNI is still waiting for an explanation regarding this incident, considering that the travel to the United States was based on an invitation from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the good relation between the two countries," Major-General Wuryanto, a spokesman for the TNI, said in Jakarta yesterday, the Jakarta Globe reported.

Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said yesterday that US Ambassador Joseph R. Donovan - who is presently not in Indonesia - has been summoned to provide reasons for the decision. He will be represented by his deputy at the ministry's offices in Jakarta today.

"The Indonesian Embassy in Washington has sent a diplomatic note to the US Department of State requesting clarification of yesterday's incident," Mr Arrmanatha said in a written message yesterday.

The United States Embassy posted a statement on its website yesterday, apologising for the inconvenience caused to the general and adding that it is working to facilitate his travel.

Gen Gatot has frequently courted controversy in Indonesia because of his actions and what analysts perceive as his political ambitions. The general promotes the notion that Indonesia is besieged by "proxy wars" involving foreign states and even a renewed communist threat.

Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, generally enjoys good ties with the US, although ties between the two countries' armed forces have been strained in the past by alleged rights abuses involving Indonesia's armed forces.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia summons US envoy after military chief is denied entry'. Print Edition | Subscribe