US says 'administrative error' blocked Indonesia military chief Gatot's travel

Indonesia's General Gatot Nurmantyo was about to board a flight to the United States on Oct 21 when he was told that the Customs and Border Protection Agency had denied him entry.
Indonesia's General Gatot Nurmantyo was about to board a flight to the United States on Oct 21 when he was told that the Customs and Border Protection Agency had denied him entry.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia's military chief was temporarily barred from travelling to the United States at the weekend due to an "administrative error", the US embassy in Jakarta said in an online statement on Wednesday (Oct 25).

General Gatot Nurmantyo was about to board a flight to the US on Saturday when he was told that the Customs and Border Protection Agency had denied him entry, even though he had a visa and an official invitation from the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff to attend a conference in Washington.

"General Gatot Nurmantyo and his wife were delayed in their ability to board their flight due to an administrative error. The error was quickly corrected. We have taken appropriate measures to prevent this matter from occurring again," the US embassy said in a statement, without elaborating.

The incident prompted top US officials, including Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and envoys in Jakarta to apologise to Indonesia as it demanded details as to why Gen Gatot was blocked, where he had been able to travel to the US on official trips before.

US Homeland Security Department said earlier this week that the US embassy in Jakarta had informed Gen Gatot's office that he might be delayed in boarding his flight because of unspecified "US security protocols".

It added that the US government was unable to resolve the problem before Gen Gatot arrived at the airport and he was denied boarding. The general was eventually cleared and booked on another flight but he chose not to travel.

Gen Gatot told reporters on Tuesday that he did not travel on a later flight because he had informed President Joko Widodo of the issue and that he would travel only "on further orders from the president".

"There's no signal (from the president) so I no longer have the initiative to go," he said, adding he was disappointed at not being able to meet his friend and counterpart General Joseph Dunford, who had invited him to attend an anti-terrorism conference.