Prabowo, once banned from US, gets invitation for official visit

JAKARTA • Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto has been invited to the United States for a bilateral discussion on defence cooperation, a ministry spokesman said yesterday.

"US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has invited Prabowo to visit the US from Oct 15 to 19," Indonesian Defence Ministry spokesman Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak wrote in a statement.

He added that Mr Prabowo has accepted the invitation and is set to travel to the US for the official visit.

"In accordance with Indonesia's principle of 'free and active' foreign policy and non-involvement in military alliances with any country... Minister Prabowo has been actively engaged in defence diplomacy with various countries, including the US," the statement said.

It is not clear whether the invitation means that Washington has, or will, grant a visa to Mr Prabowo, a retired three-star army general who has long been barred from the US because of allegations of human rights abuses.

Mr Prabowo was included in a blanket ban on the Indonesian Army's Special Forces for alleged human rights violations in East Timor when the territory was under Indonesian rule.

In 2000, he was prevented from attending his son's graduation in Boston, Massachusetts.

Reuters reported in 2012 that Mr Prabowo was again denied a visa by the US.

Mr Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, a politician from the Gerindra party, of which Mr Prabowo is chairman, said in October last year that he believed the ban had been lifted.

The US Embassy in Jakarta previously said that visa records were confidential under US law and the details of individual visa cases could not be disclosed.

Military observers have said that the travel ban against Mr Prabowo may affect the minister's decisions in procuring arms to fulfil Indonesia's Minimum Essential Force provision.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2020, with the headline 'Prabowo, once banned from US, gets invitation for official visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe