US barred Jakarta military chief due to 'administrative error'

JAKARTA • Indonesia's military chief was temporarily barred from travelling to a conference in the United States due to an administrative error, the US Embassy said yesterday.

The incident had sparked diplomatic outcry, with Jakarta demanding an explanation and Washington apologising several times through its embassy.

General Gatot Nurmantyo was turned away at Jakarta airport last Saturday by the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

He had been invited to the Washington conference by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, America's highest-ranking military officer.

"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," the embassy said in an online statement.

It added that it had taken measures to prevent any recurrence, and reiterated there were now no travel restrictions on Gen Gatot or his wife.

Gen Gatot said he was cleared to travel on a later flight, but was ordered not to do so by President Joko Widodo, according to local media on Tuesday.

The conference of national defence chiefs was on countering violent extremism.

The Indonesian military chief played down the incident on Tuesday, telling reporters that the US and Indonesia have friendly relations.

"My planned trip to the US was based on an order from the President, therefore I represent the government," said the general at the presidential palace after an unrelated event.

"I would go based (only) on the President's order, without that I have no plans whatsoever."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'US barred Jakarta military chief due to 'administrative error''. Print Edition | Subscribe