Prabowo’s former Islamist allies now want him sacked over Natuna Island dispute

CNN Indonesia – January 8, 2020
Prabowo (centre) with PA 212 and Islamic leaders – Undated (CNN)

Jakarta – 212 Alumni Brotherhood legal division head Damai Hari Lubis says that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo should immediately sack Defense Minister (Menhan) Prabowo Subianto.

Lubis made the recommendation because he believes that Prabowo’s policies on the conflict between China and Indonesia in waters around Natuna Island are not in step with those of Widodo.

“It would be best if Jokowi immediately sack Prabowo Subianto as Menhan, replace him with someone who is step with him [Widodo] as the president and commander-in-chief [of the military]”, said Lubis in an SMS message received by CNN Indonesia on Wednesday January 8.

According to Lubis, Prabowo has been taking measures which are very different from those of Widodo who does not want to compromise with countries which violate Indonesia’s territorial borders.

Meanwhile as defense minister, according to Lubis, Prabowo has instead disregarded China’s violation of Indonesia’s territorial borders by saying that China is a friendly country.

“Referring to the policy differences which are very principled or frontal they conflict with the steps taken by Republic of Indonesia President Jokowi”, he said.

Prabowo did indeed say earlier that he would pursue the best course on the Natuna conflict.

“I think there is a good solution. We’ll resolve it in an appropriate way, yes, after all China is a friendly country”, said Prabowo during a meeting at the Coordinating Ministry for Investment and Maritime Affairs building in Jakarta on Friday January 3.

Prabowo’s position and remarks are the opposite of those taken by Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi who summoned the Chinese Ambassador in Jakarta to present a note of protest against China’s claims on Natuna.

Marsudi said that Chinese fishing vessels have entered Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEE) as acknowledged by the 1982 United Nations Convection on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Widodo meanwhile has said that all of the statement by government officials related to Chinese vessels and claims over Natuna waters have been very good. Widodo has asserted that Indonesia will not negotiate Indonesia’s sovereignty and territory.

“All of the statement which have been made have been very good, that there will be no, as it’s called, negotiations about sovereignty, about our country’s territory”, said Widodo at the opening of a cabinet plenary meeting titled “Setting the National Medium-term Development Plan for 2020-2024” at the State Palace in Jakarta on Monday January 6. (tst/gil)


Along with the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwa of Ulama (GNPF-U), the 212 Alumni Brotherhood (PA 212) was born out of the 2016-17 demonstrations against former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. Since then it has struggled to maintain its relevance and while insisting that it is a purely religious movement to “defend Islam”, in 2018 it openly aligned itself with the political coalition supporting Prabowo Subianto’s presidential election bid. In December 2018 for example, the PA 212 held a so-called “212 reunion” which was attended by Prabowo and key leaders of his coalition parties. Following Prabowo’s appointment as Defense Minister in October however, hard-line Islamic groups such as the PA 212 have publically distanced themselves from Prabowo and his Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Gara-gara Natuna, PA 212 Minta Jokowi Copot Menhan Prabowo”.]