At this moment in Jakarta, a group of Indonesians are putting the final touches to their plan to invade Malaysia and wage war. Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat has announced Oct. 8 as the date of this D-day, when it says it will avenge all the wrongs committed against Indonesia by its neighbor .
Established during this year’s presidential election, the group, also known as the People’s Democratic Defense, has attracted public attention with its protests calling on Indonesians to “kill Malaysians.” Earlier this month, the group set up roadblocks in Menteng, Central Jakarta, in an attempt to detain Malaysian citizens.
However, the roadblocks failed to net any Malaysians, according to Mustar Bona Ventura, the group’s coordinator. “If we had caught them, we would have sent them home,” the 32-year-old economics student said.
He said the group’s anti-Malaysian stance was not motivated solely by claims that the neighboring country has been busy stealing Indonesia’s culture.
“It’s the whole thing, including the claims on our islands and the abusive treatment of Indonesian migrant workers,” he said. “The breaking point was when they insulted us through our national anthem, ‘Indonesia Raya.’ ”
Tensions between the neighboring countries have reached a fever pitch this year due to unresolved sovereignty claims in the Ambalat waters; accusations that Malaysia has claimed Indonesian cultural heritage as its own, including the Balinese pendet dance, various dishes and batik; a recent offensive parody of Indonesia’s national anthem; and the abuse of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia.
Mustar said Bendera had already recruited more than 1,200 members and expects to sign up at least 300 more. The group said it recruited 600 volunteers in Greater Jakarta alone last week.
“People from all sorts of backgrounds came and registered,” he said. “We have students, farmers, lawyers, fishermen, teachers and many more. Disabled people also signed up.”
The group reportedly has 40 recruits who are deaf, 10 with limb deformities and 10 who are confined to wheelchairs.
Bendera’s seeming enthusiasm for conflict and claims that the planned invasion is going forward is contrary to government warnings: Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, has said the group’s members won’t get anywhere near Malaysia.
“If there are any Indonesian nationals who are intending to go to Malaysia for a confrontation, they will be arrested. It will be impossible for them to enter the country,” he said.
However, Mustar said that self-defense training and black magic spells designed to protect the troops had already been provided, with 150 members taking part in two sessions held at Bendera’s headquarters. The offices are located on Jalan Diponegoro in Menteng, Central Jakarta, an address that was formerly used as the headquarters for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
“This [training] is to support our people, and we have also armed them with weapons that volunteers donated, such as samurai swords, ninja sticks and sharpened bamboo sticks,” Mustar said. “We really meant it when we said we were going to deploy [troops] to Malaysia to fight them on [Octoer 8].”
Asked how they intended to get their weapons through airport security, Mustar said, “It’s just a matter of technique. But of course we’re not telling you how.” He added that the cost of traveling to Malaysia was being covered by each individual.
He said the group had earlier sent letters to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta containing its list of demands.
“First, we asked the government to close the Malaysian Embassy here and send all the country’s citizens back home. Second, the government should close our embassy there and send home all the Indonesian migrant workers.
“And last of all, we demanded that the government declare war against Malaysia.”
Single mother Yuni said she felt it was her duty to help Indonesia protect its cultural heritage from Malaysia and to stand up for the rights of abused migrant workers. Just last month, she registered as a volunteer for Bendera and said she was ready to go to Malaysia to join the war, even if that meant leaving her three children behind in Pandeglang, West Java.
“Malaysia stole our islands and insulted our national anthem. As a citizen, I am called to participate [in the war],” she said.
She said that if the Indonesian government and military failed to take action, it was up to citizens to take over. “My will is strong for saving our beloved Indonesia,” the 40-year-old said. “I’m not afraid of anything.”
Another recruit, Endo Kosasih, echoed her sentiments, saying he was not afraid to die if he had to go to the battle zone.
“It will be the same if you die now or tomorrow,” the 26-year-old said. “I am brave.”
Like his fellow Bendera members, Endo took part in the self-defense training course. He also learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, and said his aim had become quite accurate.
Endo said he had the support of his family and was determined to join the troops going to Malaysia so he could defend the motherland.
“We don’t want our nation to be harassed, our culture to be stolen or [the lyrics of] our national anthem to be twisted,” Endo said.
Mustar said the group had already sent 10 people to Malaysia, to conduct reconnaissance and draw up battle plans. “You could say they are our spies,” he said.
And on Oct. 8, Mustar continued, 1,500 Bendera troops will leave for Malaysia by air, land and sea, although he refused to elaborate. The group also plans to deploy a second batch of troops at a later stage, he said, adding that Bendera would work with Indonesian migrant workers and students in Malaysia to help boost its numbers.
“And once we get there, we will fight furiously in an open war with the Malaysians. Just like the wars you’ve seen on TV,” he said. “For us, Malaysia has really crossed the line.
“And if our government has no courage, then [it is time] we start a war.”
Volunteer Sugeng Widodo plans to leave his wife, who is four months pregnant, should the group call upon him.
“I prioritize my country,” the father of two said. “My wife and children breathe the air of this country. That’s why [I prioritize it].”
Back home in Klaten, Central Java, 37-year-old Sugeng is a farmer but said he had been trained in Jakarta to use arrows and spears. He said Bendera members would also be trained in the use of guns.
He said he was determined to fight and would stay in Malaysia until the issue of Indonesian ownership in the Ambalat waters was resolved.
“We see how our migrant workers are treated and the government doesn’t do anything about it,” he said. “Every citizen has the right to be protected.
“I will fight until the last drop of my blood. That is what I will do to defend my country.”
Asked what the group would do if the planned invasion on Oct. 8 failed, Mustar said they would evaluate and then go back to the drawing board. The main priority, he said, would be to demand the Malaysian government publicly apologize to all Indonesians.
However, he said he was optimistic that nothing would stop the invasion, not even the Indonesian government, and that everything would go according to plan.
“Indonesia will win! Indonesia will win!” he said.