US Missions Shut on Friday
Ezra Sihite, Farouk Arnaz & Rahmat
The temporary closure of the US Embassy and consular offices in Indonesia, following global protests over a movie deemed insulting to Islam, was made in consultation with the Indonesian government, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says.
The embassy and consulate in Jakarta were closed on Friday, while the consulate in Medan had been closed since Thursday because of the protests.
“The decision by the US government to temporarily close its embassies and consulates is a decision that was made based on communication and conversations between authorities in Indonesia and the United States,” Marty said according to a transcript posted on the website of the US State Department.
The transcript was from a press conference held by Marty and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after the third meeting of the US-Indonesian joint commission in Washington on Thursday.
Marty said it was an informed decision that both governments had agreed to, and not a sign of fraying relations.
“So it is something that is quite regular and something that is actually coordinated as well,” he said.
“We want to be sure that law enforcement in Indonesia has the ability to do what it needs to do to make sure that there is no disruption of civil order and security,” Clinton said.
The State Department also sent out e-mails to Americans currently residing or visiting Indonesia, warning them to take precautions while traveling in the country and to be aware of their surroundings.
Despite the closures, hard-line Muslim groups continued to rally on Friday in protest over the movie “Innocence of Muslims,” with demonstrations in some cities targeting US-based fast-food chains and other businesses.
The hard-liners also staged similar protests in front of French missions in response to the recent publication in a French satirical magazine of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad naked.
In Medan, protesters from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) burned an American flag outside the US Consulate.
Outside the French Consulate in Surabaya, about 200 protesters from another Islamic group chanted “Crush America, crush France.” They earlier scuffled with several hundred police in riot gear outside a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.
Protestors sealed off the entrance to the restaurant with tape, which carried the slogans “Death to the filmmakers” and “Boycott American products.”
About 50 protesters demonstrated outside the US Embassy in Jakarta after Friday prayers, where about 200 policemen were stationed, while 50 more gathered outside the French Embassy.
National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo guaranteed the safety of all foreign diplomats in Indonesia and said his office had deployed heavy security at all foreign missions in the country.
“There must not be any disturbances, especially at embassies. We guarantee that there will be no disturbances whatsoever at these embassies,” he said.
Officials from the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) said they hoped to meet with US officials over what they called the US government’s “hypocritical” stance toward the controversial movie.
“If freedom of expression is something that is defiling religion and promoting intolerance toward so many Muslims, [the United States] should exercise state control to prohibit it,” said senior PKS politician Hidayat Nur Wahid.
Additional reporting from Antara & AFP