In politics there is no eternal enemy but common interest. It’s still so happening now ~ in the case of the U.S., Australia, and East Timor geopolitical moves to Indonesia, and to a certain extent, Sri Lanka. Following is a selection of articles that focuses on this issue. In chronological order, and the highlights are mine.
Indonesia, East Timor to establish commission of friendship
February 4, 2005 5:04am
Jakarta, Feb 4, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda will host a meeting with his East Timor counterpart Ramos Horta to have talks on the planned establishment of the commission for truth and friendship, a foreign spokesman said Friday.
The commission has been agreed by both countries as a settlement of dispute over alleged human rights abuses by Indonesian officers in East Timor in 1999, Foreign Affairs Ministry’s spokesman Yuri Thamrin told a weekly press conference here.
He said the meeting will be held on the resort island of Bali on Feb. 7-8.
The meeting is aimed at achieving an agreement on the terms of references for the establishment of the commission, he said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his East Timor counterpart Xanana Gusmao have shared commitment to bilaterally settling the dispute through the establishment of the commission when they met in Bali on Dec. 14, 2004.
Indonesia has been under international pressures over massacre in East Timor before, during and after the former Indonesian province voted for independence in late 1999.
A government-sponsored human rights tribunal in Jakarta has convicted only two civilians and acquitted most of the accused officers of rights abuses, which prompted the United Nations to propose the Commission of Experts that will launch further investigation.
Both governments in Indonesia and East Timor apparently rejected the UN proposal.
February 7, 2005
East Timorese church opposes Indonesian deal on war crimes
Dili (AFP): East Timor’s new Catholic bishop has opposed a deal between East Timorese and Indonesian leaders to drop trials over atrocities during the country’s 1999 independence process, saying it lacks public support.
Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his East Timorese counterpart Xanana Gusmao agreed in Jakarta last month to form a Truth and Friendship Commission to deal with crimes during Indonesia’s scorched earth withdrawal six years ago.
The United Nations has refused to endorse the deal, proposing instead a Commission of Experts to assess why a 1999 Security Council resolution to try those accused of war crimes has failed.
“What Kofi Annan says or not, what East Timorese leaders want or not, the position of the church is the same, it’s clear and firm. We need justice, justice must be done,” Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva said.
Da Silva took over as bishop of Dili — an influential position in the largely Catholic country — last year, replacing Nobel peace laureate Carlos Ximenes Belo, who retired due to ill-health.
The new bishop asserted that ‘all’ East Timorese people supported war crimes trials, and said he was dealing with constant complaints from his congregation over the issue.
Foreign Ministers Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor and Hassan Wirayuda of Indonesia are due to meet in Bali on Tuesday to hammer out details of the proposed commission, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa told AFP in Jakarta.
Ramos Horta, who also attended the initial Jakarta meeting, told Portugal’s LUSA news agency the scheme would contribute to ‘closing a chapter of history’.
Bishop da Silva said the East Timorese church would not actively petition the United Nations on the issue, “but our door is always open”.
Open Letter to Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão
President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Never, during the years of solidarity with East Timor’s struggle against the Indonesian occupation, never could I, or would I have imagined you, the once charismatic Timorese FALINTIL hero, promise that East Timor would lobby the US congress in February 2005 about withdrawing the embargo on Indonesian military requirements. How quickly the mighty fall
in our estimation and in their ethics.
I confess that I was shocked to see you embracing Wiranto, shocked to hear your opposition to an international rights tribunal. But these are internal matters for Timor and up to the Timorese to protest. However, your offer to lobby for the US resumption of military cooperation impacts on the lives of the Achehnese and West Papuans, and on their behalf, I strongly protest.
As recently as 26 November 2004, you stated “The Timorese people experienced all the horrors of war and of systematic violence and this contributed immensely to their understanding that peace is a basic right of every human being and consequently, of every people.” Once your words would have resonated with the highest of principles, but now they ring with hollow hypocrisy and pathos.
It is bad enough when governments who have not experienced Indonesian military brutality support or have military ties with Indonesia, but it is obscene when you and the government of Timor Leste, who have had first hand experience of the same massacres, extrajudicial executions, torture, disappearances, rapes, arbitrary detentions that innocent Achehnese and West Papuans suffer at present, betray the people of Acheh and West Papua.
And that your offer to lobby is made post-tsunami beggars belief exploiting for Timor’s own political ends the double tragedies the Achehnese suffer: bereavement of the hundreds and thousands of deaths in the tsunami catastrophe, and the killings by the Indonesian security
forces. The former unintentional, the latter of deadly intent.
While the resumption of military ties is supposedly for spare parts for planes, in July and November 2004, Acheh Human Rights Online sent out urgent appeals against air-strikes using US- made OV-10 Broncos against GAM strongholds killing innocent farmers and displacing hundreds of villagers. You, above all, would know that GAM, Acheh’s national liberation army, is the equivalent of FALINTIL which you once commanded and that lifting the US military embargo will have a terrible impact on GAM fighters and their armed struggle against ‘a despotic and murderous regime’.
Why the about face of your principles? Has Timor Leste’s security been severely threatened by the Indonesian government or has the US or Australian governments threatened to withdraw aid? Or, is it the pragmatism of trade?
But if, as according to the speaker of the DPR, Agung Laksono, it is a Timor Leste government initiative: “They initiated it themselves after seeing the situation in Ac
eh… because according to you, “There are a lot of military needs that Indonesia cannot fulfil because, among other things, their planes need to be fixed and there are no spare parts,” (Joyo Indonesia News 28-1-05) then the sacrifice of Acheh and West Papua is unconscionable.
Dr Vacy Vlazna
Coordinator, Acheh Human Rights Online
(Former Convenor of East Timor Justice Lobby and Australia East Timor Association)
07-02-2005 11:19:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-6731027
East Timor: Dili, Jakarta foreign ministers meeting in Bali on truth commission
Dili, Feb. 7 (Lusa) – The foreign ministers of East Timor and Indonesia will meet in Bali Tuesday to begin polishing the creation of a bilateral Truth and Friendship Commission to deal with Indonesian atrocities committed in 1999, Dili’s top diplomat said Monday.
The Bali meeting, Timorese Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta told Lusa, would initiate “a long process that needs time”.
“Personally, I don’t think we should precipitate and force a rapid solution over the terms of reference” of the commission, which was agreed by the two countries’ senior leaders at a meeting in Bali on Dec. 14, Ramos Horta added.
Once agreement was reached on the “terms of reference” for the functioning of the commission, he said “consultations” would be held with “other interested parties”, namely civil society groups and international experts on truth commissions and human rights.
“We need a national consensus on his issue”, Ramos Horta stressed.
Many Timorese and international voices have been critical of Dili’s soft stance towards Jakarta on the issue of Indonesian atrocities committed at the time of East Timor’s UN-sponsored independence plebiscite in August 1999.
Some demand the creation of an international tribunal, like those set up for crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Pro-Indonesia militias, backed by troops, are blamed for killing some 1,500 Timorese, forcing about 250,000 into temporary exile and destroying 75% of the country’s infrastructure in a scorched-earth campaign in 1999.
Domestic and international critics describe trials held in Jakarta for crimes against humanity as a whitewash and Dili’s parallel UN-backed trials as insufficient and hobbled by lack of cooperation from Indonesia.
Dili and Jakarta jointly presented their plan for setting up a truth commission to in Secretary-General Kofi Annan in December, but have yet to get the UN’s blessing for the initiative.
Annan has said he would send a so-called Commission of Experts to the two countries to assess what was achieved in the parallel judicial processes and determine what, if any, new steps should be taken to bring to justice those suspected of responsibility in the atrocities.
Indonesia has said it would not cooperate with the UN initiative.
Letter to Jose Ramos Horta
Mr Jose Ramos Horta
So, you are going to lobby the US Congress to lift the embargo and restrictions concerning military equipment supplies to Indonesia in the full knowledge of the terrible consequences the Achehnese and West Papuans will suffer as a result:
In your words:
“The Indonesian army was part of the Suharto regime and is equally responsible for the mismanagement of the country’s resources, an accomplice in the corruption and nepotism that ate away the public funds. It has a lot to answer for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in East Timor, West Papua and Aceh.” (INTERNATIONAL PHYSICIANS FOR PREVENTION OF NUCLEAR WAR XIII World Congress, Melbourne, Australia, 6 December 1998)
“But the Indonesian military are part of the problem in East Timor and elsewhere in the region. Unless countries like the United Kingdom take drastic action, freeze financial assistance, freeze all military co-operation, we are going to continue to see for a long time this army operating with impunity in East Timor, in Aceh, where thousands of people have been slaughtered over the years, where this vicious violence is going on, in West Papua where an indigenous people have been slaughtered for decades
now.” (BBC August 27, 1999)
‘The resumption of U.S. military aid or training to Jakarta now would be a “disaster” in view of the chaos in Aceh and West Papua, Ramos-Horta warned. “It would be like jumping onto a sinking boat or into a house on fire,” (Washington Post, December 22, 2000)
West Papua is a shameful case of international abandonment and betrayal,’ says Ramos Horta. ‘What is being done to the people of West Papua is what was being done in the Americas, in Argentina, Chile or in Australia, on the arrival of the Europeans – simply disposing of, killing off, the local inhabitants. This is happening right now, at the end of the twentieth century, and the world is guilty for what’s happening. Not only Indonesia; Australia, New Zealand, the United States – all are guilty, humanity is guilty for what is happening to the West Papuans.’ (New Internationalist Jan-Feb 1998)
BETRAYALl! Remember the old days when we in solidarity with East Timor wondered how Gough Whitlam, Gareth Evans et al slept at night? Well, now you know.
Let me remind you of your just contempt for the betrayals by the Australian government:
“East Timor resistance leader Jose Ramos Horta said Sunday Australia’s foreign policies were morally bankrupt and devoid of new ideas after Canberra gave its support to Indonesian military chief General Wiranto. The 1996 Nobel peace prize winner said the move highlighted a government lacking courage. “Australia’s foreign policy is morally bankrupt, devoid of new ideas, devoid of courage,” he said in Sydney… Ramos Horta, who lives in exile, said Australia should cease military cooperation with Indonesia until it had achieved genuine democracy. “The problem with Australia is that instead of supporting democracy — and democracy means that the army must get out of politics in Indonesia — it goes on embracing the same people that kept Suharto in power for 32 years,” he said. “Embracing the same thugs who are responsible for the genocide in East Timor, the killings of the students in Jakarta.” (AFP Nov 29, 1998)
A highly respected Achehnese in exile wrote to me: “Can you tell me what’s the matter with this man? He has been asking the US to restore military support for Indonesia, telling everyone to help Indonesia militarily to crush GAM, he has been the best spokesman for Indonesian military. He opposes bringing to court those Indonesian generals involved in the atrocities in East Timor. Is he thinking that now that his people is free the rest of the world can go to hell?”
Back in July 2002, when you first suggested Acheh and West Papua accept Indonesia’s ‘genuine’ offer of autonomy, while surprised, the benefit of the doubt was gleaned by such clues as “No government in this country should ever be imprudent or foolish enough to offer sympathy or support
for Papua or Aceh’s quest for independence,” for it was generally assumed that there had been Indonesian threats against Timor’s security. An Indonesian directed- script also seemed apparent in the later gesture of: “We particularly support permanent membership status for Indonesia because we believe in the need for balanced representation within the Security Council which will encompass all the world’s major civilizations and faiths,” he told the U.N. General Assembly’s annual meeting of national leaders on Wednesday.” (29 September 2004)
Sadly, in your rush to distance Timor from Acheh and West Papua your good reputation and moral high horse have been traded for a diplomatic donkey. The following statement contradicts the noble rhetoric of an earlier speech: “East Timor was therefore separate from any other claims within the Indonesian Republic. In the 24 years of our struggle . . . we never once said that we support self-determination equally for Aceh or Irian Jaya (Papua).” (The Age April 26, 2002)
From the Chittagon Hill Tracts in Bangladesh to Bougainville in the South Pacific, from Sri Lanka to India, from Chechnya to Abkhazia, from the Ogoni in Nigeria to the West Papuans, millions of peoples seek to assert their most fundamental rights and if we attempt to find a common denominator for the problems I have just listed there is one: the right of these peoples to self- determination (underlining mine). The events of the last few months in West Papua illustrate my point. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a chance I would advise you to see an excellent documentary by Claudio Von Planta on the West Papuan struggle, entitled Rebels of a Forgotten War. The documentary records the colonisation of West Papua by its new coloniser, Indonesia, and decades of brutalities and destruction of their environment and wealth, the threat to their survival as a people by a strategy of population transfer. The problem of West Papua will not go away and the West Papuans are learning to be more effective both on the home front and internationally and will pose an even greater problem for Jakarta than East Timor. The conflict in West Papua has grown from bad to worse since its annexation in 1969 because the anger in the hearts of the people stems from desperation at seeing their very existence threatened. But no outside force has ever offered that impoverished people any moral or material support. Indonesia must look in East Timor, in Aceh and West Papua for the roots of the problems it faces. (An address to The Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, London, 23 April 1996.)
The hypocrisy gets worse when you plead with the Australian government to grant asylum for the Timorese refugees who no longer fear persecution but refuse point blank asylum for real refugees from very real persecution and slaughter by Indonesian security forces backed by Indonesian government policies:
Dilis interim foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta, appealed to Australia Thursday to reverse course and allow about 1,600 East Timorese refugees remain in the country. Despite the “absolute peacefulness” of East Timor today, Ramos Horta told Lusa he was “appealing” to Canberra for a “gesture of solidarity”. (LUSA 27 Dec)
“We can assure our Indonesian neighbours, brothers and sisters, that East Timor is not going to be a haven for anyone in Indonesia who wishes to dismember the Republic of Indonesia,” he said. (The Age April 26, 2002)
OK, it’s one thing to suggest to Acheh and West Papua to accept autonomy, but why minimize the legitimacy of their right to self-determination?
In 1942, after the expulsion of Dutch forces from Acheh by the Japanese and Achehnese, and in 1945 after the Achehnese drove invading Dutch troops under Allied protection from Acheh and Medan, the Netherlands made no attempt to return to Acheh. Therefore in 1949 the Netherlands illegally handed over a non- existent sovereignty over Acheh to the Republic of Indonesia without Achehnese consent When the treaty was signed, Acheh enjoyed its sovereignty as an independent state. Portugal abandoned East Timor in 1975, East Timor did not go through a de-colonization process; therefore the seven-year abandonment by the Dutch would also entitle Acheh to the same process.
“West Papuans say their misery began with a UN-assisted vote [in the so-called Act of Free Choice] in 1969 in which 1,022 elders were bribed and intimidated into supporting the territory’s assimilation into Indonesia. The elders, who were deemed to represent all one million West Papuans, voted unanimously in what is now known as the Act of No Choice. A UN official who oversaw the event has since described it as a whitewash, but at the time it was passed over by the UN general assembly, under pressure from a US administration bent on ensuring Indonesia did not sway towards communism.” (Irish Times, April 26, 2004)
You deserve the utmost respect for the many years of dogged championing of Timor’s right to independence; in that regard the past is indelible. However it is thoroughly disillusioning to see your government’s betrayal of the people of Acheh and West Papua soiling the international image of East Timor and betraying, surrendering its principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms for every people. To think I once thought Orwell’s Animal Farm a mere children’s fable.
So what is the truth behind the betrayals? Either Timor hasn’t won its freedom from Indonesia or Timor Leste’s government is freely betraying Acheh and West Papua for pragmatic reasons. The latest Timor government initiative to lobby the US to lift the embargo and restrictions concerning military equipment supplies to Indonesia regretfully makes it more difficult to shake the image of pragmatic pigs on hind legs.
Dr Vacy Vlazna Coordinator, Acheh Human Rights Online
Australia (Former Convenor of East Timor Justice Lobby
and Australia East Timor Association)
Rights Groups Urge U.S. Not to Lift Ban on Ties with Indonesian Military
By Kenji Hall, AP
JAKARTA, Indonesia, Feb. 7 (AP) – Human rights groups on Tuesday called on the United States not to ease restrictions on ties with Indonesia’s military saying it continues to commit “brutal human rights violations.”
The U.S. Congress, which cut military ties in 1999 when Indonesian troops devastated the province of East Timor, is considering easing a six-year ban on training links with the southeast Asian nation.
Congress later prohibited resumed military ties until Indonesia cooperated with a U.S. investigation into the slayings of two American teachers in Indonesia’s Papua province.
In recent weeks, the two countries’ armed forces have worked together to offer relief to Indonesia’s tsunami-hit Aceh province, and U.S. officials have suggested they are considering closer contact with Indonesia’s military.
But rights officials said that Indonesian generals haven’t met congressional demands – or reformed their brutal ways.
“The argument is that restoring ties would improve their behavior. But we think just the opposite would happen,” East Timor Action Network’s John Miller told The Associated Press, by telephone from New York.
He accused Indonesian troops of “nothing less than brutal human rights violations and impunity for crimes against humanity.”
The administration of President George W. Bush says it needs the cooperation of the Indonesian armed forces in its global war on terrorism. But critics say the effort
is motivated more by Washington desire to counterbalance China’s growing economic and strategic clout in Southeast Asia.
Abigail Abrash Walton, with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights in Washington, said U.S. officials were trying to capitalize on “post-tsunami politics.”
“The Indonesian government has not cooperated fully with the FBI investigation of the brutal murders of two American teachers at the Freeport copper and gold mine in West Papua,” Walton said.
“There has been absolutely no progress since June in resolving this criminal attack. How can the State Department credibly claim that more than seven months of stonewalling by Indonesian authorities constitutes ‘cooperation’?”
Separately on Monday, rights groups criticized the Indonesian government’s plans to relocate to barracks hundreds of thousands of refugees left homeless in Aceh after the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami. The disaster killed more than 110,000 people, and left more than 120,000 others missing.
Indonesian officials said they plan later this month to move up to a fourth of the estimated 400,000 refugees in the province, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, while villages are rebuilt. The barracks will likely be guarded by Indonesian soldiers, who are feared and disliked by large sections of the population.
In a joint statement, New York-based Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First said military control of the barracks would effectively create ghetto communities with little contact with the outside.
“In the context of the war in Aceh, a military presence at the camps can be a form of intimidation and abusive control,” said Neil Hicks, Human Rights First’s director of international programs.
Since the 1970s, the country’s abusive army has forced thousands of villagers into camps to try to cut off widespread support for Aceh province’s separatist guerrillas.
The government has denied it has a political agenda in setting up the camps, and says no one will be forced into them.
February 7, 2005
Groups Condemn Planned Restoration of IMET for Indonesia
Normalizing Military Relations Will Undercut Limited Progress on Murder Case and Other Human Rights Efforts
For Immediate Release
February 7, 2005 – Two human rights groups today called the U.S. Department of State’s plan to allow Indonesia to again participate in the full International Military Education and Training (IMET) program short-sighted, a betrayal of the numerous victims of human rights violations by the Indonesian military (TNI), and a serious setback for justice.
“By pushing for release of IMET funds, the Bush Administration is taking advantage of post-tsunami politics to re-engage with the Indonesia military in direct contravention of U.S. law,” said Abigail Abrash Walton for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights. “The Indonesian government has not cooperated fully with the FBI investigation of the brutal murders of two American teachers at the Freeport copper and gold mine in West Papua. At the same time, the U.S. Justice Department apparently has shown a remarkable lack of initiative in investigating evidence showing Indonesian military involvement in the killings.”
The TNI has been implicated in the August 2002 attack within the mining concession of Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan, which also killed an Indonesian teacher and wounded 11 people, including a six-year-old child. Certification by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Congress of cooperation in the investigation of these killings is the sole condition on provision of IMET. The State Department is reportedly ready to certify cooperation this week.
“The amount of money for IMET may be small but its symbolic value is enormous. The Indonesian military will view any restoration of IMET as an endorsement of business as usual,” said John M. Miller, spokesperson for the East Timor Action Network. “Throughout the archipelago, business as usual has been nothing less than brutal human rights violations and impunity for crimes against humanity. In tsunami-stricken Aceh, the Indonesian military continues to manipulate relief efforts and to attack civilians as part of their counterinsurgency war.”
“Saying the Indonesian military is cooperating, doesn’t make it so,” said Abrash Walton. “The only person indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in June 2004, Anthonius Wamang, has documented ties to the Indonesian military. He has yet to be brought into custody, much less questioned further about the Indonesian military’s involvement in the August 2002 ambush. It seems that there has been absolutely no progress since June in resolving this criminal attack. How can the State Department credibly claim that more than seven months of stonewalling by Indonesian authorities constitutes ‘cooperation’?”
“The TNI already receives millions of dollars worth of training. Given the TNI’s dismal rights record and resistance to reform, the Bush administration’s long-running resolve to lift the IMET restriction and coddle the TNI defies belief. Why remove remaining leverage?” asked Miller.
The groups urged members of Congress to again restrict IMET in upcoming appropriations legislation and to extend any conditions to counter-terrorism training, which is funded separately. “Congress should apply the same conditions on IMET and other military training that it has imposed on weapon sales,” Miller said.
“Indonesia has yet to fulfill previous conditions on IMET, including accountability for rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia and transparency in the military budget. In fact, the TNI continues to violate human rights, especially in Aceh and West Papua. Many of those indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor continue to maintain powerful positions,” Miller said.
Arguing that “IMET for Indonesia is in the US interest,” Secretary Rice recently informed a key members of Congress that Indonesia “has demonstrated cooperation as required” by law. The law requires the Indonesian government and armed forces to cooperate with the FBI’s investigation into the August 31, 2002 ambush in the mining concession of Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc. (FCX). The administration wants to spend $600,000 for IMET this year.
“The Indonesian people have suffered through so much because of the latest natural disaster, but we must not let the tsunami wash away the need to address human rights abuses from the past,” Patsy Spier, who survived the attack in which her husband was killed, told the Associated Press in an interview in which she opposed Indonesian participation in IMET. “The whole point is just to have a proper investigation.”
An Indonesian citizen, Anthonius Wamang, was indicted in June 2004 by a U.S. grand jury. The killings took place in an area under full TNI control. According to local human rights defenders, Wamang has extensive ties to the Indonesian military as a business partner of Kopassus, the Indonesian army’s notorious special forces. In an August 2004 television interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Wamang said that he got his ammunition for the attack from Indonesian military personnel. He has told the FBI and local human rights groups that these officers knew that he was about to carry out an attack in the
Freeport concession. The TNI routinely uses militia proxies to stage attacks, in hopes of covering up their role.
Wamang remains at large and does not face charges in Indonesia. In announcing the indictment, then-Attorney General Ashcroft ignored evidence of TNI involvement while saying the investigation is ongoing.
Congress first voted to restrict Indonesia from receiving IMET, which brings foreign military officers to the U.S. for training, in response to the November 12, 1991 Santa Cruz massacre of more than 270 civilians in East Timor by Indonesian troops wielding U.S.-supplied M-16 rifles. All military ties with Indonesia were severed in September 1999 as the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor.
A number of congressional offices have insisted that the condition on IMET should remain in place until the investigation is completed and those responsible for the August 2002 attack are brought to justice.
In a January interview, Spier said the Freeport ambush case “should remind us why the training funds were held up in the first place. They’ve got to be willing to bring to justice those people who committed crimes [in Aceh, Papua and East Timor] and are still in service… They must acknowledge what they did was wrong.”
ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and for continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. (See www.etan.org)
The RFK Center has monitored and reported on the human rights situation in Indonesia, with a special focus on West Papua, since 1993, when respected Indonesian human rights attorney Bambang Widjojanto received the annual RFK Human Rights Award for his work to defend the rights of West Papua’s indigenous people.
John M. Miller, ETAN, 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391 (cell)
Abigail Abrash, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, 603-357-2651
Indonesia Hopes for Improved Military Ties with US
Rights Groups Concerned
By Tim Johnston – Jakarta
09 February 2005
A debate has begun over whether the United States should renew full military ties with Indonesia. Opponents say the Indonesian military should improve its human rights record before links are restored, but the Bush administration says that greater ties now would lead Indonesia’s security forces to conform to international standards of behavior.
Washington cut military ties with Jakarta in 1999, shortly after the Indonesian army went on the rampage in East Timor, killing more than a thousand people and forcing tens of thousands more into exile. The relationship chilled further in 2003, when the army was suspected of being involved in the murder of two American teachers in the restive province of Papua.
But U.S. and Indonesian troops worked well together in the massive relief operation that followed December’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. Bush administration officials are indicating it is time to normalize the military relationship with Indonesia, which has become a key ally in the war on terror.
Indonesia is keen to resume joint military training and to gain access to U.S. weaponry. Marty Natalegawa is the spokesman for the Indonesian foreign minister, and he says that this would be a good time to renew relations.
“This is especially pertinent, especially important and should be especially non-controversial now given the fact that Indonesia now, in contrast to the past, is also a democracy,” he said. “And it [is] always important to make sure to sustain this democratic path Indonesia has begun to have also the Indonesian military exposed to democratic thinking not only within Indonesia but also in the United States.”
But resuming full military ties would require the consent of the U.S. Congress and human rights groups are already lobbying against the move. The New York-based pressure group East Timor Action Network says the Indonesian army still commits abuses and has failed to bring those responsible for past violations to justice.
Indonesia set up special courts to try those responsible for the violence in East Timor, but the courts acquitted the military and police officers who were tried, provoking accusations of a cover-up by rights groups.
The record of the Indonesian army includes many proven cases of serious human rights abuses, but the new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, himself a U.S.-trained retired general, says he is committed to turning the army into a professional body that answers to a civilian leadership.
Christian Science Monitor
February 9, 2005
US, Indonesia Mull Closer Ties
Joint tsunami efforts have spurred calls to mend military ties limited by human rights concerns.
By Tom McCawley, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
JAKARTA, INDONESIA -The USS Abraham Lincoln wrapped up a month-long emergency relief mission last week and left the waters off Indonesia’s tsunami-afflicted Aceh Province.
But left in the Lincoln’s wake are ripples of interest in both the United States and Indonesia for a return to closer ties. Fresh debate has emerged in Congress over whether to restore relations with the Indonesian military, which had been damaged by human rights concerns. In Indonesia, the month-long US presence has so far helped to polish America’s image, which political observers say had been tarnished by the war in Iraq.
“The tsunami in Aceh showed that people in the West were serious in giving aid to Muslim counties,” says Ulil Abshar Abdalla, an Islamic scholar and liberal Muslim activist. “It will shift perceptions of the West as a bloc.”
Mr. Ulil says that prominent Islamic leaders thanked US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at a meeting at the US Ambassador’s residence in Jakarta. “It was the first time, I’d heard [the Islamic leaders] say thanks,” says Mr. Ulil. “It made me very happy.”
Mr. Wolfowitz, a former ambassador to Indonesia, is among those calling for closer military ties with the world’s largest majority-Muslim country. Wolfowitz told reporters in Jakarta last month, “We would also like to see how the TNI [the Indonesian military] has endeavored to put itself under the control of civilian supremacy.”
Supporters of mending the 13-year rift with Indonesia’s military argue that it could be a more central ally in the war on terrorists, including Southeast Asian groups linked to Al Qaeda. Indonesia’s navy also polices the Malacca Straits, a major world shipping lane prone to pirate attacks, and, intelligence agents say, possibly a major marine terrorist
Critics claim that the Indonesian military has not done enough to reform itself after decades of human rights abuses, including in Aceh province, which has been the site of a separatist rebellion since 1976.
Human rights concerns
The US ended a training program known as IMET with Indonesia in 1991 after Indonesian soldiers massacred demonstrators in a graveyard in mostly Catholic East Timor. The ties were further scaled back in 1999, after the Indonesian military orchestrated a scorched earth campaign killing hundreds, following East Timor’s vote for independence in a UN-sponsored plebiscite.
The US training programs, which included courses on operating a civilian chain of command, are exactly those needed by militaries such as Indonesia to improve their record, argue supporters such as Sen. Kit Bond (R) of Missouri. Under the IMET program, Indonesian officers were exposed to Western military practices, including codes of conduct and rules of engagement.
John Haseman, a former US military attache in Jakarta, says that the “cost of cutting IMET” has been that many senior officers have not had exposure to US military practices. Some US military observers have noted that tsunami relief coordination went more smoothly with the Thais because both militaries know each other under the IMET program, and have conducted military operations together. India, Pakistan, and Malaysia also take part in the program.
In a speech in late January, Senator Bond called for an end to military sanctions against Indonesia, claiming the country could be a stronger ally in the war on Al Qaeda-linked terrorists. In a statement, Bond said that sanctions on the sale of spare parts had slowed the delivery of aid to tsunami victims. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also believed to support closer ties.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, the architect of the 1999 restrictions, disagrees. Senator Leahy, a vocal critic of the TNI, argues that Indonesia’s military has done little to change its ways. He says Indonesia has failed to bring to account officers involved in atrocities in East Timor, dismissing the convictions of a Jakarta-based ad hoc court for human rights crimes in East Timor.
In the US Senate last week, Leahy accused the Indonesian military of consistently obstructing justice.
“Although senior Indonesian military officers have repeatedly vowed to support reform, they have done next to nothing to hold their members accountable for these heinous crimes,” he said in a statement.
Some ties remain
Leahy said that Indonesian officers already receive some US training. Such programs include counterterrorism skills. And Indonesia, with proper disclosure, can purchase from the US some military spare parts for “nonlethal” items.
US investigators have accused the Indonesian military of blocking an FBI investigation into the deaths in 2002 of two Americans for 18 months in the far-flung Papua province near a gold mine operated by a US company. The murders have further complicated efforts to restore links.
Although he did not mention the IMET program, after his visit to Indonesia in mid-January, Wolfowitz said that cooperation between the US and Indonesian militaries could mean closer ties. He said that the US needed to “help build the kind of defense institution that will ensure in the future that the Indonesian military, like our military, is a loyal function of a democratic government.”
A study sponsored by the United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO), a Washington-based nongovernment organization, is also calling for the US to lift restrictions on military ties. The report from USINDO, whose members include US corporations that do business in Indonesia, such as Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold and Exxon-Mobil, is calling for expansion of military ties.
Meanwhile, the US still has a 1,000-bed hospital ship, the Mercy, in Aceh’s waters as part of the $4.5 billion relief effort there.
But Islamic scholars such as Ulil say that among many ordinary Muslims the enhanced post-tsunami image for the US – regardless of the relations between the governments – will not be permanent. “As long as there is aggression, as long as there is a US presence in Iraq, there will be distrust [among ordinary Muslims], it has very deep roots in history.”
Agence France Presse
February 10, 2005
Bush to Seek US$950 Million in Tsunami Aid
US President George W. Bush announced plans to nearly triple US aid to nations devastated by the December 26 Indian Ocean tsunami, bringing total US assistance to US$950 million.
Bush, who hopes such help will polish Washington’s image in the Muslim world, said in a statement released by the White House that he would seek to boost an earlier commitment of 350 million dollars.
“I will seek 950 million (dollars) as part of the supplemental appropriations request to (Congress to) support the areas recovering from the tsunami and to cover the costs of relief efforts to date,” he said.
Bush said the assistance was largely to rebuild vital infrastructure “that re-energizes economies and strengthens societies.”
So far, Japan has been the top donor to the tsunami relief effort in terms of money disbursed, handing out 500 million dollars to United Nations agencies and governments of affected countries.
“I would think the proposal of President Bush is the most generous and most extensive in US history for US government” in terms of aid for natural disasters, Andrew Natsios, head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), told a media briefing.
He said Washington was in talks with countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka to determine the reconstruction projects in which US resources could be used.
The news came a day after the US State Department announced that a total of 33 Americans had been confirmed or presumed dead from the tsunami.
The total number of people dead or presumed dead following the subsea December earthquake and tsunami is now put at nearly 295,000, Indonesia announced Monday. Indonesia was the country most severely affected by the disaster.
According to the White House, the 950 million dollars in total aid will include:
- 346 million dollars to defray costs incurred by USAID and the US military for immediate relief;
- 339 million dollars to rebuild infrastructure, such as roads, schools, and water distribution systems;
- 168 million dollars to help survivors return home, including food aid, shelter, housing reconstruction, education, and other programs;
- 62 million dollars for technical assistance for reconstruction activities, as well as costs of US government operations in the region;
- 35 million dollars for early warning and disaster mitigation efforts, including 23 million to improve US and international early warning systems against tidal waves, and 12 million for those efforts in affected countries.
Some portion of the funds request may go to fund debt deferments for countries affected by the tsunami.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said at the br
iefing that the United States had deployed 16,000 military personnel, 26 large ships, 58 helicopters and 43 fixed wing aircraft in the relief and recovery effort.
Wolfowitz, who visited Indonesia to supervise American military relief operations, said the additional funding was essential to follow up on the mammoth US recovery effort.
He also said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was consulting with Congress on “the way forward” to possible restoration of full military ties with Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
More than a decade after Washington banned military ties due to human rights problems, Indonesia had made progress in terms of “accountability” and military reforms, Wolfowitz said.
He said the review was timely but the administration alone could not make a decision.
The Bush administration had sought to restore military links with Indonesia, in large part to help fight terrorism, but the US Congress has repeatedly blocked the effort.
Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Opinion ~ Aid Groups Have to Be Neutral
There is no place for activism in tsunami-devastated Aceh, writes Don D’Cruz.
The Prime Minister, John Howard, and his Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, have done a remarkable job in improving Australia’s bilateral relationship with Indonesia, arguably our most important neighbour, from its nadir just after Australia’s intervention in East Timor.
This process has been aided greatly by the election of Indonesia’s new President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who seems to have developed a good working relationship with Howard.
Relations with Indonesia have been strengthened further by the Howard Government’s prompt and generous humanitarian response to the Boxing Day tsunami.
For the Howard Government, the main threat to better relations was always going to be the conduct of Australian aid organisations. They have a long track record of becoming embroiled in Indonesian politics, which has included some support for separatist movements.
While there is high-level awareness in both governments of the activities of Australian aid organisations and the challenges they pose to relations, in the Australian media Indonesian claims of “foreign interference” are usually put down to paranoia.
However, it would be a mistake to ignore the substance of these claims, especially when it comes to the activities of Western aid groups operating in Indonesia.
By and large, the trend among aid organisations has been to become more involved in politics, although this activism has been largely masked from the public.
For example, the City of Sydney Council chose Oxfam Community Aid Abroad as the principal beneficiary of the council’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. Oxfam has an interesting history, particularly in Indonesia.
In a 1999 submission to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into East Timor, Oxfam Community Aid Abroad said: “Soon after the 1991 [Dili] massacre, Community Aid Abroad [now known as Oxfam Community Aid Abroad] was informed that we could work in Indonesia only if we dropped our position supporting the rights of the East Timorese to self-determination.” It added: “To this day, we remain officially banned from working in both Indonesia and East Timor.”
With the subsequent independence of East Timor, Oxfam has resumed operations in Indonesia.
Oxfam is not alone. Caritas Australia is another aid group with a track record of political activism, as is the ACTU’s humanitarian arm, Union Aid Abroad.
Organisations such as Oxfam would reject the notion that they play politics. Rather, they would argue that they are simply defending people’s rights. But as the human rights scholar Michael Ignatieff argues in his book Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry : “Rights are inescapably political because they tacitly imply a conflict between a rights holder and a rights ‘withholder’.”
Globally, the trend is for aid groups to become more political and adopt what is called “a rights-based approach to development”. At its core, this approach argues that aid groups need to tackle the “root causes” of poverty rather than just the symptoms, such as the lack of food, water and shelter. This may sound fine in theory, but in practice many aid groups have used this approach to become involved in the internal politics of the sovereign countries in which they operate.
Aside from protecting Australian bilateral relations with Indonesia, there is a strong humanitarian argument for keeping aid organisations out of Indonesian politics.
Any political activity by aid organisations could not only threaten the safety of aid workers from organisations not engaged in politics, but also runs the risk of aid organisations being denied access to Aceh, as was the case before the tsunami.
When the tsunami struck Indonesia, Western aid groups were absent from the province of Aceh, which has been the scene of a long-running insurgency by the Free Aceh Movement for independence.
One reason for this was that they had been barred by the Indonesian Government after previous instances of aid groups aligning themselves with separatist movements in West Papua and East Timor. The groups had actively promoted these causes and had sought to get countries such as Australia embroiled in these issues.
Given the sheer scale of destruction, it is imperative that those aid organisations that are focused purely on delivering humanitarian relief and development be allowed to have continued access to Aceh.
Having dramatically improved Australia’s relations with Indonesia, it is essential that the Howard Government closely monitor the activities of Australia’s foreign non-government aid organisations in Indonesia.
Don D’Cruz is a research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs.
Feb 08-14, 2005
The Colonels’ Return
Shifts among command posts within the Indonesian Army are underway, with those in Aceh taking the limelight.
A warming-up is taking place within the Indonesian Army rank and file. Pending the replacement of its chief of staff and commander, reshuffles of posts within the corps are the order of the day once more.
Two that drew public interest occurred in Aceh. The Military Resort Command (Korem) 011/Lilawangsa, which was previously headed by Col. A.Y. Nasution, has been given a new commander in the person of Col. Chairawan, while Col. Gerhan Lantara has been replaced in Korem 012/Teuku Umar by Col. Zahri Siregar.
Chief of the Army’s Information Service, Brig. Gen. Hotma Ngaraja Panjaitan, stated that the shifts were but common changes due to the retirement of some senior officers and the promotion of medium-rank officers.
Common changes? The replacement of two Korem commanders in Aceh-effected shortly preceding a strong statement by the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ryamizard
Ryacudu, regarding the conflict in the Veranda of Mecca-has given rise to speculations that the Indonesian Military (TNI) will “play tough” there.
In Ryamizard’s own words, the conflict in Aceh can only be said to be settled if the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) surrenders. “If they don’t surrender, well, then there won’t be any settlement.” The clause about a ceasefire touched upon in the negotiations between Indonesia and GAM in Finland at the end of last month is something that does not even cross his mind. “If GAM asks for a ceasefire, that’s their right. How on earth could we, defenders of the state, agree to a ceasefire. What kind of tale is that?” he said.
The two new Korem commanders, according to military observer Kusnanto Anggoro, possess splendid military competence. In his view, the assignment of the two of them is intended to increase the pressure in the conflict area.
Chairawan’s record includes command of Group IV of the Special Forces (Kopassus). Zahri Siregar’s most recent assignment was Commanding Officer of the Candradimuka Regiment at the Military Academy. Previously he was Assistant for Operations to the Commander of Division I of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad).
Chairawan’s name came to the fore in 1997, when he was commanding officer of Kopassus’ Group IV. During the political turbulences of that time, one so-called Rose Team, a team that was part of his unit, was known to be behind the abduction of nine student activists.
When the wind of political change blew in 1998, all the members of the Rose Team, which was under the command of Maj. Bambang Kristiono, were dragged to court. Bambang and four officers of the rank of captain were dismissed from military service. Chairawan himself escaped trial, although he was relieved of the command of Kopassus’s Group IV by the Officers Code of Honor Council. He was subsequently relegated to an expert staff post at Army HQ. Many thought then that it marked the end of the colonel’s military career.
Kusnanto Anggoro judged the army as being insensitive with respect to Chairawan’s present assignment. “His military competence is good enough, but from the ethical and image points of view, he has baggage from the past. This indicates that the army does not care at all what outsiders think,” he observed. Chairawan himself, unfortunately, could not be reached for comment.
However, to his defense came Hotma Ngaraja. Hotma said that the assignment of Chairawan and Zahri Siregar was decided on after both passed selection tests. “In the Military Resort Command course, both scored top ratings,” he said.
The previous Korem commanders, according to Hotma, were replaced not because they had been unsuccessful but because their time for rotation had come.
Col. A.Y. Nasution admitted that the security condition in his former area of jurisdiction was not completely as expected yet. “Security disturbances still occur from GAM,” he said. The job is now in the hands of his successor.
Tulus Wijanarko, Sita Planasari (Jakarta), Imran M.A. (Lhokseumawe)