Vol. 10, No. 2
Congress Takes on TNI, Justice, Australia
Congress Takes on TNI, Justice, Australia
by Karen Orenstein
November 2 has come and gone. As we ponder the results, we must gear up for four more years of a Bush administration and Congress that will lean farther to the right than before the election. President Bush, along with staunch Suharto ally Paul Wolfowitz, entered office in 2001 expecting to ease and remove Congressional restrictions on assistance for the Indonesian military (TNI). Through hard work, we have held them off. But, with the 2005 Senate and House likely to be more hostile to human rights concerns, we must prepare for a concentrated administration assault against the TNI assistance ban and a steep uphill battle to secure justice for East Timor and Indonesia.
Throughout the election season, the State Department and their friends in Congress sought to expand assistance to the TNI. They were largely unsuccessful – this was no small feat! We should take heart from this outcome.
The Senate version of the 2005 appropriations bill renewed bans on Foreign Military Financing (FMF) of weapons sales, International Military Education and Training (IMET), and export licenses for lethal equipment to Indonesia. Strong human rights and TNI budget transparency conditions on releasing FMF remained. IMET conditionality were much weaker — calling only for Indonesian cooperation with the FBI investigation into the ambush killings in West Papua in August 2002. ETAN continues to push for stronger restrictions. These provisions were maintained in the final version of the bill, included in the mammoth omnibus appropriations bill passed November 20.
The appropriations bill does allow for an exception to the FMF restriction. The bill would provide $6 million in FMF to the Indonesian navy for “maritime security,” but only if the navy complies with strict human rights conditions. With its record, the navy will have a very tough time doing so. The Pentagon also continues to provide counter-terrorism training to the TNI under different legislation. Yet such assistance ignores the reality that the investigation of fundamentalist terrorist attacks is a police, not a military, function in Indonesia. ETAN continues to urge Congress to extend human rights conditions to all assistance, including counter-terrorism programs.
In a report accompanying the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, the Appropriations Committee expressed its “disappointment with the acquittal of Indonesian military officers in connection with the 1999 atrocities in East Timor and the performance of the ad hoc tribunal.” The Committee also raised concerns about the situation in rebellious Aceh, where an Indonesian military offensive continues.
Continued restrictions on IMET and FMF send an important signal to the new Indonesian government that Congress believes military reform is vital to democratic progress in Indonesia, and that justice for crimes against humanity in East Timor is essential. The Bush administration will undoubtedly use newly elected Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) reputation as a reformer to fuel their attempts to lift military restrictions. However, SBY’s long military career, which includes two tours of duty in East Timor, as well as implementation of martial law in Aceh while in former President Megawati’s cabinet, does not bode well for hopes of real military reform and accountability.
As election campaigning heated up in both countries, ETAN and its allies protested possible State Department plans to budget FMF for Indonesia in 2006. Congress has restricted FMF for Indonesia since 2000 because of the 1999 East Timor scorched-earth campaign. In October, led by Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Lane Evans (D-IL), and James McGovern (D-MA), 45 Representatives protested possible provision of FMF for Indonesia in 2006 as “premature, unwarranted, and unwise.” The previous month, ETAN coordinated a similar letter from 70 U.S. organizations to Secretary of State Powell. Furthermore, in August, 65 Representatives, led by Evans, Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and Smith, wrote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, urging him to reconsider Pentagon steps towards resumption of normalized U.S.- Indonesia military relations.
Members of Congress also continued to raise their voices for justice for the TNI’s many victims. In July, an impressive 78 Representatives — led by Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) — urged UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to “ensure that the international community holds responsible those who committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in East Timor,” including through the possibility of an international tribunal. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) also wrote to Powell expressing deep concerns about justice for East Timor. And in June, Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and 19 other Senators urged Annan to appoint a UN Special Representative to Indonesia to monitor the situations in Aceh and West Papua and make recommendations on steps the UN might undertake to end these conflicts.
Congress also maintained pressure on the Australian government to deal fairly with East Timor in boundary negotiations. The Senate Appropriations Committee encouraged “all parties to negotiate in good faith in accordance with international legal principles.” During the House debate of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement, Reps. Kennedy, McGovern and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) urged Australia to expeditiously negotiate a permanent maritime boundary with Timor according to international law.
On November 11, 2004, 16 East Timorese groups urged the U.S. Congress to end all assistance to the Indonesian military and to work for justice for victims of past human rights violations. The groups wrote that Congress should “provide leadership by ending all assistance to the military which so damaged our country... Restrictions on military aid are essential to efforts to end impunity for the horrendous crimes committed in East Timor…. The more powerful and unaccountable the Indonesian military remains, the slimmer the chances for stability and democracy in Indonesia.”
The next few years will pose great challenges for those concerned with human rights protections for the peoples of East Timor, Indonesia, and elsewhere. However, we have prevailed in the past over obstacles as least as difficult. After all, East Timor is free and U.S.-TNI ties remain restricted. Many strong supporters of human rights and democracy in Indonesia and East Timor will be returning to Congress. Just like us, they need additional allies and supporters. We must continue to educate ourselves and others. This is an opportune time to meet with your newly elected and returning Representatives and Senators to clearly convey to them your concerns about U.S. policy toward East Timor and Indonesia. Please get in touch with ETAN’s Washington office; we can do this together!
For more info see http://etan.org/legislation/default.htm.