Connect with ETAN
Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest ETAN on Instagram Donate to ETAN!

Subject: DOS: testimony on rights in Indonesia
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 16:15:49 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <etan@etan.org>

*EPF503 07/24/98 TEXT:
SHATTUCK TESTIMONY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN INDONESIA
(Too early to predict transition to genuine democracy) (3710)

Washington -- Indonesia is undergoing a remarkable transition, but it is too early to say whether this progress will lead to a genuine democratic transition, according to Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck.

In testimony before the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights July 24, Shattuck said: "Emerging from decades under authoritarian rule, the Indonesian people have little experience in self-government, constructive dissent, or the complex give and take of democracy. Although we can see daily the evidence of change -- increasing free expression, the release of political prisoners, the formation of political parties and trade unions, the early stages of preparation for new elections -- we have to recognize that it is too early to say whether this progress will continue over the long run, and whether it will lead to a genuine democratic transition."

Shattuck emphasized, however, that Indonesia's efforts deserve support, and there is much the United States is doing to help the forces of democracy and human rights there.

"Indonesia, today, enjoys the most open political climate it has known in 30 years," Shattuck said. "We should also bear in mind that it continues to change rapidly, and not always in ways that can be anticipated, or even quickly understood. Indonesia's present political and economic crisis -- a product of many domestic and international factors -- does not lend itself to easy analysis or prescription."

Shattuck noted that continued economic decline is the greatest threat to a transition to a genuinely democratic system in Indonesia. "When people are unemployed, hungry, frightened and hopeless, they are less well equipped to make rational and responsible political choices. For this reason, I believe that it is essential to support economic assistance through the international financial institutions," he said.

"We have not, however, given the Indonesians a blank check, and we will monitor the situation closely," Shattuck said. "We will continue to deliver a strong message on the importance of democratic reform and respect for human rights, and we will continue to orient our assistance programs to helping Indonesia toward that goal."

Following is the text of Shattuck's statement, as prepared for delivery:

(begin text)

STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOHN SHATTUCK ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR BUREAU DEPARTMENT OF STATE AT A HEARING ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN INDONESIA BEFORE THE HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

JULY 24, 1998

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the invitation to speak with you today about human rights in Indonesia. Indonesia is now undergoing a remarkable, but uncertain, transition. Emerging from decades under authoritarian rule, the Indonesian people have little experience in self-government, constructive dissent, or the complex give and take of democracy. Although we can see daily the evidence of change -- increasing free expression, the release of political prisoners, the formation of political parties and trade unions, the early stages of preparation for new elections -- we have to recognize that it is too early to say whether this progress will continue over the long run, and whether it will lead to a genuine democratic transition. But we know that it deserves our support, and there is much that we are doing to help the forces of democracy and human rights. We should begin any examination of the situation in Indonesia by recognizing how radically the situation has changed in recent months. We should acknowledge that Indonesia, today, enjoys the most open political climate it has known in 30 years. We should also bear in mind that it continues to change rapidly, and not always in ways that can be anticipated, or even quickly understood. Indonesia's present political and economic crisis -- a product of many domestic and international factors -- does not lend itself to easy analysis or prescription.

Indonesia is a vast, ethnically diverse nation spread over 13,000 islands that are home to over 200 million people. It is the fourth largest country in the world, and includes the world's largest Muslim population. It is facing a grave economic crisis. The task before the Indonesian people today -- to emerge from decades of authoritarian rule and build a functioning representative democracy -- is as great a challenge as the one it faced upon achieving its independence nearly half a century ago. I believe that all of us who have worked to promote democratization and greater respect for human rights around the world should recognize the difficulty of the road ahead for the people of Indonesia. The role of Indonesia's friends, particularly the United States, will be to support this momentous transition. We will promote the development of civil society, democratic institutions and respect for human rights through bilateral and multilateral assistance programs, and through our engagement with Indonesians across the spectrum of political opinion.

I have a great personal interest in the changes underway in Indonesia because of the work that I and my Bureau have done over the past four years in support of human rights and democracy, as a part of the larger U.S. government effort. I first traveled to Indonesia in April, 1995, to discuss human rights issues with the Indonesian government and non-governmental organizations. This trip was the result of the human rights discussions President Clinton and then- Secretary of State Warren Christopher had held with President Soeharto the previous November. At that time, Secretary Christopher had expressed his commitment to a continuing human rights dialogue, and my trip was the next step. I returned to Indonesia in 1996 and 1997. During these visits, I met with journalist and press groups facing censorship and repression, and encouraged them in their campaign for freedom of expression. In Surabaya, I met with banned or restricted labor leaders, and in Jakarta, I visited and pressed for the improved treatment and release of labor leader Muchtar Pakpahan on two separate visits. I pressed Indonesian officials to take specific, concrete steps to improve the overall human rights situation, especially in East Timor. During discussions with officials, I secured the release or improved treatment of several political prisoners and pressed for the reduction of troop levels in East Timor. In Dili, East Timor, I met on several trips with Bishop Belo. I was deeply, impressed by his commitment to human rights, his clear thinking about the problems facing East Timor, and the desire he expressed to avoid violence and find a peaceful solution to the problem facing his people.

My missions were a part of a broad U.S. policy to encourage Indonesian officials to improve their human rights practices and end abuses. The issue of human rights and political reform has been on the U.S.-Indonesia agenda consistently, and at the highest levels. During the crisis that broke this spring, reflecting the widespread opposition to another term of office for President Soeharto and the deteriorating economic situation, we repeatedly emphasized to the Indonesian authorities the need for restraint on the part of the security forces, and the importance of a more transparent and accountable political process if Indonesia were to overcome its human rights problems -- and the economic problems that threatened serious disruption to the well-being and livelihood of its citizens. We also underscored, at the highest levels, the need to avoid scapegoating the ethnic Chinese minority. In the wake of the disappearances of democracy activists early this year, our Embassy in Jakarta and other U.S. officials made clear to Indonesian officials the need to find and release the missing activists, and to hold accountable those responsible for their disappearance and, in some cases, torture. I met with the Indonesian Ambassador in April to make these points myself. In May, I met with Plus Lustrilanang, the courageous young Indonesian who, at great risk to himself, came forward to tell the truth about his kidnapping, detention and torture.

As grassroots pressure for democracy has grown in Indonesia, our communications have been pointed and supportive of major changes, as have our public statements. We have worked with our key partners to reinforce our message. One result of this was the strong, unified call for military restraint, human rights improvements and political reform by theG-8 in Birmingham in May. Secretary Albright's strong statements in support of political reform were widely reported in Indonesia and have been cited by Indonesians as extremely influential at a critical time. In the period since Soeharto resigned, we have engaged in extensive discussions with Indonesians from President Habibie to student groups. We have articulated a clear message to all: we value our relations with Indonesia, and we want to support measures that will lead to a sustained economic recovery and the establishment of democratically elected, accountable government that respects the human rights of its citizens. We have strengthened our lines of communications to representatives of business, the military, non-governmental organizations and members of all political factions, to encourage each to contribute to the solution of the problems Indonesia now faces.

We have also conveyed the message that Indonesia does not face these problems alone. The international community now has a wealth of experience in assisting economic and democratic transitions of the kind that Indonesia is experiencing. Moreover, in recent years, long before this year's surge for democracy in Indonesia, the U.S. has been a major contributor to efforts to support the development of civil society, the foundation on which a new democratic government can be built. Our assistance is not intended to provoke instability and unrest, as some in Indonesia have alleged, but rather the opposite: to help Indonesians themselves address the problems of their society in peaceful, responsible ways, through civic education, community involvement, and responsible actions.

Specifically, through USAID's democracy program the Clinton Administration has assisted the development of Indonesian NGOs involved in advocacy on a wide range of issues -- including governmental accountability, citizen participation, law reform, environmental protection, land rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples. For example, we have supported LBH, the Indonesian Legal Aid Association, in its efforts to investigate corruption within the Indonesian government and in representing students, journalists and labor leaders before the courts. Through our support, a nation-wide environmental organization, WALHI, uncovered and publicized severe problems with industrial waste disposal and illegal land acquisition. In Irian Jaya, we assisted the largest Irianese community development non-governmental organization (YPMD) to spotlight problems relating to human rights, land tenure, and the environment. And as Indonesia's political and economic transitions proceed we will continue to support the development of civil society through assistance to an increasing number of nongovernmental organizations that are promoting greater accountability, transparency and effectiveness at all levels of government

As I said at the beginning of my testimony, we must be keenly aware of the potential dangers that lie ahead. Indonesia faces daunting challenges. Like so many countries making their way from authoritarianism, every effort to move forward is hampered by the continuing effects of past repressive practices and attitudes. I would like to point to a few areas, which I believe present the greatest potential pitfalls, and state what the Administration is doing in response.

While there is broad agreement in Indonesia about the need to reform the political system to enable citizens to have a real voice in their governance, there is less consensus about how to address the questions of local self-government and decentralization. In Indonesia, these questions are further complicated by ethnic and cultural divisions, and by historical problems in outlying areas.

In East Timor, the U.S. has long supported the U.N. mediated tri-partite talks spearheaded by the Secretary General's personal representative, Ambassador Jamsheed Marker. Until recently, we had seen little progress from the talks, conducted between the representatives of Indonesia and Portugal, which the U.N. recognizes as the protecting power for East Timor. The current changes underway in Indonesia have opened the door, however, for revitalization of the talks. We have encouraged both parties to look for measures they could take to demonstrate their renewed commitment to resolving the problem of East Timor. Last week, Ambassador Marker met with Xanana Gusmao, the prominent East Timorese leader imprisoned in Indonesia. I would note reports that Mr. Gusmao urged Indonesia and Portugal to exchange interest sections without making his release a precondition. We have also made this point, reinforcing Ambassador Marker's message. The opening of interests sections would be a small but meaningful step forward, demonstrating that both sides are committed to working together to resolve East Timor's status. It would be a tangible result of the tri-partite process. The U.S. has continued to urge troop reductions, as well as accountability for abuses committed by security forces in East Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia. We have also stressed the importance of further prisoner releases. In our contacts with East Timorese who oppose Indonesian rule, we have also underscored the importance of abstaining from the use of force and the commitment to peaceful negotiation as the only way to achieve a solution.

Irian Jaya and Aceh also present special human rights problems. Earlier this year, church groups from Irian Jaya released a deeply disturbing report, detailing abuses that took place there in late 1996 and 1997. Earlier this month, protesters in several areas of Irian Jaya engaged in pro-independence demonstrations, leading in some cases to clashes with security forces. Reports indicate that several protesters were killed, more injured, and many arrested. While the situation in Aceh has recently been quieter, this region also has a history of anti-government activity that has led to a heavy military presence. Our Embassy in Jakarta is paying close attention to the situation in these regions, and Embassy officers, including the Ambassador, travel periodically to each.

Indonesia's response in the past to activity by opponents of Indonesian rule in these areas had been to increase its military presence and bear down hard on all manifestations of opposition. In addition to the human rights violations that resulted from this policy, it was clearly not effective. We are urging Indonesian authorities to recognize that they cannot resolve these problems by force of arms. They must enter into a dialogue with the population and find ways to address legitimate grievances. Progress toward greater decentralization, devolving more authority to local government, will help not only to defuse tensions in these trouble spots, but will ultimately benefit Indonesians across the country. We must be aware, however, that decentralization may be viewed as a threatening concept by some Indonesians, who remember the disorder and the centrifugal forces that buffeted Indonesia in the early days of independence. In addition to these serious problems in outlying areas, Indonesia also has a lot still to do in Jakarta, where the pace and direction of the democratic reform will be set. As Indonesia tries to move forward, it will have to address certain difficult, but crucial, problems. I had a chance earlier this week to discuss many of these problems with Indonesia's Ambassador Dorodjatun, and I know that other U.S. officials are also making these points in their regular meetings with Indonesians.

At the top of our agenda is the problem of accountability and an end to human rights abuses by the security forces. In order to move toward this goal, the government will have to continue to investigate the kidnappings and disappearances that occurred earlier this year, and to bring to justice any officials who were involved in these crimes. There are about a dozen activists still missing; the authorities must account for them, and release those still in detention. There must be a full investigation of the alleged role of elements of the military in the May riots. I have been particularly appalled by the terrible accounts of widespread use of rape against ethnic Chinese women and girls during the rioting, and deeply concerned by allegations that elements of the military may have been complicit in these attacks.

At the same time, I am encouraged by greater restraint shown by the military during demonstrations and protests this year, and by the increased willingness of leading officials to acknowledge errors and conduct investigations and prosecutions in those tragic cases that have led to injury and loss of life. You are probably aware that eleven members of the security forces have been arrested, due to evidence that they were involved in the disappearance of activists. This is, again, an unprecedented step. When I met earlier this week with the Indonesian Ambassador, I emphasized the importance of continued restraint by the military, and accountability for abuses. He, in turn, laid out a program proposed by the government to investigate and try those guilty of criminal acts and human rights violations. The government has established a commission to investigate charges against the military. The Indonesian Human Rights Commission is also pursuing an investigation, and some women's groups, working with the Minister for Women's Affairs, are also playing an active role. The government will set up both military and civilian courts charged with trying these cases, and plans to proceed quickly to prosecutions by mid-November. We welcome the commitment by the Indonesian authorities to find and punish the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes.

Indonesia needs to take action to promote reconciliation to the ethnic Chinese minority, and to reassure them that, as citizens, they will receive equal protection by the forces charged with maintaining law and order. The government's recent decision to remove ethnic designations from official identification cards is a good step in this direction, as was President Habibie's recent public statement condemning the vicious attacks on Sino-Indonesians. We have also encouraged Indonesian officials to ensure that members of all religious faiths enjoy equal protection of the law. Indonesia has worked to promote a spirit of religious tolerance, but there are recurring and serious problems with attacks on churches and with incidents of discrimination. Especially in a time of heightened tensions stemming from political changes and economic hardship, we are urging the government to demonstrate leadership in promoting respect for minorities

The military leadership has been a recent supporter of change in Indonesia, and we need to maintain our lines of communication to military leaders such as General Wiranto and other supporters of the reform process. We must be certain our contacts with the military serve to promote greater respect for human rights. Within the State Department, and in cooperation with the Defense Department, we have been working on the procedures for reviewing military training deployments to ensure that no training is provided to units that have committed gross human rights violations, unless the host country has taken effective measures to bring perpetrators to justice.

Indonesia must also look for ways to build public confidence that the new openness will be lasting and genuine. We are concerned that many political prisoners remain incarcerated, including those who are in jail solely for the peaceful expression of their political views. There are people imprisoned in Indonesia today for saying things in the past that, today, could be published in any newspaper or announced from any podium. The continued imprisonment of these individuals casts a shadow over the progress made so far in so many areas.

The Indonesian government has rightly earned praise for the release of imprisoned labor leader Muchtar Pakpahan, and for permitting his independent trade union to function. Other union activity is also on the rise. The government must now also learn to live with trade unions. Recent government intervention in strikes by security forces is a cause for concern. As the economic situation declines, responsible trade unions can help workers to get a fairer deal, and so, perhaps, ameliorate the resentment and anger that can lead to further instability.

As we look at difficulties ahead, it is critical to begin assessing the elections process. Revamping the electoral system will be difficult. But neither Indonesians nor the international community will have confidence that the political transition is complete until a new government is formed through free and fair elections.

In order to assist the democratic transition, the Administration is currently developing a program to support the laying of a groundwork for free and fair elections. The State Department and USAID are working very closely on this expanded democracy program. As you know, USAID Administrator Brian Atwood led an assessment mission to Indonesia last month; and the director of my bureau's program office, Elizabeth Clark, is presently in Jakarta on a follow-up Mission.

In particular, we are planning to expand our support for Indonesian non-governmental organizations involved in civic education and electoral monitoring. And we have initiated assistance for the promotion of political dialogue; for the revision of laws on elections, political parties and presidential selection; for the training of journalists covering the political and economic transition; and for the development of independent labor unions.

No discussion of the problems ahead is complete without reference to the economic situation. I will not go into detail about the stunning economic decline, which I know is of great concern to everyone here today. The dramatically growing poverty represents a humanitarian crisis of enormous scope. I would only like to note that a continuation of the economic decline is, perhaps, the greatest threat to a transition to a genuinely democratic system. When people are unemployed, hungry, frightened and hopeless, they are less well equipped to make rational and responsible political choices. For this reason, I believe that it is essential to support economic assistance through the international financial institutions. We have not, however, given the Indonesians a blank check, and we will monitor the situation closely.

As we look ahead, we will continue to deliver a strong message on the importance of democratic reform and respect for human rights, and we will continue to orient our assistance programs to helping Indonesia toward that goal. We appreciate the strong and constructive interest shown by members of Congress -- and by you in particular, Mr. Chairman -- in this process. We have a tremendous opportunity to help the Indonesian people at this historic moment, and we must work together to meet the challenges. Thank you.

(end text)

NNNN

Back to July Menu
Back to Main Postings Menu