Quietly Resumes Training Indon Military Officers
The Washington Post and International Herald Tribune Saturday, February 19, 2000
U.S. Resumes Training Plan For Officers Of Indonesia
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran Washington Post Service
JAKARTA - The U.S. Defense Department has quietly resumed training Indonesian military officers in the United States, restoring a key element of the Pentagon's relationship with Indonesia that was suspended last year after Indonesian soldiers took part in the violence that engulfed East Timor.
Although the training program is small - it involves only seven Indonesian officers - U.S. officials privately say that it was restarted without fanfare to avoid criticism on Capitol Hill and among human rights groups, which argue that Indonesian government-supported militias still are discouraging refugees from returning to East Timor.
U.S. officials stress that they have not resumed full military-to-military relations with Indonesia, and they warn that the training program will not be continued if the Indonesian military does not actively deal with the refugee problem and other issues. Nevertheless, American officials say they are heartened by Indonesia's efforts to reform its armed forces since the country's first democratically elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid, took office in October.
The country now has a civilian defense minister, a well-respected former academic who is trying to ferret out corruption and extricate the military from politics. The government also is investigating dozens of military officers, including the now-suspended armed forces chief, General Wiranto, for human rights abuses in East Timor, and the country's attorney general this week promised that suspects would be brought to trial within three months.
''There have been some very positive strides,'' said a U.S. official here. ''The determination was made that this would be a good first step.''
The official said the training program was not resumed as a quid pro quo for specific Indonesian military reforms. But the U.S. government has been pleased by many of the changes, particularly Mr. Wahid's decision this past week to suspend General Wiranto during the human rights investigation, and is hoping the resumption of training will serve as an incentive to follow through with other reforms.
Indonesia's defense minister, Juwono Sudarsono, said in an interview that cooperation with the United States would help his efforts to change the Indonesian military. ''We need all of this management training,'' Mr. Juwono said. ''We are trying to become a people's army that respects civilian control.''
Political analysts had feared that Mr. Wahid's effort to suspend General Wiranto might result in a military backlash and a possible coup. But, in an unexpected move, many top officers publicly threw their support behind the president.
Mr. Juwono said the ''principle of civilian control'' now is ''firmly entrenched'' among soldiers. But he worried that ''the substance of it still has to be worked out.''
''Our civil society is still very weak,'' he said.
The country's 500,000-member military has long boasted a ''dual function'' role in Indonesian society, involving itself in virtually every aspect of the nation's political and business life. The military, for instance, had an allotment of seats in Parliament and in certain top civil-service posts, and it has been involved in a vast array of business ventures, from construction firms to pharmaceutical companies and textile production.
Mr. Juwono said he would soon begin to thin the ranks of senior generals and promote junior officers who are committed to civilian military leadership. ''I've told my generals that the party's over,'' he said.
The violence in East Timor, which was promoted by the territory's overwhelming vote in August to separate from Indonesia, led the U.S. government to suspend arms sales and all mili-tary-to-military contacts.
At the time, there were 18 Indonesian military officers in the United States participating in the Pentagon's International Military Education and Training Program. Eleven of them returned to Indonesia, but seven have been staying in the United States, waiting to resume their classes. A few of them were enrolled at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair in the District of Columbia and others were taking language classes at military facilities around the country.
Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/