Subject: WSJ: Jakarta Leaders Criticize U.S. Support As Meddling

The Wall Street Journal January 24, 2000

Jakarta Leaders Criticize U.S. Support As Meddling


JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Washington is intensifying its support for this nation's first democratically elected government, as violence spreads across the archipelago. But not all in Indonesia are happy about it.

In the past two weeks, the U.S. has done everything from increasing its financial assistance to Jakarta, to sending out congressional and business delegations, to publicly warning Indonesia's powerful armed forces.

Indeed, the U.S. State Department cited Indonesia on Friday as one of four newly born democracies it would assist in 2000 through $125 million in direct aid, a 66% increase from a year earlier. U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers -- who also visited Jakarta last week -- said Thursday the U.S. would support $10 billion in new loans to Indonesia through the International Monetary Fund and other financial organizations over the next three years.

He added that his department would back a "generous rescheduling" of Jakarta's sovereign debt that has reached 100% of the country's economic output.

"It is inconceivable that the [Southeast Asian] region as a whole could prosper in the years ahead without an open, stable and vibrant Indonesia," Mr. Summers said.

Weekend Violence

Washington's diplomatic salvo comes as sectarian violence continues to threaten the reform drive of President Abdurrahman Wahid's three-month-old government. Clashes in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and Maluku this weekend left dozens of people dead, the Associated Press reported. Last week, riots swept through Indonesia's resort island of Lombok as well as through Bintan, an island housing industrial estates near the city-state of Singapore. In most instances, Indonesia's military has been either charged with fomenting the unrest, or doing too little to stop it -- allegations senior Indonesian military officers deny.

Mr. Wahid's travails are stoking a more-confrontational stance by Washington toward the Indonesian military. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke launched a sharp attack against Jakarta's generals earlier this month when he threatened them with international isolation should they attempt to destabilize the new government. A coup against Mr. Wahid "would do Indonesia immense, perhaps irreparable damage," Mr. Holbrooke said. Similar messages have been sent to the Indonesian armed forces from the White House and State Department.

Mr. Holbrooke has also charged Indonesian generals with attempting to impede an investigation by Mr. Wahid's government into alleged atrocities committed by Indonesian troops in East Timor last year.

Indonesia's military denies any attempts to unsettle the Wahid government or obstruct investigations into East Timor. Still, a number of high-ranking officers charge Washington with exacerbating Indonesia's already fractious political environment by seeking democratic reforms at a pace faster than is practical. "Issues that they see as important in the U.S. aren't that important here," said Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo, the head of the Indonesian military's territorial affairs, in an interview. He also said that Indonesia's weak civilian institutions make it essential for the military to play a central role in guiding Indonesia into a new era.

Criticized by Islamic Leaders

A number of Islamic and business leaders have also criticized Washington for what they see as its meddling in Indonesia's sovereign affairs. Washington wields significant influence over Indonesian policies through the IMF, World Bank and U.N. -- particularly since economic crisis hit the nation in 1997. "We can't rely too heavily on overseas groups, because in the end, they'll think we're incapable of solving our own problems," says Nazri Adlani, general secretary of the Indonesian Ulamas Council, an influential Islamic group.

President Wahid told reporters last week that he appreciated Washington's concern about the continuation of democracy in Indonesia and said he would deal strongly with any attempts against his government. But he also stressed that his government wouldn't become a "lackey" of outside powers.

Senior U.S. officials respond that Washington's harder line in Indonesia has been sparked by the situation on the ground. One official says Mr. Holbrooke's remarks were needed as a "pre-emptive strike" against what is seen as escalating grumblings within Indonesia's military ranks toward Mr. Wahid's government. "The military leaders need to be told that they have to accept civilian rule," the official says.

--Rin Hindryati contributed to this article.

Write to Jay Solomon at

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