Subject: CONG: Statement of Senator Wellstone

Statement of Senator Paul D. Wellstone 

Now is not the time to re-engage with the Indonesian military 
July 27, 2000

Mr. President, colleagues, I rise today to draw attention to a recent decision by the Administration to re-initiate military ties with the government of Indonesia. Despite congressional concerns, the U.S. navy, marines, and coast guard last week began a 10-day joint military exercise known as CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) with their Indonesian military counterparts. Although the Administration sees this mission as a routine good-will mission, it is in fact the first time U.S. and Indonesian armed forces have worked together since the United States cut military ties with Indonesia last year. Colleagues, in case you don't recall, we cut those military ties after East Timor was devastated by Indonesian troops. We cut those ties because Indonesian soldiers are reported to have been active participants in a coordinated, massive campaign of murder, rape, and forced displacement in East Timor.

The Administration's decision to go forth with a CARAT exercise again this summer is simply indefensible. Given the human rights violations committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor and the lack of accountability for them, and the Indonesian military's continued ties to militias in West Timor, one must ask not only the question why we are so eager to re-engage with this military at all, but why we feel compelled to do so now. Now is not the time to conduct joint exercises with the Indonesian military; now is the time to demand its accountability. To do otherwise is to tacitly condone its conduct.

Conditions continue to deteriorate in East Timorese refugee camps in West Timor and throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Up to 125,000 East Timorese still languish in militia-controlled refugee camps in West Timor almost one year after the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia. Many of the refugees wish to return home but are afraid to do so. Today refugee camps remain highly militarized, with East Timorese members of the Indonesian military living among civilian refugees. And despite promises by the Indonesian government to disarm and disband militias, there are credible reports of Indonesian military support for militia groups. These same militias have easy access to modern weapons. Earlier this month the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees had to suspend refugee registration indefinitely due to violent militia assaults on its staff, volunteers and refugees, and though UNHCR has continued its work in other areas, UNHCR and other aid workers continue work under extremely dangerous conditions.

There has also been an upsurge in militia border incursions into East Timor with attacks on U.N. Peacekeepers and civilians. I regret to say that earlier this week a peacekeeper from New Zealand was shot and killed. Militia leaders, the Indonesian military, and the West Timorese press continue to sponsor a mass disinformation campaign alleging horrific conditions in East Timor and abuse by international forces. Further, Indonesia has yet to arrest a single militia leader or member of its military accused of human rights violations in East Timor.

Instead of re-initiating joint military exercises and allowing the sale of certain spare military parts, the Administration should increase its pressure on the government of Indonesia to fulfill past promises to disarm and disband militias in West Timor, and insure today that the Indonesian military is not linked to such militias. Militia leaders must be removed from refugee camps and those accused of human rights violations must be held accountable. Furthermore, Indonesia must make real its pledge to provide international and local relief workers safe and full access to all refugees.

Mr. President, colleagues, there is currently considerable unrest throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Reports abound about the direct involvement of the Indonesian military in much of the violence. In the past nineteen months thousands of people in Maluku, also known as the Moluccan Islands, have been killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims. It is known that members of the Indonesian military supported and, in some cases, caused the violence. On July 18, Indonesia's Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono admitted that there were "some or even many" army members who have become a "major cause of clashes" in Ambon. Credible human rights organizations also report an escalation of violence in West Papua with the Indonesian military actively supporting East Timor-style militias there. Moreover, the Indonesian military has repeatedly broken a cease-fire in the province of Aceh.

Mr. President, colleagues, conditions in Indonesia are deteriorating. On Sunday U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told Indonesia's President Wahid that U.N. peacekeepers may be needed for the archipelago but President Wahid said his government could end the conflict by itself. He did note, however, that Indonesia's overstretched military might need logistical aid from friendly countries such as the United States. I worry that the decision the Administration has made to re-initiate military ties with Indonesia is sending the wrong signal to President Wahid. It should be made very clear to President Wahid that the U.S. will not provide assistance to Indonesia to do what it did before in East Timor.

Although I believe we should support Indonesia, we must recognize that the type of support we provide will directly influence the shape Indonesia takes in the future. The Administration has not only proceeded with the CARAT exercise despite congressional concerns but is moving ahead with "Phase I" of a three phase program of re-engagement with the Indonesian military. This could include the sale of certain spare military parts to Indonesia. Given the deteriorating conditions in Indonesia and the human rights record of Indonesian soldiers, do we really want to do this?

I rise today to urge my colleagues to voice their opposition to the CARAT exercise and to oppose any proposal for strengthening military ties with Indonesia in the near future. Again, I would like to make very clear that I believe the U.S. should support Indonesia but we must recognize that the type of support we provide now will directly influence the shape Indonesia takes in the future. Resuming a military relationship now not only threatens any future reforms in Indonesia but jeopardizes efforts already made to subjugate the Indonesian military to civilian authority. U.S. policy towards Indonesia should support democratic reform and demand accountability for those responsible for alleged human rights violations in East Timor and elsewhere. I fail to see how the CARAT exercise or lifting the embargo on military sales to Indonesia does either. I yield the floor.

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