Subject: JP: Resumption of IMET boosts RI-U.S. military relations

The Jakarta Post 
Monday, July 22, 2002

Resumption of IMET boosts RI-U.S. military relations

Kurniawan Hari and Tiarma Siboro

The decision by the United States Senate Appropriations Committee to endorse the allocation of US$400,000 for the training of the Indonesian Military (TNI) will boost relations between the armed forces of the two countries, according to one military observer.

Hasnan Habib, a three-star general (retired), told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the International Military Education and Training (IMET) facility would help Indonesian officers expand their views on various international issues such as democracy and human rights.

"Indonesian military officers will also learn how to handle insurgency and terrorism," said Hasnan Habib, who is also a former Indonesian ambassador to the United States.

Directorate General for defense strategy at the Ministry of Defense Maj. Gen. Sudrajat said the military training program was required to enhance the TNI's professionalism as well as its sense of democratization and understanding of civil society.

The United States had in the past funded the training of Indonesian military officers, but this was halted in 1992 following the massacre of East Timorese at Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991.

This decision adversely affected relations between the armed forces of the two countries. Today, many officers currently holding key positions in the TNI are unknown to U.S. military leaders, making communication between them difficult.

For Indonesian officers, on the other hand, the decision deprived them of an opportunity to learn about the United States, its democratic values and human rights.

On Friday, some human rights campaigners slammed the budget approval, arguing the military were still refusing to prosecute officers accused of human rights abuses.

"TNI does not deserve this program as they are continuing to defy legal procedures and demand impunity for all their wrongdoings in the past," said Hendardi, of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI).

According to Hasnan Habib, the decision to resume the IMET program might restore the opportunity for TNI to improve its military capabilities, giving the U.S. military more support in its anti-terrorism campaign.

Military analyst Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) suggested TNI should not misinterpret the U.S. Senate's decision as a sign of appreciation of reform.

"The Indonesian Military must continue its internal reform. I think military reform at the moment is at a standstill," Kusnanto told the Post.

TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin welcomed the decision but cautioned that a joint working group still had to discuss what kind of military training was appropriate for TNI at this point.

"I guess the working group will first of all ask for non-combat strategy training from the U.S. military. But since combating terrorism has become our commitment, maybe we can exchange experiences with the U.S. in dealing with this issue," Sjafrie said.

Sudrajat agreed, saying the Committee's proposal has yet to be endorsed by the Senate during its plenary meeting in October.

Sjafrie brushed aside suggestions that the proposal indicated Indonesia has a link with international terrorism as many have accused.

"The most important thing for TNI is that the recovering military ties between the two countries will not affect our country's sovereignty. If any international terrorist group makes a link with certain groups here, we will not allow the U.S. to execute them in our territory," Sjafrie told the Post over the weekend.

Sudrajat also admitted, however, that some military officers were involved in radical groups.

"But at the present they (these military officers) no longer hold strategic positions either at TNI headquarters, or in Army headquarters," Sudrajat told the Post.

see also: Statement by the ETAN on Restoration of IMET Military Training by Senate Appropriations Committee


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