Subject: AGE: Kopassus chief's trip to Perth vetoed

The Age

Kopassus chief's trip to Perth vetoed By Matthew Moore Indonesia Correspondent Jakarta October 13, 2003

The Australian Government has refused to allow the commander of Indonesia's Kopassus special forces to join his officers for anti-terrorism talks in Perth in a move that threatens the Government's plan to resume training Kopassus troops.

Major-General Sriyanto, 52, was to have led a group of about 10 Kopassus officers on a trip to the Australian Special Air Service Regiment's Swanbourne base in Perth last week.

But the Indonesian army cancelled the trip after the Australian Defence Force objected to him.

General Sriyanto is on trial for murder in an Indonesian human rights court for allegedly ordering his troops to fire on a crowd in September 1984 in an incident known as the Tanjung Priok massacres.

As is normal in such cases, he remains free and in command of his troops.

The spokesman for Indonesia's armed forces, General Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, yesterday confirmed a preliminary trip of Kopassus officers planned for last week had been cancelled and the training of Kopassus members in Australia, due to begin later this year, had now been put on hold.

He said Indonesia's army had been surprised when the Australian Defence Force had rejected several names proposed for a preliminary visit that were on a list compiled by the Indonesian army and then submitted to their Australian counterparts. Those vetoed included General Sriyanto, he said.

General Sjafrie said the first visit was only to have been for "observation purposes" to learn the practicalities of the training and that no actual training had been planned.

As the army had compiled the list after receiving an invitation from Australia, it was now not possible to simply drop those names against whom objections had been raised.

He said the army was "not angry" about the veto and had cancelled the trip to avoid causing problems for the Australian Government.

Soon after the Bali bombings, Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill suggested the threat of terrorism warranted the resumption of training of Kopassus soldiers that began under the Keating government but was cut over the involvement of Kopassus in East Timor massacres.

Last week, Senator Hill hinted that problems were emerging in resuming training when he was asked what guarantees he could give that Kopassus soldiers would not use skills learnt in Australia against Indonesian citizens.

"That presents certain difficulties in light of the history of Kopassus and we have - we've put restraints on ourselves in terms of individuals that we're able to deal with. We're still working through those issues, so exercises haven't yet started."

While relations between Australian and Indonesian security forces have generally grown closer since the Bali bombings, considerable tension still remains over Australia's involvement in East Timor's referendum for independence and the deployment of Australian troops there.

General Sjafrie said the Indonesian military had goodwill towards Australia but the relationship between the two military forces had to be one of "mutual benefit and mutual trust".

He blamed unnamed non-government organisations in Indonesia and Australia for pressuring the Australian Government to refuse to allow some Kopassus officers into the country. Senator Hill's office refused to answer questions about the vetoes.

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/


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