Subject: US Military Embargo of Indonesia Divides MPs, Defense Minister

BBC Monitoring Service December 9, 2004 Source: Koran Tempo web site, Jakarta, in Indonesian 9 Dec 04

Indonesian MPs question minister's plans to lobby US over military embargo

Text of report by Dimas Adityo, carried by Indonesian Koran Tempo web site on 9 December

Jakarta: The DPR [House of Representatives] questioned Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono's plans to lobby the United States Congress to withdraw its military embargo against Indonesia. A number of DPR Commission I members, responsible for defence issues, even requested that Juwono drop his plans, and set aside the issue of the US arms embargo against Indonesia altogether.

"It would be better if the embargo was set aside, because even if the US lifted its embargo, we couldn't make any procurements," Permadi from the PDI-P [Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle] faction said during a work meeting chaired by Theo Sambuaga, yesterday [8 December].

He made this recommendation, he said, because Indonesia's financial situation ruled out any possibility of procuring arms from the US. The politician, known to be psychic, used the example of procurement of the Sukhoi aircraft from Russia, which were intentionally unarmed, because the budget simply would not cover the additional expense.

In addition, Permadi said, even if the US embargo were to be lifted, the US would apply the condition that [the arms] could not be used to eradicate seperatist movements. "The US weapons could not be used to shoot GAM [Free Aceh Movement] or Free Papua [OPM - Free Papua Movement] members, and would therefore be useless. Go to hell with your aid [previous sentence received in English]," he said, imitating a speech by Bung Karno [former President Soekarno] during the 1960s.

In a similar sentiment, Abdillah Toha from the National Mandate Party [PAN] faction admitted he was concerned that the defence minister's visit to the US, scheduled for March-April next year, would be made in vain. Because Indonesian's bargaining power remained weak. He said that the US did not actually regard Indonesia as being important. The superpower only cared about two things, countries with abundant natural resources, such as Iraq which was rich in oil, and countries with military power. "Indonesia has neither," Abdillah said.

Therefore, he suggested that it would be best if Indonesia equipped itself so that the US gave Indonesia greater precedence, before it negotiated the withdrawal of the embargo. "Let's not beg, because in reality that is exactly how we will be perceived," he said.

Ade Nasution from the Reform Star Party faction queried a similar matter. He considered that the US condition that the East Timor and Timika human rights case be solved, was excessive.

A number of Commission I members requested that the defence minister develop the domestic defence industry, so that Indonesia would not be dependent on other countries, such as the US. Permadi, for example, questioned the extent that the Department of Defence had revived strategic industries such as PT PAL [National Ship Building Company], Pindad [Army Industries], and the National Aircraft Industry.

He proposed that PT Texmaco, a company facing liquidation, be purchased by the government, since it was capable of producing military trucks and could produce its own tanks. "If managed well, we could overcome an embargo applied by anyone," he said.

According to Happy Bone Zulkarnain from the Golkar faction, Indonesia must foster relationships with countries other than the US, as alternative countries from which primary weapons and arms systems could be purchased. "Because many arms factories which are in line with NATO standards can also be found in other countries," he said.

In response to these requests, Juwono said that he would not beg the US Congress. He only wished to explain that if the US considered Indonesia to be important enough to provide assistance, and recognized that one of its vital institutions was TNI, he would invite the US to establish cooperative military relations. "In order for TNI to raise its level of professionalism to meet international standards," he said

Juwono would also explain that TNI could not possibly meet international standards because the wage of its officers was minimal. "Are we willing to deploy soldiers to Aceh and troubled areas with these limited wages and equipment?" he said.

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