Subject: VOA: Indonesia Hopes for Improved Military Ties with US; Rights Groups Concern

Also - CSM: US, Indonesia Mull Closer Ties; Tempo: Army Reshuffle

Indonesia Hopes for Improved Military Ties with US; Rights Groups Concerned By Tim Johnston Jakarta 09 February 2005

ap indonesia army general 09feb05 210 A debate has begun over whether the United States should renew full military ties with Indonesia. Opponents say the Indonesian military should improve its human rights record before links are restored, but the Bush administration says that greater ties now would lead Indonesia's security forces to conform to international standards of behavior.

Washington cut military ties with Jakarta in 1999, shortly after the Indonesian army went on the rampage in East Timor, killing more than a thousand people and forcing tens of thousands more into exile. The relationship chilled further in 2003, when the army was suspected of being involved in the murder of two American teachers in the restive province of Papua.

But U.S. and Indonesian troops worked well together in the massive relief operation that followed December's devastating earthquake and tsunami. Bush administration officials are indicating it is time to normalize the military relationship with Indonesia, which has become a key ally in the war on terror.

Indonesia is keen to resume joint military training and to gain access to U.S. weaponry. Marty Natalegawa is the spokesman for the Indonesian foreign minister, and he says that this would be a good time to renew relations.

"This is especially pertinent, especially important and should be especially non-controversial now given the fact that Indonesia now, in contrast to the past, is also a democracy," he said. "And it [is] always important to make sure to sustain this democratic path Indonesia has begun to have also the Indonesian military exposed to democratic thinking not only within Indonesia but also in the United States."

But resuming full military ties would require the consent of the U.S. Congress and human rights groups are already lobbying against the move. The New York-based pressure group East Timor Action Network says the Indonesian army still commits abuses and has failed to bring those responsible for past violations to justice.

Indonesia set up special courts to try those responsible for the violence in East Timor, but the courts acquitted the military and police officers who were tried, provoking accusations of a cover-up by rights groups.

The record of the Indonesian army includes many proven cases of serious human rights abuses, but the new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, himself a U.S.-trained retired general, says he is committed to turning the army into a professional body that answers to a civilian leadership.

http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-02-09-voa19.cfm

-----

Christian Science Monitor February 9, 2005

US, Indonesia Mull Closer Ties

Joint tsunami efforts have spurred calls to mend military ties limited by human rights concerns.

By Tom McCawley, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

JAKARTA, INDONESIA -The USS Abraham Lincoln wrapped up a month-long emergency relief mission last week and left the waters off Indonesia's tsunami-afflicted Aceh Province.

But left in the Lincoln's wake are ripples of interest in both the United States and Indonesia for a return to closer ties. Fresh debate has emerged in Congress over whether to restore relations with the Indonesian military, which had been damaged by human rights concerns. In Indonesia, the month-long US presence has so far helped to polish America's image, which political observers say had been tarnished by the war in Iraq.

"The tsunami in Aceh showed that people in the West were serious in giving aid to Muslim counties," says Ulil Abshar Abdalla, an Islamic scholar and liberal Muslim activist. "It will shift perceptions of the West as a bloc."

Mr. Ulil says that prominent Islamic leaders thanked US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at a meeting at the US Ambassador's residence in Jakarta. "It was the first time, I'd heard [the Islamic leaders] say thanks," says Mr. Ulil. "It made me very happy."

Mr. Wolfowitz, a former ambassador to Indonesia, is among those calling for closer military ties with the world's largest majority-Muslim country. Wolfowitz told reporters in Jakarta last month, "We would also like to see how the TNI [the Indonesian military] has endeavored to put itself under the control of civilian supremacy."

Supporters of mending the 13-year rift with Indonesia's military argue that it could be a more central ally in the war on terrorists, including Southeast Asian groups linked to Al Qaeda. Indonesia's navy also polices the Malacca Straits, a major world shipping lane prone to pirate attacks, and, intelligence agents say, possibly a major marine terrorist attack.

Critics claim that the Indonesian military has not done enough to reform itself after decades of human rights abuses, including in Aceh province, which has been the site of a separatist rebellion since 1976.

Human rights concerns

The US ended a training program known as IMET with Indonesia in 1991 after Indonesian soldiers massacred demonstrators in a graveyard in mostly Catholic East Timor. The ties were further scaled back in 1999, after the Indonesian military orchestrated a scorched earth campaign killing hundreds, following East Timor's vote for independence in a UN-sponsored plebiscite.

The US training programs, which included courses on operating a civilian chain of command, are exactly those needed by militaries such as Indonesia to improve their record, argue supporters such as Sen. Kit Bond (R) of Missouri. Under the IMET program, Indonesian officers were exposed to Western military practices, including codes of conduct and rules of engagement.

John Haseman, a former US military attaché in Jakarta, says that the "cost of cutting IMET" has been that many senior officers have not had exposure to US military practices. Some US military observers have noted that tsunami relief coordination went more smoothly with the Thais because both militaries know each other under the IMET program, and have conducted military operations together. India, Pakistan, and Malaysia also take part in the program.

In a speech in late January, Senator Bond called for an end to military sanctions against Indonesia, claiming the country could be a stronger ally in the war on Al Qaeda-linked terrorists. In a statement, Bond said that sanctions on the sale of spare parts had slowed the delivery of aid to tsunami victims. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also believed to support closer ties.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, the architect of the 1999 restrictions, disagrees. Senator Leahy, a vocal critic of the TNI, argues that Indonesia's military has done little to change its ways. He says Indonesia has failed to bring to account officers involved in atrocities in East Timor, dismissing the convictions of a Jakarta-based ad hoc court for human rights crimes in East Timor.

In the US Senate last week, Leahy accused the Indonesian military of consistently obstructing justice.

"Although senior Indonesian military officers have repeatedly vowed to support reform, they have done next to nothing to hold their members accountable for these heinous crimes," he said in a statement.

Some ties remain

Leahy said that Indonesian officers already receive some US training. Such programs include counterterrorism skills. And Indonesia, with proper disclosure, can purchase from the US some military spare parts for "nonlethal" items.

US investigators have accused the Indonesian military of blocking an FBI investigation into the deaths in 2002 of two Americans for 18 months in the far-flung Papua province near a gold mine operated by a US company. The murders have further complicated efforts to restore links.

Although he did not mention the IMET program, after his visit to Indonesia in mid-January, Wolfowitz said that cooperation between the US and Indonesian militaries could mean closer ties. He said that the US needed to "help build the kind of defense institution that will ensure in the future that the Indonesian military, like our military, is a loyal function of a democratic government."

A study sponsored by the United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO), a Washington-based nongovernment organization, is also calling for the US to lift restrictions on military ties. The report from USINDO, whose members include US corporations that do business in Indonesia, such as Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold and Exxon-Mobil, is calling for expansion of military ties.

Meanwhile, the US still has a 1,000-bed hospital ship, the Mercy, in Aceh's waters as part of the $4.5 billion relief effort there.

But Islamic scholars such as Ulil say that among many ordinary Muslims the enhanced post-tsunami image for the US - regardless of the relations between the governments - will not be permanent. "As long as there is aggression, as long as there is a US presence in Iraq, there will be distrust [among ordinary Muslims], it has very deep roots in history."

--

Tempo Feb 08-14, 2005

National

Army Reshuffle The Colonels' Return

Shifts among command posts within the Indonesian Army are underway, with those in Aceh taking the limelight.

A warming-up is taking place within the Indonesian Army rank and file. Pending the replacement of its chief of staff and commander, reshuffles of posts within the corps are the order of the day once more.

Two that drew public interest occurred in Aceh. The Military Resort Command (Korem) 011/Lilawangsa, which was previously headed by Col. A.Y. Nasution, has been given a new commander in the person of Col. Chairawan, while Col. Gerhan Lantara has been replaced in Korem 012/Teuku Umar by Col. Zahri Siregar. Chief of the Army's Information Service, Brig. Gen. Hotma Ngaraja Panjaitan, stated that the shifts were but common changes due to the retirement of some senior officers and the promotion of medium-rank officers.

Common changes? The replacement of two Korem commanders in Aceh-effected shortly preceding a strong statement by the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu, regarding the conflict in the Veranda of Mecca-has given rise to speculations that the Indonesian Military (TNI) will "play tough" there.

In Ryamizard's own words, the conflict in Aceh can only be said to be settled if the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) surrenders. "If they don't surrender, well, then there won't be any settlement." The clause about a ceasefire touched upon in the negotiations between Indonesia and GAM in Finland at the end of last month is something that does not even cross his mind. "If GAM asks for a ceasefire, that's their right. How on earth could we, defenders of the state, agree to a ceasefire. What kind of tale is that?" he said.

The two new Korem commanders, according to military observer Kusnanto Anggoro, possess splendid military competence. In his view, the assignment of the two of them is intended to increase the pressure in the conflict area.

Chairawan's record includes command of Group IV of the Special Forces (Kopassus). Zahri Siregar's most recent assignment was Commanding Officer of the Candradimuka Regiment at the Military Academy. Previously he was Assistant for Operations to the Commander of Division I of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad).

Chairawan's name came to the fore in 1997, when he was commanding officer of Kopassus' Group IV. During the political turbulences of that time, one so-called Rose Team, a team that was part of his unit, was known to be behind the abduction of nine student activists.

When the wind of political change blew in 1998, all the members of the Rose Team, which was under the command of Maj. Bambang Kristiono, were dragged to court. Bambang and four officers of the rank of captain were dismissed from military service. Chairawan himself escaped trial, although he was relieved of the command of Kopassus's Group IV by the Officers Code of Honor Council. He was subsequently relegated to an expert staff post at Army HQ. Many thought then that it marked the end of the colonel's military career.

Kusnanto Anggoro judged the army as being insensitive with respect to Chairawan's present assignment. "His military competence is good enough, but from the ethical and image points of view, he has baggage from the past. This indicates that the army does not care at all what outsiders think," he observed. Chairawan himself, unfortunately, could not be reached for comment. However, to his defense came Hotma Ngaraja. Hotma said that the assignment of Chairawan and Zahri Siregar was decided on after both passed selection tests. "In the Military Resort Command course, both scored top ratings," he said. The previous Korem commanders, according to Hotma, were replaced not because they had been unsuccessful but because their time for rotation had come.

Col. A.Y. Nasution admitted that the security condition in his former area of jurisdiction was not completely as expected yet. "Security disturbances still occur from GAM," he said. The job is now in the hands of his successor.

Tulus Wijanarko, Sita Planasari (Jakarta), Imran M.A. (Lhok Semawe


Back to February menu 
January
 
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/