|Subject: ST by McBeth: Some Pebbles in
The Straits Times (Singapore)
Some Pebbles in Jakarta's Shoes
John McBeth, Senior Writer
IN JAKARTA - THE new Democrat-dominated US Congress is not good news for Indonesia. But Washington watchers say the jury is still out on whether perennial critics of Indonesia, like Vermont senator Patrick Leahy and Samoan congressman Eni Faleomavaega, will home in again on Papua and human- rights issues to pressure the Jakarta government.
Although it hardly raises a blip on most congressional radar screens, Indonesia has been used in the past as a bargaining chip in the inevitable negotiations that go on for votes on other matters that receive a great deal more American political attention.
'It's going to be very unpredictable,' says the chairman of the US-Indonesia Society, former US ambassador Alphonse la Porta. 'It's hard to see at this stage what issues are going to be major issues, but there is a general feeling that the situation has improved and is moving in a positive direction.'
It will not, however, quiete some of Indonesia's more vocal critics. Jakarta remains vulnerable on Papua because it has failed to make the same progress in resolving outstanding grievances as it has done in Aceh, where local elections were held without incident this week.
Although armed resistance is virtually non-existent and big things are expected of newly elected Papua governor Barnabas Suebu, a lasting political solution may be far more elusive than in Aceh.
Mr Faleomavaega, who is expected to replace defeated Republican Jim Leach as the new chairman of the House International Relations Committee's sub-committee on East Asian affairs, is an unrelenting supporter of Papua independence, once describing the 2001 Special Autonomy Law for the province as 'a sham...a complete farce'.
The American Samoan was one of the main architects of language in the 2006-2007 Foreign Relations Authorisation Act, which criticised the failure of the Indonesian government to implement a law intended to allocate a greater share of revenues and more decision-making authority to the provincial administration.
Disturbingly for Indonesia, the legislation also called into question the legality of the 1969 Act of Free Choice, the United Nations-supervised plebiscite in which 1,025 hand- picked Papuan elders voted unanimously to join Indonesia.
Although the provision was subsequently watered down, it achieved something that had never been done before by elevating Papua to a level of institutional expression on the international stage that forced Jakarta to pay attention.
Mr Faleomavaega, as a House representative of the Territory of American Samoa, cannot vote in Congress but can cast votes in committee. He has relied on the crucial backing of Democrat Donald Payne, an influential member of the 39- strong Congressional Black Caucus that also includes prospective presidential candidate Barack Obama.
But bipartisan support also came from Mr Leach and Mr Henry Hyde, the veteran Republican chairman of the International Relations Committee. Mr Hyde is due to be replaced by Democrat Tom Lantos, a San Francisco colleague of new liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Neither Mrs Pelosi nor Mr Lantos has focused on Indonesia, but Mr Lantos is familiar with the country and he has shown his tough side dealing with Myanmar and China and in his strong criticism of the US-India nuclear agreement. He is also a strong supporter of the Jewish cause - although he is not Jewish himself.
Papua may have replaced Timor Leste as the pebble in Indonesia's shoe, but perhaps even more problematic is the perception that despite all the progress that has been made towards democratic rule, impunity for the rich and powerful remains troubling baggage.
That is all encapsulated in the two-year-old mystery surrounding the bizarre poisoning murder of human-rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib, which is fast becoming the same cause celebre as the 2002 ambush slaying of two American schoolteachers in Papua.
It was the final resolution of that case that led to last year's lifting of the 14-year arms embargo against Indonesia. It could be the Munir case that conceivably leads to its reinstatement if the Indonesian government is unable to show it has the courage to get to the bottom of the crime.
Senator Leahy, whose position as head of the Senate Appropriations Committee's foreign operations sub-committee provides him with the vehicle to re-apply conditions to future US assistance, is still not convinced that Indonesia has gone beyond the mere trappings of democracy.
Pointing to the Munir case and the long list of officers who have escaped conviction or even investigation for everything from the 1999 Timor Leste bloodshed to the shootings at Jakarta's Trisakti University and the Semanggi interchange in 1997, Mr Leahy's aides plead for 'one, just one case' to demonstrate that justice can prevail.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's decision to bring the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Dutch police into the Munir investigation is clearly designed to placate some of the criticism over the case, much of it stemming from the government's failure to investigate powerful former figures in the State Intelligence Agency who are suspected of being involved.
The Indonesian House of Representatives recently passed a resolution urging the Yudhoyono administration to set up a new independent team under National Police chief Sutanto to investigate the 2004 murder. Concerned that the case is gaining international traction, Mr La Porta says senior Indonesian lawmakers 'see it as something that has to be cleared out of the way'.
If it is not, then it could begin to attract the attention of people like Democrat Nita Lowey, head of the House Appropriations Committee's sub-committee on foreign operations, who follows human-rights and labour issues and would be important in the possible imposition of any new restrictions.
Others to watch for - all Democrats - in the House are socially conscious appropriations committee chairman-elect David Obey, and congressmen Jim McDermott, Howard Berman and Henry Waxman, all of whom have shown some interes t in Indonesian affairs.
To an extent, Indonesia has itself to blame for the nature of the attention it is attracting. The whole sad picture of faltering legal reform and an anti-corruption campaign that appears to have run out of steam has left many outsiders with the impression that little of substance has changed. More bad news arrived only days ago when a new Transparency International survey showed that public trust in anti- corruption efforts has plunged from 81 per cent last year to 29 per cent this year.
Underlying all this has been the long-held public belief that the police, prosecutors and the judiciary do not have the will to end endemic corruption, particularly where it might involve politically connected figures.
'President Yudhoyono has to prove that Indonesia is on a sound democratic track and that democracy actually means something,' says Mr la Porta, who works hard at getting Indonesia a fair shake in Washington. 'It's the whole question of impunity and the failure of the government to prosecute the really big fish.'
To an extent, Indonesia has itself to blame for the nature of the attention it is attracting. The whole sad picture of faltering legal reform and an anti-corruption campaign that appears to have run out of steam has left many outsiders with the impression that little of substance has changed.
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Acehnese Demand Justice as AMM Leaves
Nani Afrida and Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh
While peace finally has descended upon Aceh, past wounds have yet to heal. A hundred people, claiming to be victims of past rights abuses in the province, demonstrated here Thursday urging the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) and the Aceh Reintegration Agency (BRA) to resolve their cases.
Claiming to represent thousands of people across the province, the mostly middle-aged women demonstrators said the peace that was flowering would never fully bloom until there was full accountability for past abuses.
"AMM should not leave Aceh ... there are still numerous unsolved problems," said Rukaya, who claimed her husband and two children were killed by security personnel in 2003.
"Thousands of victims are still awaiting justice. The military personnel who perpetrated the abuses and the generals responsible have yet to be brought to justice," she said.
The protest was held as the AMM officially concluded its 15- month mission Thursday.
However, Banta Khalidansyah, a former rebel leader in West Aceh, urged the AMM to extend its mandate to resolve past rights cases.
"We no longer believe Indonesia will respond to our grievances. Please stay and declare your commitment to helping Acehnese reveal the truth," he said.
Hendra Budian, coordinator of the Aceh Judicial Monitoring Institute (AJMI), regretted the AMM's departure, saying that as a body representing pro-human rights states it should show more concern for the issue.
After meeting behind closed doors with AMM officers, the demonstrators left the mission's office to continue their protest at the Aceh Reintegration Agency office.
AMM chairman Peter Feith said the mission could only work within its mandate.
"Human rights violations which happened before Aug. 15, 2005, the date the MOU was signed, will be handled under Indonesian law," he said. The MOU he referred to was the Helsinki peace agreement signed by the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which paved the way for the AMM to enter the province.
"Providing support for political prisoners and conflict victims is a long-term scheme which is expected to be completed by the end of 2007. The long-term program will be carried out by the European Commission and other donor countries and the AMM will no longer be in charge of this," he said.
Feith underlined the importance of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
"I continue to make contact with relevant ministers in Jakarta and ask them to speed up the TRC's establishment."
Asked about the possibility of violence flaring up after the mission's departure, Feith said any problems would be managed by the Indonesian government in cooperation with the European Commission.
Feith also expressed hope that the winner of the just- concluded election in Aceh and officials in Jakarta could ensure the peace in the province continued.
"A new era will come to Aceh with the establishment of a new administration to maintain peace," he said.
Separately, former GAM spokesman Irwandi Yusuf -- who is expected to be confirmed as the winner of the gubernatorial election -- was asked to comment on the demands for a resolution of past rights abuses. He vowed to coordinate with the central government in pushing for reconciliation, despite the fact the law on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was recently annulled by the Constitutional Court.
"We will consider establishing a commission under the Aceh administration, but it will be set up in close coordination with Jakarta since the majority of those allegedly involved in human rights abuses are security personnel," he told The Jakarta Post.
The Constitutional Court recently struck down the 2004 law on the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to settle all unresolved human rights abuses in the country. The decision has sparked outrage among rights abuse victims and activists.
------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service