Subject: CONG: Sen. Feingold in Indonesia

Also: US Lawmaker Wants Indonesia To Ease Access To Papua

US Fed News

February 24, 2006 Friday 10:51 PM EST


JAKARTA, Indonesia

The office of Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., issued the following press release:

During the second half of his week-long tour through Southeast Asia, Sen. Russ Feingold held meetings with senior Indonesian government officials to discuss counter-terrorism efforts, human rights, and the expanding relationship between Indonesia and the U.S.

During his meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as well as other meetings with the Indonesian Foreign, Defense, and Security ministers and the chief of police, Feingold stressed the need to aggressively combat terrorism while ensuring that counter-terrorism efforts do not undermine the rule of law and human rights, or fuel further radicalization of disaffected populations.

Feingold also spoke about the need for accountability for past war crimes and crimes against humanity in East Timor, as well the need to begin a transparent trial for the suspects in the unresolved case of two Americans murdered in Timika, Indonesia in 2002. Feingold received assurances from the President, Attorney General, and Interior minister that the Timika trial will begin within two months and that the investigation will follow all leads, including those that may uncover the involvement of military or government officials.

In addition, President Yudhoyono committed to Feingold that he would review his government's policies barring international journalists from visiting the province of Papua. Feingold also urged the President to use his upcoming trip to Burma to pressure Burma's military regime to respect human rights and to release human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi. While meeting with the Indonesian military's new commanding general, Feingold spoke about the importance of ensuring that the military respects human rights and of removing the military's dominant and often detrimental presence in the country's economy, civil society, and politics.

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, Feingold is visiting Indonesia and Thailand in order to focus on counter-terrorism and regional stability challenges faced by two critical partners in the region. Feingold's visit to Indonesia this week also included meetings with Indonesian civil society leaders, members of parliament, and the Secretary General of ASEAN. In addition to counter-terrorism and human rights issues, Feingold discussed regional security issues, the investment climate, social reforms, and the perception of U.S. policies.


US Lawmaker Wants Indonesia To Ease Access To Papua

JAKARTA, Feb. 24 (AP) -- A U.S. lawmaker Friday urged Indonesia to ease access to its easternmost province of Papua, the site of a long-simmering separatist movement, amid allegations of military abuse.

Human right groups claim some 100,000 people have died in the province as a result of military action or atrocities by Indonesian troops during the decades-long rebellion.

The government makes it difficult for foreigners to visit Papua, the country's most remote region, geographically and politically, so allegations of abuse are difficult to confirm.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., said he told Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono "any degree of openness and ability to examine what happened there would be helpful."

Granting some sort off access would demonstrate Indonesia's "dedication to trying to solve this difficult problem," he told reporters after a meeting at the presidential palace.

Indonesia seized Papua province in 1963 and formalized its occupation in 1969 following a U.N.-sanctioned ballot that rights groups have labeled a sham.

Ever since, the poorly armed Free Papua Movement has fought a sporadic campaign for independence. The military has been accused of widespread abuses in its effort to defeat the group.

"The question was whether the people ... can be made feel comfortable in their region and had the openness and the protection from many possible abuses by the military," Feingold said.

An attack in 2002 on a convoy of teachers working at the mine that killed two U.S. citizens disrupted moves to normalize military ties between Jakarta and Washington.

However, Washington lifted a six-year embargo on arms sales to Indonesia in November as a reward for Indonesia's cooperation in fighting terrorism.

In January, police arrested eight suspects in the killings, all members of Papua's tiny separatist army who were said to have intended to kill soldiers who patrol the road.

------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service ---------------

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