Subject: Transcript: BBC Interview with Indonesia's Foreign Minister
Transcript of interview of Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda interview on the BBC's Hard Talk on the issues of terrorism, human rights in Papua, Munir’s murder and the culture of impunity.. Transcribed by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), www.etan.org; firstname.lastname@example.org.
In little more than a decade, Indonesia has transformed itself from international pariah to indispensable regional power. Both George Bush and Tony Blair have made supportive visits to Jakarta in the past year. My guest today is Indonesia's foreign minister. Behind the diplomatic smiles is there still a gulf between Indonesia's views on human rights and democracy, and those in the west?
Host Stephen Sackur: Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda welcome to Hard Talk.
Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda: Thank you very much.
Stephen Sackur: Prime Minister Tony Blair has described your government as a crucial partner in the war against global terrorism. Are you comfortable to be seen as a crucial partner of Tony Blair and George Bush?
Hasan Wirajuda: We are, because we truly believe that terrorism is an international threat to, a threat to Indonesia's peace and security and for that matter we are for strong cooperation in combating terrorism.
Stephen Sackur: Comfortable to be a crucial partner to Bush and Blair who currently have 100,000 and more troops in Iraq, occupying Iraq?
Hasan Wirajuda: Certainly we have differences as friends but on the very fundamental issue on combating terrorism we do share, and in fact we have been cooperating with both the United Kingdom and the United States. And in many ways we benefit from our cooperation, in particular in strengthening our capacity to combat terrorism.
Stephen Sackur: In many ways though you as well don’t you? You suffer at home politically.
Hasan Wirajuda: Indeed.
Stephen Sackur: Because many of your own people…
Hasan Wirajuda: Indeed.
Stephen Sackur: …Believe that it is entirely wrong to be a crucial partner of the United States and Britain?
Hasan Wirajuda: As you said that we have home grown terrorist groups, and we have experienced these, suffered terrorist attacks in even parts of Indonesia.
Stephen Sackur: But I'm not just talking about terrorists, I'm talking about moderate Islamic leaders as well. Like Din Siem Sidim (?) who have spoken out against the alliance with the United States and with Britain, and they say that the occupation of Iraq, I'm quoting from Mr. Siem Sidim, “the occupation of Iraq is promoting more radicalism and new acts of terrorism.” Hasan Wirajuda: I said that we may have disagreements with our partners the United States on the situation and effort to find resolution to the conflict of Palestine and Israel, but also on the Iraqi issues. But on the very fundamental issue on countering terrorism we have no dispute because we believe that terrorism is a threat to our own national security. Terrorism is a threat to international peace and security. So there are areas in which we can cooperate, but there are differences. Certainly they should not prevent us to cooperate and work together on the fundamental issues.
Stephen Sackur: If you believe that terrorism is indeed, as you say, a threat to your own country, why have you allowed Abu Bakar Bashir, who is widely acknowledged to be the leader of the Jemaah Islamiah, why have you allowed him to travel freely and preach in your country despite his conviction for quote unquote “an evil conspiracy connected to the Bali bombings of 2002”?
Hasan Wirajuda: Well, in the new open and democratic Indonesia we have decided as a matter of policy to balance our security needs, for that matter our strong efforts in combating terrorism, with democratic process and respect for the rule law and human rights. As long as we have evidence, certainly not…I mean we will not only arrest perpetrators and anyone involved in terrorism, but we will, as we have brought many of them to trial.
Stephen Sackur: But can we just be clear. Do you regard Abu Bakar Bashir as the leader of Jemaah Islamiah?
Hasan Wirajuda: It's difficult as our legal process has proven. It's difficult to have concrete evidence for that matter. Abu Bakar Bashir was sentenced not based on his involvement in the terrorist activities, but on other criminal aspects. That’s…
Stephen Sackur: He was convicted of, and I'm quoting again, "an evil conspiracy connected to plots to bomb inside Indonesia”.
Hasan Wirajuda: That was not proven when the Supreme Court of Indonesia reviewed his case. That's why the Supreme Court decided to release him. And in…
Stephen Sackur: They overturned, there had been earlier…
Hasan Wirajuda: They overturned an earlier decision, yes…
Stephen Sackur: And you were satisfied that the court process had been entirely free and fair?
Hasan Wirajuda: The court process in Indonesia today is a very independent and free process in the way the government could influence the process…
Stephen Sackur: I only ask because we began the conversation with you saying yes we are indeed a crucial partner of the United States and of Britain in the War on Terrorism. I'm reading an official U.S. government statement which says quote, "As Jemaah Islamiah’s top leader, Bashir has authorized terrorist operations and the use of J.I. operatives for multiple terrorist operations in Southeast Asia". That is what the official American view of this man is.
Hasan Wirajuda: Well, they may have their own view, but we are entitled to have our own. That's why we rely on our legal process and due process of law. We cannot simply sentence anyone to imprisonment simply because the media or anyone said that someone is involved in certain criminal activities, so we need to have evidence on that. . Stephen Sackur: I understand what you're saying. Here's perhaps a bit of evidence that would backup the American position, that he is indeed the top leader of J.I. After his release in the summer of last year he was interviewed by a journalist from the Sunday Times. And he said "these bombings”, he was talking about a series of bombings across the world connected to Al Qaeda and Islamist militant groups, "these bombings are a reaction by Muslims to defend themselves. Muslims have been tortured everywhere, from Afghanistan to the Philippines and these reactions against America are global." Doesn’t sound like a man who has given up on the struggle against the United States.
Hasan Wirajuda: He’s in a free and open Indonesia, he’s entitled to have his own views. But he only can be reached by the legal process if we have clear cut evidence proven at the court that he is somewhat responsibility on certain matters…
Stephen Sackur: He runs a religious school in the Indonesian city of Solo, doesn’t he?
Hasan Wirajuda: Yes he does.
Stephen Sackur: And we know as a matter of fact that previous graduate students from that school have been involved in bombings. Indeed, one of them was the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombing. You’re quite happy for that school, that religious school, to continue to operate…
Hasan Wirajuda: Certainly we are not quite happy to see some Alumnae’s of this school got involved themselves in the terrorist acts, but we cannot generalize that school is a source of terrorism. We have in Indonesia the most wanted terrorist, Dr. Azahari, who got his doctoral degree in physics from the University of Redding. You cannot say that the University of Redding is involved in one way or another in terrorist acts you know. So we should differentiate here on the actors, the perpetrators, and the institution that he might have studied.
Stephen Sackur: Are you complying with UN security council resolution 1267?
Hasan Wirajuda: Certainly, yes.
Stephen Sackur: You are?
Hasan Wirajuda: Yes.
Stephen Sackur: So all sorts of different financial and travel sanctions are currently in place on Abu Bakar Bashir…
Hasan Wirajuda: We have not only regularly submitted our reports on the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 1267, but we have been actively working together with the committee.
Stephen Sackur: But surely if you were fully implementing that resolution, Abu Bakar Bashir would find it much more difficult to operate inside Indonesia than he finds it at the present time?
Hasan Wirajuda: He has no difficulty to operate with regard to his activities and giving public lectures as well as teaching perhaps in his own school. But he certainly has no freedom to involve, get involved himself in any terrorist activities. Certainly it will be easily within the reach of our authorities.
Stephen Sackur: The Australian government, when he was released, described it as “deeply disappointing”. You’re the foreign minister of Indonesia, what have the Americans, the Australians been saying to you about your stance on Abu Bakar Bashir?
Hasan Wirajuda: At the same time I think it’s also sad that had the cooperation was expanded when Abu Bakar Bashir was brought to trial. If say our partners could give us more information and evidence from their interrogation process of a number of perpetrators of terrorist bombings.
Stephen Sackur: You’re saying you felt let down by the Americans because they didn’t help you?
Hasan Wirajuda: We didn’t receive the support as we wanted. In particular on the trials of Abu Bakar Bashir.
Stephen Sackur: You say that in the end there’s a limit of what you can do against this man because you uphold basic principles of human rights in your country. A lot of people question that. In the past year 47 human rights organizations in 8 different countries, including Human Rights Watch, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, they’ve all accused you of quote unquote, “a policy of brutalization toward the people of West Papua”.
Hasan Wirajuda: That’s…I find this a mere allegation. I’m wondering if they have any proof or evidence in supporting that claim.
Stephen Sackur: Well, I suppose that one piece of evidence is that when 42 West Papuans managed to flee, they took a boat, they ended up in Australia, there was a court case in Australia and the Australian courts decided that these people had a genuine fear of persecution and gave them leave to stay.
Hasan Wirajuda: Well in fact the Australian media also published reports that there was a conspiracy more or less for these people to leave West Papua and sought asylum, sought protection in Australia.
Stephen Sackur: What will it take for you to actually accept that you have a problem in West Papua, and the problem of human rights…
Hasan Wirajuda: Well…
Stephen Sackur: …And a problem of human rights. I can quote you Ed McWilliams, the head of the political section of the US embassy in Jakarta until quite recently. He said just a few months ago, the Indonesian Army -- the “TNI impunity, corruption, and violation of human rights has continued on their behalf and in some ways worsened.” That was just a few months ago he said that. He used to be the director of the political department in the U.S. embassy in your capital.
Hasan Wirajuda: I wish he could come up with more supportive materials to strengthen his claim but…
Stephen Sackur: You think he’s lying?
Hasan Wirajuda: I am not saying that he’s lying but as government he knew that there’s been improvements of the situation in West Papua. And it was, it is part of the policy of the government to solve whatever problems we have in Papua through dialogue and negotiation. We are no longer in an environment, a domestic environment, which the government or government apparatus including the military could easily use force and for that matter violate human rights. We are in a new Indonesia and for which in no way the old yardstick to measure Indonesia can be applied to measure us.
Stephen Sackur: Well, with respect, I think that people would believe that, or be more inclined to believe that, if in key litmus tests of human rights, alleged human rights abuse, you have been seen to pursue and deliver justice. But one can go through a catalog of cases where justice patently has not been done. I’ll just give you one example. September the 7th 2004 the Indonesia Human Rights lawyer Munir Said Thalib was murdered, as you know, he was poisoned on a Garuda airlines flight. Who do you think was responsible for that murder?
Hasan Wirajuda: Well the fact is the case is still being investigated. The President himself established a group comprising of some lawyers and also NGO leaders…
Stephen Sackur: A fact finding team was setup…
Hasan Wirajuda: Fact finding team…
Stephen Sackur: But the President promised the wife of the slain man that he would deliver justice through this fact finding team. And yet, he has refused to publish the findings from this team that he setup. Why?
Hasan Wirajuda: Well by nature, from the very beginning as part of the term of reference of the establishment of this fact finding team, the teams would report their works, the result of their works to the President, not for the public. But certainly the report was used by our police to investigate the case. Of course I must admit it’s not an easy process, but even when our Supreme Court recently overturned the decisions of lower courts, the President certainly decided to, I mean he instructed our national police to further investigate. So the case is still pending…
Stephen Sackur: You say the case is still pending. We’ve had two and a half years since this key human rights lawyer, a man who ran a commission which was investigating the disappearance of victims over many years as a result of government actions. This man was murdered by someone. The only individual who was prosecuted was an off-duty pilot who had clear links to the intelligence services, who was convicted and has since been acquitted. Is that satisfactory?
Hasan Wirajuda: Can you imagine that a person such as President Kennedy was killed and murdered and for more than 40 years the case was not solved. But important here is that as government we are working to solve, and for that matter our Chief of National Policy has been traveling to the United States to seek cooperation from relevant agency FBI. He also seeks cooperation from countries like Netherlands and France to help us in what way we can in fact investigate this case fully.
Stephen Sackur: When can the widow of Munir Said Thalib expect to see those who ordered his murder brought to justice. When?
Hasan Wirajuda: I cannot specify. But as the investigation is going on hopefully we still see the perpetrators or those who are responsible in the killing would be made public.
Stephen Sackur: In this interview you’ve used the phrase ‘the new Indonesia’.
Hasan Wirajuda: Yes.
Stephen Sackur: You are the face of the new Indonesia. You come to capitals like London, you talk to governments and you convince the outside world that Indonesia is going places, there’s a new momentum behind your country. How can people believe that when they see that President Suharto and all of those senior military leaders who ordered so many of the killings and the human rights abuses that we saw in the 70s, the 80s, even in the ‘90s as well, going up to 1999 in East Timor. None of those people have ever been brought to justice.
Hasan Wirajuda: You cannot simply discount our achievements, the difficult process of transformation that we have gone through from military dominated government to, I can say a full-fledged democracy. Of course at the same time we’ve had to deal with our past. You mentioned for example how Indonesia, together with the government of Timor-Leste deal with our, dark chapter in our history. But we are trying to be constructive. We have established commissions of truth and friendship with Timor-Leste. The commission is working and likewise the case of former President Suharto. The case is still pending in the Indonesian courts but, and depending his health condition…
Stephen Sackur: The case is still pending, let’s talk about Suharto…
Hasan Wirajuda: Yes.
Stephen Sackur: …Then we can perhaps talk about military officers. But Suharto left power in 1998. Transparency International has him as the number one rapacious dictator of all time. They say that he looted your country of between fifteen and thirty billion dollars. Six years on from his departure from office you’re saying a case is still pending. Don’t the Indonesian people deserve better?
Hasan Wirajuda: Certainly we deserve better, including myself. And that’s why a court process, a legal process but …
Stephen Sackur: Prosecution this last year decided to drop the case because they said he was too ill.
Hasan Wirajuda: The fact that he’s too ill, that’s why…
Stephen Sackur: So there will be no truth, no fact finding commission, because President Suharto is too ill. Is that satisfactory?
Hasan Wirajuda: That’s with regard to the criminal proceedings. But with regard to efforts to recover from the wealth that the President Suharto and his family. The private law proceedings will be started actually, this is what the Attorney General of Indonesia has been saying.
Stephen Sackur: Do you think he will ever face criminal trial?
Hasan Wirajuda: Well the fact that, as I say, he is getting older and his health condition has not allowed him for trial. I myself am not certain whether…
Stephen Sackur: That sounds like no, it sounds like you’re saying no.
Hasan Wirajuda: The fact has been that the case is still pending.
Stephen Sackur: So you’re saying no.
Hasan Wirajuda: If he’s one day getting healthier, why not?
Stephen Sackur: Let’s talk about the senior military officers who ordered what Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International have called “atrocities” in East Timor in 1999. Not one of them has ever been punished. The only person who has been imprisoned as a result of what happened there in 1999 was actually a militia leader from East Timor. How can that be regarded as justice, a new Indonesia?
Hasan Wirajuda: First. As a nation, as I said it before that we are trying to deal with these dark chapter in our, in our history, in particular in dealing with Timor-Leste. We have tried a justice approach for that matter, an ad hoc human rights court was established…
Stephen Sackur: Well I know that, the result of which not one government official or military officer was…
Hasan Wirajuda: It will not stop there, you know. We tried to address the issue, and for that matter the Indonesia Timor-Leste commissions of truth and friendship. In other words we know the limitation of justice approach, but at the same time we should find the truth, establish the truth and for the two countries Indonesia and Timor-Leste to deal with it. Not through prosecutorial justice, but rather reconciliation.
Stephen Sackur: Foreign Minister isn’t it the truth that your president, your boss, President Yudhoyono is hamstrung because in the end power in Indonesia still rests with the military?
Hasan Wirajuda: Not as it used to be.
Stephen Sackur: They still are self-financing. They run logging operations, mining operations, they dominate the economy. Until you address that fundamental fact, Indonesia cannot truly reform and modernize.
Hasan Wirajuda: That’s what I, what I mean when I said that don’t use the old yardstick to measure Indonesia. Because on what you said, practically it’s no longer there you know. The military and the civilians in democratic Indonesia politically they follow, they obey, and decisions of the civilian’s government in the democratic Indonesia and for that matter they are no longer powerful as it was…
Stephen Sackur: We have to end it there. Hasan Wirajuda, thank you very much for being on Hard Talk.
Hasan Wirajuda: Thank you very much.
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