|Subject: RI Slams Rights Groups, Talk in
U.S. Congress of Military Aid Cut [+Sutiyoso]
also: JP Op-Ed: Sutiyoso and the Angry Neighbors
The Jakarta Post Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Indonesia Plays Down U.S. Congress Talks on Military Assistance Cut
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesia has branded calls to cut U.S. aid to the country's military as superficial because they only represent the interests of a few human rights groups.
Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said Monday the human rights groups and U.S. congresswoman who proposed the aid cut have not taken into account recent reform progress made by the Indonesian Military (TNI).
"We are not concerned because so far only one congresswoman has proposed an aid cut, and her case is based on input from non-governmental organizations which for the last eight years have been antagonistic toward the TNI," he told reporters.
He said Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First and the East Timor Alliance Network (ETAN) were groups to have constantly criticized Indonesia's human rights record.
Juwono said he clarified relevant issues with U.S. lawmakers and organizations when he visited the U.S. in April.
"I explained that the TNI is not the same as before, and that we have made progress in the area of reform. However, it seems they did not listen. They will not admit we have made progress because then they will lose their source of income," Juwono said.
The U.S. Congress began to discuss last week a proposal from Democratic Party Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the head of the powerful Appropriations Sub-committee, to cut 25 percent of military aid to Indonesia over alleged violations of human rights.
Details of the Congress' deliberations are yet to be made public and the new proposal still has several congressional rounds to go through before potentially being passed in September.
An Indonesian official said recently the country's embassy in Washington is lobbying lawmakers in the U.S. Congress in an effort to block the proposal.
Observers said Lowey has traditionally held a hostile view of the Indonesian Military, influenced by human rights activists who link aid to the issue.
Their main complaint is the lack of progress in prosecuting senior TNI officers, such as former military chief Gen. Wiranto for his alleged complicity in the violence that followed the 1999 independence referendum in East Timor (now Timor Leste).
Concerns were heightened after the murder of noted Indonesian human rights campaigner Munir last year and the recent incident in Pasuruan, East Java, in which Navy officers shot dead four civilians.
"The Pasuruan case was an accident and it has nothing to do with TNI reform. What they want is for the role of Gen. Wiranto and several others in the Timor Leste case to be clarified, as well as proof the TNI is on a path to reform," Juwono said.
On various occasions since the early 1990s, Washington has curtailed or completely cut off military training in Indonesia. Ties between the countries were scaled back further after the East Timor imbroglio, with the U.S. imposing a ban on weapons sales and aid to the TNI.
That ban was lifted in 2005 after intense lobbying by the Bush administration, which regarded Indonesia as a key ally in the war on terror.
The Jakarta Post Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Sutiyoso and the Angry Neighbors
S.P. Seth, Sydney
The Sutiyoso saga, when the visiting Jakarta Governor was visited by police in his Sydney hotel room to seek his appearance at the inquest into the killing of five Australian journalists during Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, is happily over.
Sutiyoso, then captain and part of the Indonesian special forces team involved in the Balibo attack, was considered an important witness to arrive at the truth of what really happened on that fateful day of Oct. 16.
The unresolved question of the Balibo Five, as the deceased journalists have come to be known over the years, has cropped up time and again to haunt Indonesia-Australia relations.
A rather innocent explanation of their death is that they were killed in cross-firing between Indonesian forces and the East Timorese rebels. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But the more sinister explanation is that they were murdered by the Indonesian soldiers after they had surrendered. And the Indonesian military, according to this version, did it to suppress the truth of the covert military action which otherwise would have been broadcast to the world.
There are two issues involved here. First, many Australians have been angry with their own government across the political spectrum for acquiescing in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.
At the inquest, there have been conflicting versions about the role of the then Whitlam Government about whether Canberra had prior knowledge of the invasion from Indonesian government sources or by way of intelligence intercepts. If so, they (all Australian governments since 1975) have been part of a cover up about the killings of the five journalists in Balibo.
The notion that their own government could have been a party to this cover up (wittingly or unwittingly) with the Indonesians is hard to stomach for many Australians. Which simply reinforces their belief and resultant anger that Canberra has this tendency to kowtow to Jakarta, and be apologetic for its acts of omission and commission.
The subsequent apology to Sutiyoso by Australian ambassador, Bill Farmer, and Premier Morris Iemma of New South Wales over the Sydney incident, while welcome in Jakarta, would only confirm many Australians in their view that Canberra lacks backbone when dealing with Jakarta.
As one correspondent wrote in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, "No doubt Alexander Downer is already manfully struggling to find a way to override the courts and do the Indonesians' bidding."
The Balibo Five killings, heinous as they are in whatever circumstances, are illustrative of the basic problem in Indonesia-Australia relations. Which is that even though Canberra went along with Indonesia's annexation of East Timor all those years (until it became independent with some Australian input and resultant jubilation), many Australians were unhappy with their government's "kowtowing" of Jakarta.
There were indeed Cold War strategic imperatives for Australia, fearing that an independent East Timor might end being a staging post of the communist bloc but that wasn't as well understood by the Australian people. There is, therefore, a mismatch between Canberra's strategic calculations and people's perception when it comes to its Indonesia policy.
At the same time, most people weren't ready to take on their government on this issue and there was, in any case, bipartisan support of the Indonesian policy. But there was nonetheless a quiet rage on this issue against their government for its docility, if not complicity, in Indonesia's occupation of East Timor.
The Howard Government, though, was able to retrieve the lost moral and political ground with its much-trumpeted role in the liberation of East Timor.
But it lost a fair bit of that political capital with its people on the issue of West Papuan refugees by tightening Australia's immigration control against more of them escaping to Australia.
The Balibo Five inquest and Sutiyoso incident have simply reignited the popular stereotype that the official Australia would go out of the way to "do the Indonesians' bidding."
It is, therefore, rare in Australia, against such popular backdrop, to come across an analysis of the sort that Mike Carlton penned down recently in his column in the Sydney Morning Herald regarding East Timor.
He wrote, "For our part, today's accepted wisdom is that the Indonesians unilaterally made a rapacious grab for territory after the collapse of the Portuguese colonialism. Actually, they were initially reluctant occupiers, pushed into it by the Nixon administration in Washington, which feared that an unstable East Timor might become a Soviet naval base in the wake of the Vietnam war."
And Carlton added, "Soeharto was given the green light by Henry Kissinger and he was convinced, too -- and with reason -- that he had the support of the Whitlam government in Canberra."
Carlton's analysis is not new but as he says it is not part of the "accepted wisdom" on the subject in Australia.
The second issue with Australia-Indonesia relations is that many Australians believe that Indonesia somehow is lacking in the attributes of a civil state. The overthrow of the Soeharto regime might be a good thing but there is a sense that things haven't changed that much with the Indonesian military still playing a major role, including the violation of human rights.
There is, therefore, a perception problem on the Australian side, clouded further by incidents of terrorism and the old fear of Indonesia as a threat of sorts to Australia.
On the Indonesian side many people, with an interest in Australian affairs, regard it as colonial, racist and arrogant. For them, Australia is simply a fair weather friend and will ditch or harm Indonesia when it suits them. For them Australia's role in the East Timor saga is illustrative of their perfidy.
In other words, there is much more work needed to put Indonesia-Australia's relations on a self-sustaining trajectory.
The writer is a freelance writer based in Sydney and can be reached at SushilPSeth@aol.com.
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