Subject: Report May Hit Bid To Lift US Military Ban

also Kopassus relations with US remain good : Commander

The Straits Times (Singapore)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Report May Hit Bid To Lift US Military Ban

Salim Osman, Indonesia Correspondent

Indonesian general rejects reporter's claim that troops had role in killings

JAKARTA: An American reporter has alleged that Indonesia's special forces were behind a series of political killings and bombings in Aceh last year.

The report by journalist Allan Nairn threatens to scuttle Jakarta's hopes of getting the United States to lift a 12-year military training ban for its special forces, Kopassus.

Writing on his blog on Sunday, Mr Nairn alleged that Kopassus was responsible for the killing of eight Aceh Party activists in the run- up to last April's provincial legislative polls to prevent the party from seeking independence for Aceh.

He said it was 'part of a secret government programme, authorised from Jakarta, coordinated in part by an active-duty, US-trained Kopassus special forces general who has just acknowledged on the record that his TNI men had a role in the killings'. TNI refers to the Indonesian armed forces.

The US imposed the ban on military training cooperation over alleged human rights abuses by Indonesian troops during their occupation of East Timor, now known as Timor Leste. The issue would have been on the agenda during US President Barack Obama's visit to Jakarta this month had the trip not been postponed to June.

An Indonesian military delegation had visited Washington earlier this month to lobby for the lifting of the ban and Indonesian media reported there were signs the US might do so. But Mr Nairn's claims could dash such hopes.

The Indonesian Army Chief of Staff, General George Touisutta, dismissed them as 'nonsense', saying the military had not sent any elite force members to Aceh since the historic 2005 Helsinki peace deal that ended three decades of civil war in the province.

A former Kopassus commander, Major-General Soenarko, who headed the Aceh military command last year, also dismissed the claims as 'slander and nonsense'.

In his blog report, Mr Nairn quoted senior officials, police officers, wives of the murdered activists and Kopassus officers, including Maj- Gen Soenarko, who he believed were involved in and responsible for the murders.

He also named two soldiers and eight civilian members of TNI-linked militias who were detained for the killings although the arrests were never publicised.

Analysts say Mr Nairn is known for his investigative reports and his report on the shooting of East Timorese protesters in Dili in 1991, the so-called Dili massacre, led the US Congress to halt its aid for the Indonesian armed forces.

Military spokesman Sagom Tamboen acknowledged there were a number of assaults and murders during last year's elections but said they were the result of rivalries among political parties.

Those cases, he added, were confirmed by the local authorities and the police and there were no reports of assaults by Kopassus soldiers.

'I think this writing is aimed at the visit of (US President) Obama, so as to disturb the partnership endeavours that have been nurtured by the two countries,' he was quoted as saying by Kompas daily on Tuesday.

Military analyst Andi Widjajanto also doubted the veracity of the report, saying no Kopassus soldiers had been posted to Aceh since the 2005 peace accord. 'In the Helsinki agreement, Indonesia must withdraw military troops from Aceh. Kostrad (strategic reserves) and Kopassus can't be deployed in Aceh,' said the analyst from the University of Indonesia. 'If (Nairn's) article is true, Indonesia has committed serious violations in Aceh.'

Other analysts say it is widely known that militiamen allied to the Kopassus are still in Aceh, suggesting that the journalist's allegations cannot be dismissed totally.


Kopassus`s relations with US remain good : Commander

Jakarta, March 25 (Antara) - The commander of Army`s Special Force (Kopassus), Brigadier General Lodewijk Freidrich Paulus, said that Kopassus`s relations with the US Special Force have remained good.

"Dialogue is continuing. So far, so good," he said to newsmen after a post transfer ceremony at the Military Police Headquarters here on Wednesday.

He said the dialogue with the US Special Force was still continuing despite uncertainty with regard to joint exercises between the two forces.

Lodewijk said joint exercises would benefit the two parties as they both had an interest in improving their professionalism, especially in fighting terrorism.

"Both have the same interest. The two countries need each other. For us the context is terrorism. We need them and they also need us. So we are supporting each other," he said.

Kopassus`s cooperation in education and training with the US stopped after the US imposed a military embargo on Indonesia in 1999.

But after the embargo was lifted in November 2005, the US was still reluctant to resume its cooperation program with Kopassus.

Following the lifting of the embargo the US did resume its International Military Education and Training (IMET) program and cooperation in Foreign Military Sales, Foreign Military Financing and Defense Export.

In connection with the problem , Indonesia early this month had sent a team to the US to explore the possibility for Kopassus members to train in the US. The team members come from the defense ministry, the foreign affairs ministry and the defense forces (TNI) headquarters.

Although the results were positive there had was still no certainty when Kopassus could again train in the US.

Army Chief of Staff General George Touisutta meanwhile denied that Kopassus personnel had been stationed in Aceh.

"After the Helsinki agreement we quit. No Kopassus personnel is there any more," he said after attending the post transfer ceremony.

The general said US journalist Allan Nairn lied by his recent statement accusing Kopassus of being involved in a number of politically motivated murders in Aceh during the general elections in 2009.

Allan said at least eight activists of the Aceh Party had been killed by Kopassus personnel on orders from higher-ups in Jakarta. (*)


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