|Subject: AFP: Rights groups urge suspension of aid
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:16:52 -0400
From: Bruno Kahn <email@example.com>
Rights groups urge suspension of aid to Indonesia till after Timor vote by Sue Kendall
PARIS, July 26 (AFP) - Donor countries should suspend aid to Indonesia, at least until after a vote on self-determination for East Timor in August, human rights groups said Monday.
They were speaking ahead of a meeting of donor countries organised by the World Bank here Tuesday and Wednesday.
In a letter to French Economy Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a coalition of 11 mainly French groups called for a suspension of international government aid to Indonesia until after the Timor vote had taken place "in peaceful and fair conditions."
The letter also called for the postponement of the meeting of almost 30 donor countries and international organisations until a new government is named in Indonesia following elections held early last month.
"Corruption, endemic in Indonesia, remains present at the highest level of the state," said the letter, dated July 19 and presented at a press conference here Monday. The groups said they had not yet received a reply.
"We ask you to intervene so that public aid for Indonesia is henceforth subject to controls of its use in order to wipe out corruption, and that (such aid) be conditional on respect of human rights in Indonesia and in East Timor."
The World Bank's country director for Indonesia, Mark Baird, said in Jakarta last week however that the meeting needed to be held now to ensure that the economic reform programme remains on track, "to focus attention on governance and corruption issues" and to discuss budget issues.
But in a bid to meet the concerns of opponents of the aid meeting, he said the World Bank is proposing a donors' meeting with the new government in six months and asking non-government groups to "participate actively" in preparing for this session.
The fact that the donors "have decided to meet again in six months is a lesser evil," Burint Saray of INFID, the International Non-Government Forum for Indonesian Development, told a press conference in Paris on Monday.
Donor countries pledged 7.9 billion dollars in aid for Indonesia at a meeting here in July last year, but stressed the need to eliminate corruption and closely monitor how the money was spent.
Corruption is again high on the agenda this year, Baird said last week, particularly the need to "reduce leakage of public money, especially for aid-financed programmes."
Some 6.2 billion dollars was actually paid out last year, and this year's meeting is expected to provide 5.5-6.0 billion dollars to ensure the budget is financed this year, Baird said.
But human rights group representatives told Monday's press conference that providing money to repressive regimes only makes the government more powerful, saying that foreign aid, at least indirectly, was enabling the government to maintain otherwise unsustainable costs such as its military presence in East Timor.
Indonesia's public debt is equivalent to 103 percent of gross domestic product, and any money provided by the donor meeting will help meet that obligation, said Carlos Semedo of Agir pour Timor (Act for Timor).
The military presence in East Timor costs the Indonesian government "a million dollars a day," and removing the troops would release this money for other purposes, Semedo said.
He urged donor countries "not to pay out a single penny" until the voting on self-determination in East Timor has taken place in "acceptable" conditions, he said.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was due to decide on Monday whether the right security conditions are in place to allow the Timor vote to go ahead, after postponing voter registration by two weeks due to unrest.
Some 900 more Indonesian police reinforcements arrived in Dili on Monday to keep the peace ahead of the polls, just hours before a brawl in the Dili central market left several people injured.