Want Indonesian Cadets Sent Home
Boston Globe 10/08/99
Norwich program draws fire
Two lawmakers criticize training of Indonesian recruits
By Terry J. Allen, Globe Correspondent
NORTHFIELD, Vt. - The Department of Defense should investigate a Norwich University program that trains future members of the Indonesian military, two members of Congress said this week.
In a letter sent Tuesday, Democratic Representative James P. McGovern of Massachusetts and Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, called on Defense Secretary William S. Cohen to identify ''all members of the Indonesian military, including recruits,'' currently studying in the United States. ''We strongly recommend their immediate return to Indonesia.''
McGovern said that he was meeting today with National Security Adviser Sandy Berger on another matter and would take the opportunity to discuss the training at Norwich.
The Globe reported Monday that 13 Indonesian undergraduates now at Norwich, a military college in Vermont, are funded by the Indonesian government and that 11 of the students are linked to that country's elite special forces, Kopassus. Kopassus has been implicated in human rights abuses, and in the violence that followed East Timor's vote for independence.
The US government, citing human rights concerns, has told federally funded military institutions such as West Point to not invite Indonesian students to enter the classes of 2003 and 2004. Norwich, a private institution, has continued its program.
The Indonesian students at Norwich are enrolled in ROTC classes, where their curriculum is dictated by the US Army and their instructors are active duty officers.
Norwich president Richard W. Schneider defended the program. ''I still don't have evidence that [the students] will be working with Kopassus'' after they return, he said. The mailing address for 11 of the undergraduates is the Jakarta headquarters of Kopassus. Graduating students are obligated to serve 10 years in the Indonesian military.
Schneider said he has not asked the Indonesian embassy or military about the students' relationship to Kopassus, but he said he did verify with the ROTC that ''we are in compliance with the law, which does not allow college presidents to discriminate on who takes ROTC courses. They are basically benign courses,'' he said.
McGovern, who was part of a State Department-sponsored congressional mission to Indonesia and East Timor in mid-September, said the Norwich program should be eliminated. ''These are foreign nationals bankrolled by an organization engaged in human rights violations. The school has to have the shades pulled down not to figure out what is going on here. They aren't there because Vermont is pretty in the fall; they are there to get training and expertise Norwich provides.''
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, has also contacted the White House. ''They are looking at whether Norwich's training of Indonesian cadets is consistent with the president's decision to end military cooperation with Indonesia,'' Leahy said. ''They have told me they will have an answer soon.''
Schneider condemned the Indonesian army's record of repression and its role in East Timor. But he said he believes that the Norwich students will exert a positive influence when they return there because ''they are well trained in how to work in a democracy, get ethical and moral training and learn how to relate to civil society.''
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