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PRESS RELEASE                                           


U.S. Congress must question U.S. - Indonesia Military relations

Lisbon, 20 March 1998 - The recently published reports of the US training of Indonesian military of the elite troops KOPASSUS are profoundly disturbing and raises issues of good faith and trust beyond possible reach of US congressional ban on the IMET program.

The KOPASSUS is the single most violent and brutal unit of the Indonesian army. General S. Prabowo, Suharto's son in law, rose through the ranks not in recognition of any military achievements such as defending his country against external aggression, but thanks to family connections with the Indonesian dictator and a ruthless record in East Timor. There is ample evidence, including accounts of ey
ewitnesses and survivors that General Prabowo himself was personally involved in torturing and killing East Timorese civilians.  A young man, now a refugee in the UK, has testified that he had seen his mother interrogated and tortured with electric shocks by Gen. Prabowo himself (World in Action, Granada TV, 4 June 1997).

The argument that providing military training to Indonesian military personnel exposes them to American democratic values is naive and dishonest. The record shows that some of the most brutal military thugs from Central America and Asia went through US military academies.

For the past 22 years, successive US administrations have pursued a policy of aid and abating the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Until recently, reports of human rights violations, torture, summary and arbitrary execution were dismissed by the East Asia bureau of the State Department as "unfounded allegations" or "exaggerations". In recent years, the State Department's annual report has ackn
owledged that human rights in East Timor have deteriorated, that torture and executions have become routine. Comparatively, more lives have been lost in East Timor than in Bosnia or the Middle East.

The Clinton administration, pressured by the US Congress took some initial steps that are commendable. The new Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Mr. Stanley Roth, has shown to be truly concerned about the situation in East Timor and demonstrated genuine commitment to find a solution to this 23-year-old conflict.

In this light, I am perplexed by the Pentagon's choice to continue to provide weapons to and engage in military training of an army that blatantly disregards all the norms of good behavior that the US military training is supposed to inculcate.

The economic and financial problems in Indonesia are not only of Suharto's own making. The Indonesian army is also a large part of the problem. Members of the Indonesian armed forces are law into themselves, acting with complete impunity in East Timor, Aceh, West Papua to name only a few. The armed forces are also an integral part of the reign of nepotism, cronyism and corruption that has brought
down the Indonesian economy.

In 1965-1965, the US Embassy in Jakarta provided the right wing military a list of at least 5000 members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and democrats who were subsequently arrested, tortured and killed. In 1975, Secretary of State Kissinger and President Ford gave Suharto the green light for the invasion of East Timor. Over 90% of the weapons used during the invasion were supplied by the US in violation of the 1958 US-Indonesia Agreement, which prohibits the use of American weapons in wars of aggression.

The US Congress should hold full hearings on the relationship of the US military with  Indonesia, and on how the US has contributed to maintaining this despotic and arrogant regime in power for the past 32 years.

The East Timorese people can no longer be sacrificed on the altar of outdated Cold War rational and Kissingerian pragmatism.

Jose Ramos-Horta


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see also

U.S, Security Assistance to Indonesia


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