Floor Statement of Senator Paul D. Wellstone (D-Minn.)
May 11, 1998
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN INDONESIA
Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I have been, as the Senator from Minnesota, moved by the courage of students in Indonesia who are challenging a very repressive government. They do this at great risk. But they have shown the courage to speak out. President Suharto has left for a conference in Egypt and has made it crystal clear that students and others in Indonesia who dare to speak out will suffer the consequences.
The Suharto regime has been corrupt; it has been repressive. There are many reports by all of the reputable human rights organizations of people being arrested, tortured, raped, killed, or they have disappeared. It is in this environment that these young people in Indonesia now step forward with a tremendous amount of courage to speak for freedom and democracy in their country -- Indonesia.
It is for this reason that as a U.S. Senator I come to the floor of the Senate to support them. It is for this reason I have sent this letter to the President. It is my hope that our Government, and all of us here in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, will make it clear to Mr. Suharto that we will not turn our gaze away from this repressive government, and that we will support these students and other citizens in Indonesia who speak out for the very things that make our country such a wonderful country -- freedom, the right to be able to dissent, democracy.
Mr. Pius Lustrilanang, a prominent opposition leader, was abducted earlier this year and was detained for 2 months. He talks about the ways in which his captors beat him, administered electric shocks to his hands and feet, in an attempt to discover details of his political activity. His political activities were political activities we take for granted. He was writing, speaking, and doing things people should be able to do in their countries.
Student leaders of the People's Democratic Party, which was banned last September, have been arrested and sentenced to terms of up to 13 years. Students, young people -- I say to pages who are here -- your age, have been sentenced to 13 years in prison. What was their crime? They organized worker rallies, they called for a referendum on East Timor, and they were campaigning for a more open political system; in other words, for the right of people to be able to organize and to speak out. They now are faced with 13-year prison sentences.
I am concerned about what is now happening in Indonesia. I think our Government should be stronger in our support of the students and for the men and women who are speaking up for democracy and human rights in Indonesia. I commend the Pentagon's recent decision to cancel a joint training exercise with the Indonesian military. But I am deeply troubled by reports that the United States may have been involved in training with the Indonesian special forces, which has really become or is known as a very brutal military unit responsible for the torture, the midnight raids, and the frequent disappearance of citizens.
Mr. President, in addition in this letter that I have sent to President Clinton, I raise questions about the ways in which we bail out a regime which grows more repressive day by day. The infusion of capital by the IMF makes "economic" reform a condition for the bailout. I am not sure the IMF prescription has helped. I have said on the floor before that I am an internationalist. I think we ignore the world at our own peril. I think economic development support is critically important, as is humanitarian assistance. I sometimes think the IMF just pours fuel on the fire. In this particular case, the Government says it is raising fuel prices and taking other action like this in response to the IMF, which, of course, imposes additional pain and hardship on the poor, not on Suharto and his family.
But, in any case, it seems to me that if we are truly concerned about the welfare of the Indonesian people, our continuing funding should be contingent upon greater political openness and improvement in Indonesia's human rights record.
I don't know why the administration -- President Clinton, the administration, our Government; really, the President speaks for our Government -- I don't know why we are not more insistent on these governments who attack, torture, rape, and murder their citizens to abide by elementary standards of decency. In some kind of way, we should make some of our assistance contingent upon this. Surely we can at least speak up. Surely we can at least send a clear signal to the Suharto regime that we support democracy, that we support fair labor practices, that we support human rights, and that we will not stand by idly as this regime, the Suharto regime, continues to repress its citizens.
I come to the floor of the Senate today to speak for the students. I come to the floor of the Senate today to call on the President to speak for the students, courageous students, courageous young people, who I believe are capturing the imagination of Indonesia. They are lighting a candle with their courage. And I think the President and I think the U.S. Congress and the United States of America ought to be on their side.
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