Tsunami Must Not Sweep Away Restrictions on Indonesian Military
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391 (cell)
Karen Orenstein, 202-544-6911
January 13 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today
urged Congress and the Bush administration to maintain restrictions
on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia. Congress has limited U.S.
weapons and training support for the Indonesian military (TNI) for
more than a decade because of human rights violations and other
atrocities committed by Indonesia's armed forces.
"The tsunami must not be used as an excuse to sweep away U.S.
military restrictions on Indonesia," said John M. Miller,
spokesperson for ETAN. "The Indonesian military's behavior during
the current crisis in Aceh shows it hasn't reformed. Brutal
operations also continue in West Papua."
"The TNI wants to use assistance for political ends and should
not be allowed to distribute aid. The people of Aceh fear the
soldiers, and entrenched TNI corruption will siphon off much needed
assistance," said Karen Orenstein, ETAN's Washington Coordinator.
"Aid should go to tsunami victims, regardless of their political
views. Neither side to the conflict should use this disaster for
political or other advantage."
There are many reports of abuse of humanitarian assistance by the
TNI, including withholding food and other relief from civilians who
lack proper identification or are alleged to support independence.
Reports also describe the TNI creating obstacles to local
organizations and volunteers who are trying to distribute
humanitarian assistance. The Indonesian government has said it will
require soldiers to accompany international aid workers outside
Banda Aceh and Meulaboh although there is no security threat.
"While providing humanitarian aid, the U.S. military must fully
respect the spirit and letter of the U.S. law barring military
assistance for the TNI," said Orenstein. "Humanitarian assistance
must be clearly defined so as to prevent any attempt to expand
non-humanitarian military engagement. We are dismayed by reports
that the Pentagon and others have recently stepped up their lobbying
for increased military assistance."
"The TNI is reverting to its usual behavior, partially
reinstating recently-loosened restrictions on aid workers and
journalists," Miller said. "The military and government have also
facilitated the entry into Aceh of Indonesian jihadists under the
guise of humanitarianism. The Indonesian military perfected the
tactic of sponsoring civilian militia to foment conflict and commit
abuse in East Timor."
Secretary of State Colin Powell recently offered grants of spare
parts for C-130 military transport planes. Indonesia has been
allowed to buy these parts since 2000, but Indonesian officials
repeatedly misrepresented their availability in an effort to get the
U.S. to remove all restrictions on weapons sales to Indonesia.
"If Secretary Powell believes that Indonesia will heed his mild
request 'not [to] use them in a way not intended,' he has already
forgotten the horrid history of TNI's use of U.S. weapons in East
Timor and elsewhere," said Miller. "The U.S. government must insist
that Indonesia not use the C-130s or other U.S.-supplied equipment
for security or repressive operations in Aceh, West Papua, or other
areas where civilians are regularly targeted."
"It would be a shame if U.S. relief for tsunami-created suffering
leads to further suffering in Aceh because we have strengthened the
brutal Indonesian military," he added.
ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East
Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to
prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975
to 1999 and for continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance
to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces.
Congress first voted to restrict Indonesia from receiving
International Military Education and Training (IMET) - which brings
foreign military officers to the U.S. for training - in response to
the November 12, 1991, Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor by
Indonesian troops wielding U.S.-supplied M-16 rifles. All military
ties with Indonesia were severed in September 1999 while the
Indonesian military and its militia proxies were razing East Timor.
In November 2004,
the ban on foreign military financing (FMF) and export licenses
for lethal equipment for Indonesia until certain conditions are met.
A legislative exception allows FMF for the navy, provided it can
meet human rights conditions. Congress also extended the ban on IMET
until the State Department determines that the Indonesian armed
forces and government are cooperating with the FBI's investigation
into the 2002 murders of Indonesian and U.S. citizens in West Papua.
The conditions on FMF are similar to previous years, requiring
presidential certification that the Indonesian government is
prosecuting members of the armed forces accused of rights violations
or aiding militia groups and punishing those guilty of such acts.
The conditions also call for the armed forces to take steps to
counter international terrorism and to implement budget
Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, is the site
of one of Asia's longest-running wars. For three decades, the Free
Aceh Movement (GAM) has fought for independence from Indonesia. On
December 9, 2002, an internationally-brokered cease-fire agreement
was signed between Indonesia and GAM, but it collapsed on May 19,
2003, when then Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared
martial law in Aceh. A few hours later Indonesia launched its
largest military operation since their 1975 invasion of East Timor.
Aceh's status was changed to "civil emergency" one year later, but
the TNI remains in charge and the reality on the ground has not
changed. Hercules C-130 military transports, OV-10 Broncos, F-16
fighters, and other U.S. equipment have been used during military
operations in Aceh.
The Indonesian military admits that it is continuing military
operations against Aceh's pro-independence guerrillas, regardless of
the current humanitarian catastrophe. Support in Aceh for
independence from Indonesia is widespread and growing because of the
brutality of Indonesian security forces, as well as the desire for a
fair share of Aceh's vast natural resource wealth.
According to press reports, the Indonesian military has
transported by ship and plane fundamentalist jihadist militia into
Aceh, ostensibly to help with the relief effort. The groups, Islamic
Defenders Front (FPI) and Laskar Mujahidin (military wing of the
Indonesian Mujahidin Council), have a history of attacking opponents
of the military, threatening foreigners, and exacerbating conflicts,
such as the one in the Moluccan Islands.
see also: U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance page
Aceh's Dual Disasters: The Tsunami and
Military Rule by John Roosa
Aceh - From crisis, opportunity by Joe Nevins
Aceh Working Group Concern over TNI Monopoly on