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Groups Write State Dept on Indonesia Military Aid

 
8 March 2006
 
Assistant Secretary Christopher R. Hill
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
 
Via Facsimile 202-647-7350
 
Dear Mr. Assistant Secretary:
 
We note with dismay remarks attributed to you by media sources at your March 3 press conference in Jakarta. Reportedly, you stated that the U.S. was "very satisfied with the approach of the TNI (the Indonesian military) toward reform," and expressed confidence that "the Indonesian military is continuing on its reform path and we want to assist in that process." 
 
While we all wish to see positive change in Indonesia, it does a disservice to the advancement of real democratic progress to exaggerate the impact of small reforms, which continue to be overshadowed by Indonesia's vicious cycle of impunity and military insubordination to civilian authority.
 
Such claims of progress, coupled with Secretary Rice's November 2005 decision to waive restrictions imposed by a bipartisan congressional consensus to maintain pressure for military reform, forfeit leverage for real reform.
 
Indeed, the reality is that the TNI remains a largely rogue institution which commits human rights violations without concern for the law. Its political power and corruption jeopardize democracy. Links to and support of thuggish militia, including Jihadist groups, that intimidate minority populations reveal unchanged adherence to military tactics brutally employed in 1999 against the people of East Timor.
 
A candid review of current TNI performance clearly indicates a continuation of, and in some instances a return to, Suharto-era military behavior. For example, the State Department's own 2004 annual human rights report for Indonesia notes that "retired and active duty military officers known to have committed serious human rights violations occupied or were promoted to senior positions in the Government or TNI." Not one Indonesian officer has served a day in jail for crimes against humanity inflicted on the people of East Timor and the UN mission in 1999 or before. In the small number of other cases that have gone to trial, defendants have been limited to low-level officials, sentences are consistently not commensurate with crimes, and command responsibility is neither assessed nor pursued. This cycle of impunity encourages military personnel to commit abuse and intimidates those who seek to stop it.
 
TNI involvement in politics and civilian government administration remains overbearing and appears to be strengthening. While the State Department has made much about the military's relinquishment of assigned parliamentary seats in 2004, the TNI actually retains far more important powers through its vast territorial command structure. Such a structure constitutes a shadow government that is usually more powerful than the elected or appointed civilian bureaucracy. New TNI leadership has no plans to relinquish this structure. Furthermore, the 2004 local government law relaxed prohibitions on military officers running in local elections, and military officers can occupy senior posts in the Department of Defense, as well as in the areas of drug enforcement and intelligence.
 
The vastly corrupt nature of the TNI remains unchanged. It operates beyond civilian government control in large measure because it draws most of its funding from non-budget sources. The president has so far failed to issue regulations required to implement a 2004 law ending military-controlled business interests by 2009, nor are there timetables or benchmarks for full implementation. In the very limited actions taken so far, the military has employed a narrow definition of what constitutes a military business, excluding, for example, cooperatives that constitute a significant portion of military holdings. In addition to these formal military enterprises, many units engage in illegal activities, including trafficking in persons and narcotics, prostitution rings, illegal logging and fishing, and extortion that sometimes targets U.S. firms. These illegal businesses need to be shut down.
 
Progress has occurred in some areas, notably the still-fragile peace process in Aceh. However, it is essential that the U.S. exercise leverage to ensure the Indonesian military does not play a disruptive role, as it did in 2003. Moreover, there are fears that soldiers withdrawn from Aceh are being sent to West Papua. Regrettably, a ban on foreign journalists and others has prevented verification of this and other allegations of serious abuse in that easternmost province.
 
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the continued absence of meaningful TNI reform. We wish also to express our concern that the Administration's abandonment of congressionally imposed restrictions on assistance to the Indonesian military rewards and encourages continued human rights violations, impunity, and corruption, thus undermining Indonesian democracy. We would also welcome the chance to discuss ways for the Administration both to credibly measure reform progress and create incentives for it.
 
We thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.
 
Sincerely,
 
Karen Orenstein, National Coordinator
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
 
Bama Athreya, Deputy Director
International Labor Rights Fund
 
Rev. James Kofski, Associate
Asia-Pacific and Middle East Issues
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
 
Edmund McWilliams
West Papua Advocacy Team
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Center

see also ETAN Rejects Added Aid for Indonesian Military; Responds to Bush Administrationís Waiver Justification

U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance page



Original article

U.S. Says Reform of TNI on the Right Path

JAKARTA, March 3 (AFP): A U.S. envoy said Friday that ongoing reform in Indonesia's powerful armed forces (TNI) was on the right path and the United States wanted to provide more support for the changes ahead.

Washington has been "very satisfied with the approach of the TNI toward reform," despite past strains between the two nations, said Christopher Hill, visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of Statefor East Asian and Pacific Affairs."We're confident that the Indonesian military is continuing on its reform path and we want to assist in this process," Hill told a press briefing in Jakarta.

Hill, who held talks on bilateral, regional and international matters with three Indonesian ministers earlier Friday, also said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was expected to visit Indonesia on March 14.

Indonesia -- the world's largest Islamic nation -- and the United States resumed full military ties in November. They were severed over human rights allegations against the military in 1991 when Jakarta's forces launched a crackdown on pro-independence protesters in East Timor.

Critics have blasted the resumption, saying that Indonesia's military has not yet taken full responsibility for its past rights abuses, particularly in East Timor before and in the run-up to its independence in 1999.

"Of course not everyone agrees with this... but I can assure you that the U.S. government believes this is the right approach and this is what we are doing," Hill said.

Washington in January donated US$11 million worth of medical equipment -- equal to a full-scale US military hospital -- to be used as a fleet hospital by the Indonesian navy, in the first exchange since the ban was lifted.

"We're convinced that the Indonesian government and the Indonesian military in particular have moved quite clearly on the path of reform and we want to support it," the assistant secretary of state added.

Indonesia began reforming its military in 1998 after its autocratic former president Soeharto stepped down.

 


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