Vol. 8, No. 1
|Congress Moves to Renew Military Ties with Indonesian Military||
Congress Moves to Renew Military Ties with Indonesian Military
by Karen Orenstein
Systematic pressures to curtail an emphasis on human rights in U.S. foreign policy have only increased since the last Estafeta. The “war on terror,” with its emphasis on separating those who are “with us” from those who are “against us” via a simplistic foreign policy and large increases in military spending, has had a serious impact on both Indonesia and East Timor policy.
Indonesia’s Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor blatantly avoided any real justice for East Timor, while Indonesian military (TNI) and police brutalization of civilians continues (both directly and through militia proxies, especially in Aceh and Papua), and security forces successfully resist reform. Nonetheless, the Pentagon and its allies in Congress scored a long-sought victory for re-engagement with the TNI. Senate and House Appropriations Committees narrowly voted to reinstate full International Military Education and Training (IMET) for Indonesia in the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, in large part due to terrorism-related arguments. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Congress member Nita Lowey (D-NY), and other friends of East Timor on the Appropriations Committees strongly opposed such training for Jakarta but in the end were outnumbered. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and 26 others wrote to Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) shortly before the House subcommittee vote to urge renewal of the IMET restriction. This followed a similar letter sent in June to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) and 52 others.
But all is not lost. Working with allies in Congress and other groups, ETAN succeeded in maintaining the restriction on foreign military financing (FMF) for Indonesia. Moreover, the Senate bill contains an additional restriction on the licensing of lethal defense articles for export to Indonesia and actually strengthens the conditions which Indonesia must meet before this and the FMF restriction can be lifted. The same bill secured $25 million in U.S. assistance for East Timor.
The Foreign Operations Appropriations bill has yet to be taken up on the House and Senate floors; thus, the possibility of reinsertion of the IMET restriction does exist. At this point it is not possible to predict when and if the bill will be taken up by the new Congress, or what will happen if it is not.
The cloud surrounding other Bush administration initiatives to sharply increase TNI engagement also has a silver lining. As noted in the last Estafeta, the Pentagon was able to secure an addition to the 2002 Defense Department Appropriations Act providing $17.9 million to establish a Regional Defense Counter-terrorism Fellowship Program. As of this writing, the TNI has been allotted $4 million of the $17.9 million and a small level of training has begun, but not without vocal congressional criticism. In the 2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act, the administration succeeded in attaining significant funding for the police but was soundly defeated in attempting to appropriate $8 million to create a new TNI unit purported to be a domestic peacekeeping force.
ETAN, the Indonesia Human Rights Network, and our colleagues in East Timor, Indonesia and the U.S. continue to fight every step taken to further “re-engage” with the Indonesian military. ETAN, IHRN, and 59 other U.S.-based NGOs wrote Appropriations Committee members opposing U.S.-Indonesia military ties. A powerful letter from eight of Indonesia’s most prominent human rights organizations was distributed to every congressional office. ETAN also circulated an analysis of Indonesia’s non-compliance with the Leahy conditions (required for lifting restrictions on aid to the TNI), and wrote Secretary Powell prior to his August Indonesia visit Indonesia requesting that he convey messages on military reform and justice to President Megawati. ETAN helped organize and spoke at a House panel to brief staff on the current situation in Indonesia, Aceh, and Papua as well as on accountability of security forces for the devastation of East Timor.
Legislation similar to current House and Senate concurrent resolutions calling for an international tribunal on East Timor may be introduced in the new Congress in 2003.
The long-delayed Foreign Relations Authorization Act for 2003 passed, which included the East Timor Transition to Independence Act of 2002 and $500,000 for East Timorese scholarships. The Act also contained non-bindng language expressing the sense of Congress on human rights violations in Indonesia. The language calls on the government of Indonesia to “terminate any TNI support for and cooperation with terrorist organizations, including Laskar Jihad and militias operating in Maluku, Central Sulawesi, West Papua (Irian Jaya), and elsewhere” and “make concerted and demonstrable efforts to find and prosecute those responsible for the murders of Papuan leader Theys Eluay, Acehnese human rights advocate Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, and United States citizens Edwin L. Burgon and Ricky L. Spier.” The U.S. citizens and an Indonesian colleague were killed on August 31 near Freeport McMoRan’s mining town in West Papua. Kopassus (Indonesia Special Forces) involvement is suspected.
The lull of congressional activity in Washington following elections is an opportune time for activists at home to educate new and incumbent senators and representatives. If you have time, please set up lobbying meetings today. Struggles for justice for East Timor and human rights in Indonesia must not be forgotten as the administration advances its “pre-emptive” policies. A luta continua!
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