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Selected Unpublished Letter to the Editor 2005

Strained Ties; A New Partnership With Indonesia; Re: "Dictators beware!"; US, Indonesia mull closer ties;

 

To Christian Science Monitor

To the Editor

Any steps by U.S. to further resume ties with the Indonesian military ("Indonesia, US ties strained by past, August 29) would certainly be set back reform.

Past Congressional conditions on the restoration of military assistance have yet to be met. The Indonesian military is unlikely to take seriously U.S. statements urging an end to human rights abuses or the backing for militia, if the restores aid before these conditions go unfulfilled.

One long-standing Congressional demand has been for justice for past human rights abuses in East Timor and elsewhere in the archipelago. Recently, a UN panel strongly criticized Indonesia's show trials of some those responsible for crimes against humanity committed during the East Timor's independence referendum in 1999. The Indonesian government dismissed out of hand the panels' recommendations which would give Indonesia another chance to credibly try senior officials. Failing that, the panel recommended that the UN bring the case to an international court.

This lack of justice affects both countries. Ordinary East Timorese resent the compromises their government has made to bury the past. And without real progress, the Indonesian military will take any aid as an endorsement of business-as-usual and the TNI's corrupt, abusive ways will continue.

Sincerely,

John M. Miller
Media and Outreach Coordinator
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

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For Publication

To the Editor

Whatever its "symbolic" value ("A New Partnership With Indonesia," May 24), lifting restrictions on military assistance would serve only to undermine democracy in Indonesia. The Indonesian military (TNI) is unlikely to view re-engagement as a reward for limited reforms. but as an endorsement of business-as-usual.

While the Indonesian military (TNI) has given up a few perks such as automatic seats in the national legislature, the TNI is expanding its domestic role by creating a series of territorial commands and allowing officers to run for local office. Corruption remains rampant. Providing the TNI with more sophisticated weapons or training will not reverse these tendencies.

The TNI has yet to meet most of the conditions placed on cooperation by Congress, among them justice and accountability for severe human rights violations in East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere, and an end to military backing of fundamentalist and other militias. Until it does, military assistance should be with-held.

Sincerely,

John M. Miller
Coordinator
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
Brooklyn, NY
 

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To International Herald Tribune

To the Editor,

Jonathan Powers' "Dictators beware!" (IHT January 13, 2005) quotes East Timor's José Ramos-Horta saying "in this day and age you cannot kill hundreds of people, destroy a whole country and then just get fired."

Unfortunately, a recent initiative of Ramos-Horta's would likely mean just that - and perhaps less. In a deal with Indonesia clearly meant to forestall further UN action, East Timor's government has signed off on a joint truth and friendship commission with its former occupier. While the parameters of the new commission are not yet set, both governments have made clear that each country would follow up the commission's findings concerning their own nationals.

Jakarta's own tepid prosecution of some of those accused of massacres and other mayhem in 1999 make it clear that any Indonesians accused are unlikely to go to jail. They are more likely to be promoted.

Just one example: General Adam Damiri was acquitted on appeal in Jakarta. His indictment by joint UN-East Timor judicial process which Indonesia refuses to cooperate with remains outstanding. A regional commander in 1999, he is now a top official in Indonesia’s military and has played a major role in Indonesia's ongoing military campaign in tsunami-afflicted Aceh.

The UN has a major stake in bringing to justice those accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor. The Secretary-General should move quickly to set up the proposed Commission of Experts to examine existing justice processes and recommend next steps. An international tribunal would have the political weight behind it to compel Indonesian cooperation. Perhaps then those who organized the killings of hundreds, indeed thousands, in East Timor might lose their jobs and more substantively be brought to justice.

Sincerely,

John M. Miller
Media and Outreach Coordinator
East Timor Action Network
Brooklyn, NY USA

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To USA Today

Closer ties between the U.S. and Indonesian militaries are unlikely to improve the human rights situation there ("US, Indonesia mull closer ties, " February 9).

Many of the Indonesian military's worst abuses took place when the U.S. was most engaged. In 1975, Indonesia illegally invaded East Timor; nearly all the equipment used came from the U.S.

Some progress has been made since restrictions on military cooperation were first instituted. For example, East Timor is now independent after the UN held a referendum in 1999. Immediately after, the Indonesian military and its militia proxies carried out a reign of terror, destroying much of the country, before they finally withdrew. Many of officers involved in that destruction retain important posts.

Genuine justice for past human rights violations remains a distant hope for the Indonesian military's many victims in East Timor and elsewhere.

Several military-backed fundamentalist and other militia recently set up shop, with government assistance, in disaster-stricken Aceh. Like in East Timor, they can be used whenever the military wants to try to hide its deadly hand from the international community.

Some argue that the U.S. should build on the goodwill created by U.S. relief efforts tsunami-stricken Aceh by re-engaging the Indonesian military. Doing so will only breed ill-will among that military's many past and current victims in Aceh and elsewhere.

Sincerely,

John M. Miller
East Timor Action Network/U.S.
Brooklyn, NY
 

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