Subject: Indon's Disgraced Military Emerges As The Big Winner of MPR Meeting

Associated Press August 18, 2000

Indonesia's Military Win Concessions From Top Assembly

By SLOBODAN LEKIC

JAKARTA (AP)--Indonesia's disgraced military emerged Friday as the big winner of this year's meeting of the top legislative body, staving off demands to get out of politics and receiving a blanket amnesty for past human rights abuses.

The 700-member People's Consultative Assembly ended its tumultuous annual session by unanimously passing a decree allowing the security forces to retain until 2009 their 38 seats in the legislature.

By banning retroactive prosecution of human rights cases, a separate measure blocked trials of military personnel accused of abuses in strife-torn provinces such as Aceh, West Papua and East Timor, which last year seceded amid massive army-inspired bloodshed and destruction.

The two laws represent a significant setback for President Abdurrahman Wahid's campaign to remove the once all-powerful military from politics and bring to justice members of the security forces accused of committing abuses.

"This is a major defeat for the reform movement," said Dede Oetomo, a political analyst. "It was sneaked through by the military and Golkar."

Golkar was the government-run ruling party during former dictator Suharto's 32-year reign. It remains the second-largest party in the legislature.

"This law could put a stop to all East Timor and Aceh human rights investigations," Oetomo said.

Some legislators said privately they were railroaded into passing the measures by hard-line generals, who threatened to foment trouble in violence-wracked Aceh, Maluku and West Papua provinces unless they got their way.

UN May Set Up War Crimes Court After Laws Ban Retroactive Prosecution

Earlier this year, Wahid succeeded in staving off the creation of an international war crimes tribunal - akin to those for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda - by promising to bring to justice those responsible for last year's devastation in East Timor.

Since then Indonesia's government has drafted a bill aimed at creating a special court to deal with past human rights violations by the security forces.

Friday's legislative measures could renew international demands for the United Nations, which is currently administering East Timor, to set up its own war crimes court.

Earlier this week, the assembly postponed consideration until next year of several other controversial constitutional amendments, including proposals to introduce Islamic law for Indonesia's Muslims and to allow direct presidential elections.

The full assembly also passed a decree Friday on regional autonomy, granting Indonesia's 27 provinces greater control over local affairs.

The amendment is viewed as significant because it allows special home rule status for the provinces of Aceh and West Papua, on Indonesia's western and eastern ends. The government hopes the changes will placate separatist rebels in both regions.

"This is a major decentralization of power to the provinces and districts," said Andrew Ellis, an analyst with the National Democratic Institute, a U.S. government-backed group that promotes free elections and democratic institutions overseas.

The 12-day assembly opened with a blistering attack against Wahid's 10-month government by lawmakers who said the president's erratic governing style was stymieing efforts to revive the moribund economy.

Wahid then suggested he would surrender day-to-day administrative duties to his deputy Megawati Sukarnoputri, who heads Indonesia's largest political party. A new streamlined Cabinet is due to be presented next Thursday.


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