Subject: ST: US to widen demands for Indonesian military reforms

The Straits Times November 28, 2001

US to widen demands for Indonesian military reforms

Frustrated by the poor progress, the Senate wants more conditions placed on Jakarta to qualify for military help


JAKARTA - Frustrated that a seemingly unrepentant Indonesian military is still being given carte blanche authority to abuse human rights in Aceh and engage in illegal logging, among other sins, American lawmakers are already threatening to curtail the limited re-engagement initiated by the US military.

US President George W. Bush and his generals may be eager to keep Jakarta in the fold of his global counter-terrorist coalition in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks on America.

Not so the US Senate, which last month passed a Bill detailing three more conditions for Jakarta to meet to qualify for US military assistance and training.

The Senate version of the Foreign Operations Appropriation Bill for 2002, which is not yet law pending reconciliation with milder language used by the House of Representatives, requires Jakarta to demonstrate 'commitment to civilian control of the armed forces' by requiring the military to audit and report all its sources of income and spending.

The Indonesian government will also have to allow the United Nations and other human-rights workers and observers 'unimpeded access to West Timor, Aceh, West Papua and Maluku', as well as release political detainees.

These are in addition to six conditions imposed by Congress last year demanding accountability for the murder of three UN workers, including one US citizen, in West Timor, and the razing of East Timor in 1999.

There is universal agreement that Jakarta has made poor progress in these areas, although there are different schools of thought on how to encourage compliance.

US Pacific Commander Admiral Dennis Blair, stopping by Indonesia on his swing through the region to foster greater multilateral efforts against terrorism, yesterday made his annual call on Indonesian generals to clean house while holding out the prospect of more aid.

US forces can now work with the Indonesian Defence Force (TNI) in multilateral missions, such as the campaign against terrorism, or joint patrols in the Straits of Malacca to protect the shipping lanes from pirates and terrorists.

But mere pledges by Indonesian leaders to reform the military were not enough.

'I am convinced of the sincerity to reform, but I have not seen that sincerity translated into action. It is a case of turning the intention into investigations... court martials,' he told the National Resilience Institute, a military think-tank, yesterday.

Accounting for the actions of the military in East Timor was the primary legal criteria for resumption of fuller cooperation.

But, in a marked divergence in views with US lawmakers, he insisted that Aceh 'was not part of the criteria'.

Safeguarding Indonesian territorial unity necessitated military action, he noted.

Yet, Aceh could soon be the new benchmark, with human-rights groups ratcheting up pressure on Congress in recent months to punish Jakarta for military abuses in Aceh and Irian Jaya.

A Senate committee report recommending the tougher language in the new appropriations Bill noted that more than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, had died in Aceh so far this year.

Reflecting growing frustration and anger among American lawmakers, and the international donor community in general, with Jakarta's seeming disinterest in delivering justice and instituting rule of law, some clearly feel a more punitive approach is now necessary to ram the message home.

Not surprisingly, the Senate now also wants to take on 'illegal logging, prostitution and contraband smuggling' that the TNI is allegedly involved in, hence the demand for full financial audit reports.

Also clearly uneasy with the Bush administration's efforts to re-engage the TNI, lawmakers are insisting on regular consultations.

'It is the committee's understanding - that the purpose of this modest effort to re-engage with the Indonesian military is to encourage reform.

'If, over the coming year, there is no convincing indication that the military is moving forward with serious reforms, even these limited activities could be curtailed,' the Senate report warned.

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