|Subject: JP: U.S. Military Assistance May
Increase State Terrorism
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
- U.S. military assistance may increase risk of state terrorism
The Jakarta Post August 3, 2002
U.S. military assistance may increase risk of state terrorism
Berni K. Moestafa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The United States offer of aid to Indonesia to fight terrorism may backfire and see an increased incidence of state terrorism instead, a human rights activist said on Friday.
Hendardi of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) said the U.S. should remain cautious in extending aid to fight terrorism as Indonesia suffered more from state terrorism than conventional terrorist attacks.
Five Indonesian middle-ranking officers will participate in the U.S. counterterrorism fellowship program next month, marking the first cooperation of this kind since Washington suspended military ties in the aftermath of the East Timor violence in 1999.
Hendardi warned the Indonesian Military (TNI) might misuse the counterterrorism training its members receive. "We have had our share of experience (of these abuses)."
He was referring to the 1997/1998 kidnapping of political activists by elite Indonesian soldiers. At that time officers who had undergone antiterrorism training in the U.S. were in charge of the elite troops. Many of the victims never returned, and the senior officers have never been tried for the kidnappings.
"The (antiterror) training will give the TNI justification to label someone a terrorist ... and this could lead to more human rights abuses," Hendardi added.
The U.S. government has indicated its intention to normalize military relations with the TNI. However, the road there is still long, with opposition coming from the U.S. Congress and human rights groups.
TNI retains its image of an abusive force, four years after the downfall of Soeharto's iron-fist regime. Reports of human rights violations implicating the Army keep flowing in from conflict zones in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Maluku and Papua.
Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, on behalf of his government, has offered Indonesia US$50 million to combat terrorism, but indicated restoring full ties was still a long way off.
Powell visited several Southeast Asian countries to promote the U.S. war on terrorism, and in that capacity wants Indonesia's military to play a greater role.
Part of this venture is next month's counterterrorism training in California where Indonesian Army officers will learn about postconflict situations.
Hendardi said the training may be useful in thwarting terrorist threats at home, but questioned how far this could help TNI improve its human rights record. "What Indonesian Army officers need are lessons on democracy and human rights."
Military and foreign affairs analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Rizal Sukma said the counterterrorism program could open the way for resuming full military cooperation.
"I think the U.S. realizes that in order to help the TNI reform itself, there needs to be military-to-military relations," he said.
U.S. confident over Indonesia's war on terrorism
Tiarma Siboro and Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed confidence in Indonesia's determination to fight terrorism with a pledge of US$50 million in aid to train security forces in counterterrorism.
Speaking to local and foreign journalists after holding talks with several high-ranking officials here on Friday, Powell praised Indonesia's level of cooperation in fighting terrorism and said President Megawati Soekarnoputri and security authorities were capable of dealing with terrorist threats.
"I'm very pleased with the level of our cooperation on a range of bilateral issues, not just counterterrorism.
"We admire Indonesia so much as a Muslim nation which at the same time has great diversity within that nation and allows that diversity to flourish in a way that benefits the whole society," he said.
Powell is on a Southeast Asian tour aiming to boost cooperation with the region in the fight against terrorism, and stopped in Jakarta before flying to Manila as his last stop.
On his brief visit to Jakarta, he will hold a series of talks with the President, her political and economic ministers and religious leaders.
Despite the promised $50 million in aid, Powell made clear that the United States had yet to lift the military embargo imposed on Indonesia in September 1999, but said it was expected to pave the way to normalizing the two countries' military ties.
The United States cut military ties following the postballot violence in East Timor in 1999. A number of Indonesian former military and police officials are facing prosecution at the ad hoc Human Rights Tribunal for alleged involvement in human rights abuses during the violence.
Asked what had changed about Indonesia's human rights record to allow aid to flow again to the military, Powell said:
"We are starting down a path to a normal relationship with respect to military-to-military. We are not there yet.
"At the same time the American Congress is watching carefully and expecting action to be taken with respect to past abuses that might have occurred."
During the meeting with Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, both sides agreed to hold international military training and education (IMET), as well as to involve Indonesian officers in a counterterrorism fellowship program.
"We hope that these program will help the Indonesian armed forces to improve its capabilities, or to improve the performance of military organization in a democratic system," Powell said.
Of the total funding, $47 million will be granted to the police for a training scheme and other programs until 2004. Some $16 million, including $12 million to create a new police counterterrorism unit, has already been approved by Congress, while another $400,000 is to provide for a resumption in training of civilian elements of the Indonesian defense ministry next year on top of $400,000 for the same programs this year.
U.S. Congress has signaled that it will not agree to lifting the military embargo unless the military proves it is strongly committed to internal reform, including staying out of politics.
Powell pointed out that the U.S. Congress was "watching carefully, expecting action to be taken in regards to past abuses that might have occurred", before lifting the Leahy amendment.
The lifting of the embargo would depend on the U.S. Congress and Powell said that his government had successfully convinced Congress that it was very important to improve Indonesian security forces' ability in dealing with terrorist threats.
Indonesia has denied accusations by neighboring countries that it is a safe haven for terrorists.
The accusations were prompted by Jakarta's perceive reluctance to take stern action against extreme or radical groups like the Laskar Jihad and the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).
Foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda said during the talks that the government had convinced Powell of its determination to fight terrorism but lacked the capability to do so.
"Indonesia should strengthen its capability to counter terrorism both at home and along its border areas ... We have been working with the U.S. toward that end," Hassan said.
He further defended "the fact is that Indonesia is not Afghanistan... Indonesian Muslims are very moderate and the fact that there are fundamentalist groups adopting radicalism doesn't mean they are a majority."
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