Subject: No US Military Help for Indonesia: Activists

Activists: No Military Help for Indonesia

By Katherine Torres

WASHINGTON, June 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. renewal of military aid and training assistance to Jakarta continues to spark criticism and activists accuse elements of the Indonesian military of continuing to kill and violate human rights.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network/U.S. -- a U.S. based grassroots human rights organization working with the people of East Timor and Indonesia -- is one of many groups that opposes the United States providing support in the form of resources and monetary aid to the Indonesian military.

"The U.S. foreign policy is drastically affecting the human rights situation in East Timor and in Indonesia," John Miller, ETAN's media and outreach coordinator told United Press International.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deemed Indonesia to be eligible to receive the International Military Education and Training after she determined Jakarta "has satisfied legislative conditions for restarting" IMET. Some members of Congress and non-governmental organizations such as ETAN objected to her decision.

Aid to Indonesia is increasing, according to a report by the World Policy Institute in New York. For 2006, President Bush has requested $800,000 in IMET, up from the $459,000 that Congress froze in 2004.

Miller, ETAN volunteers and other activists -- some from East Timor and Indonesia -protested outside the Indonesian embassy in Washington Monday against the plan, asking for restrictions on military engagement.

ETAN also went to Congress during its three-day stay in Washington to talk to lawmakers about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Indonesia's West Papua and Aceh regions, as well as seek investigations on killings of human rights activists in East Timor, a former Indonesia province now called Timor Leste.

"It is obvious that Indonesian military repression and human rights violations have not been restricted to East Timor," Miller said in a statement. "While both countries have made progress, we continue to believe that justice for past violations and restrictions on U.S. security assistance to Indonesia are essential to building a just and democratic East Timor and Indonesia."

The group said it was confident members of Congress would take their appeals seriously.

"The attention being given to this situation by Congress is generally positive," Miller said. "There is a lot of understanding in Capitol Hill about the Indonesian military."

Edgar Vasquez, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department said the decision to renew IMET stemmed from progress being made in Indonesia to establish democracy.

"The Indonesians have been successful in holding free and peaceful elections and the military police have lost their seats in parliament," he said.

Post-tsunami relief efforts would have been more effective had the Indonesian military been more experienced in working with the international community and had knowledge of handling different types of equipment, Vasquez said. He added that the human rights situation in Indonesia had not escaped U.S. attention.

"We don't shy away from the fact," he said. "We want to continue to support Indonesia to improve its performance and accountability."

Indonesia is a key U.S. ally in the war on terror and has arrested and tried several militants linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. The country has also been hit by terror attacks such as the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people and the 2003 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people.

Aceh, the region hardest-hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami, has since 1976 been the scene of a violent struggle between the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, and the Indonesian military, which is also trying to control a smaller insurgency in eastern Papua province.

Some 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the battle for the resource-rich Aceh since GAM rebels began their campaign for independence.

The conflict intensified in May 2003 when a truce collapsed and Aceh was put under temporary martial law, but the December tsunami prompted Jakarta and the rebels to reopen a dialogue.

Both sides have been criticized for killings, kidnappings and extortion, but the Indonesian military has received the heaviest criticism.

"This is a military that works side by side with Jihad terror groups," said Edmund McWilliams, a retired senior foreign officer who lived in Indonesia for 21 years, to UPI.

"If the United States wants to challenge terrorism, they can't do that by supporting a military that is consistently terrorizing its people," Miller added.

Aceh wants to independence from Indonesia, but in a peaceful manner, said Khatab, an activist from Aceh, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

"We need to lobby the U.S. government to ensure that we (Aceh civilians) get a right to a referendum," he said.

Amnesty International reports that human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture and the rape of women and girls, have been "so pervasive that there is virtually no part of life in the province which remains untouched."

Timor-Leste, an independent country since 2002, is also no stranger to violence. During its struggle for independence, the Indonesian military was accused of killing hundreds. The former Portuguese colony was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, which occupied it until 1999.

Miller said about one-third of the Timorese population had been wiped out during the occupation.

No Indonesian military or police officials has been brought to justice for crimes committed against civilians, including 14 human rights activists, McWilliams said.

Jose Turquel, an activist and former East Timor resident, said he believed if the Indonesian military was not stopped, the country's democratization and transformation would end.

"The military institution should be under civilian control if we want democratization for Indonesia," he told UPI. "However, without U.S. involvement, this will not happen."


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