|Subject: Testimony by Ed McWilliams on
Recent Indonesia Reform
Committee on International Relations U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515-0128
March 10, 2005 Testimony for Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Hearing: Implications of Recent Indonesia Reform
By Edmund McWilliams, Senior Foreign Service Office (Ret.) Board of Directors, Indonesia Human Rights Network
The Indonesian Military’s Threat to Human Rights and Democracy
The Annual Human Rights Report regarding Indonesia, recently released by the State Department accurately portrays the Indonesia as a fragile, fledgling democracy whose government is not yet capable of protecting the fundamental human rights of its people. As documented clearly in the State Department’s report, the principal menace to those rights and to that fledgling democratic government itself is a rogue institution with vast wealth and power that has committed crimes against humanity and perhaps genocide and which remains unaccountable.
That institution, the Indonesian military, recently saw its stature dangerously enhanced by a decision of the U.S. administration to end a bipartisan Congressionally imposed sanction against the military, imposed over a decade ago.
The decision, announced by Secretary of State Rice, restored International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance to the Indonesian military. The Congress banned that assistance in 1992 in response to the military’s murder of 276 peaceful demonstrators in East Timor. The Congress reinforced the ban in 1999 in response to the military’s ravaging of East Timor following the Timorese people’s courageous vote for freedom. In 2004, the Congress narrowed the ban to a single condition. It required that the State Department certify that the Indonesian government and military were cooperating in an FBI investigation of an August 31, 2002 assault on a group of U.S. citizens at the Freeport copper and gold mine in West Papua that saw two U.S. citizens killed and eight wounded.
Dr. Rice’s February 26 certification that the Indonesians were cooperating manifestly misrepresents the obstructions and malign inaction of the Indonesian side with regards to that investigation. Contrary to the State Department’s contention that the Indonesian side is “cooperating,” the Indonesians have failed to bring charges against or even detain the one individual indicted by a U.S. grand jury in the attack. Moreover, for over eight months it has stalled a return of the FBI team to Indonesia to continue its investigation.
This Indonesian obstruction of the FBI investigation is possibly explained by indications that the Indonesian military itself was involved in the attack. The initial Indonesian police report, as well as reports by independent researchers, journalists and others, all point to military involvement. Recently, evidence of ties between the one indicted individual and the military was provided to the FBI and the State Department. Moreover, the military’s presentation of false evidence and subsequent military threats and intimidation targeting those Indonesian human rights advocates who had assisted the FBI also suggest the military’s culpability.
Ms. Patsy Spier who was wounded and widowed in the attack has asked me to share with you her concern about the importance of genuine Indonesian cooperation in the investigation:
“The investigation into the Timika Ambush, a terror attack, is completely in Americans interest. Two American citizens who were working in Indonesia for an American company were murdered on a secure road. The ambush lasted from 35 to 45 minutes before help came. The eight Americans wounded were American citizens working in Indonesia (the eighth American being a 6 year old girl). The investigation, and cooperation needed, is in Americans interest to assure the safety of the other thousands of Americans working and living in Indonesia. The Indonesian authorities must cooperate fully with our US investigators. American companies working, and thinking of working, in Indonesia must be assured that the murder of Americans is taken seriously by the Indonesian Government...and cooperating with our investigators would show that.”
In addition to being indefensible on the basis of the “cooperation” criterion established by the Congress, the decision was also a practical blunder. Restoration of IMET assistance removes the only leverage available to the U.S. to press for the genuine Indonesian cooperation essential to a successful completion of the FBI’s investigation. On the basis of this erroneous certification alone, the Congress should restore the ban on IMET in FY2006. It is also imperative that the Congress maintain the ban on FMF for the Indonesian military which remains in place despite the restoration of IMET.
But there are broader issues in play than even the critical matter of ensuring justice in this case of murdered and wounded U.S. citizens.
The restoration of IMET dangerously conveys to the Indonesian military that long-standing U.S. concerns about its notorious and continuing human rights abuses, its threats to its neighbors, illegal business empire and its impunity in committing these acts is no longer on the U.S. agenda. Such a U.S. exoneration of the Indonesian military removes a well-founded international censure that has given Indonesian government and civil society members the political space to press for reform of that notorious institution. It is not surprising that leading Indonesian human rights activists reacted with dismay to the U.S. action.
The notorious record of the Indonesian military is well documented by reliable reporting of well-respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Tapol as well as in the State Department’s Annual Human Rights Reports. Therefore, I will only summarize that record here and then focus the rest of my remarks on the current activity of the Indonesian military, specifically its ongoing abuse of human rights, its involvement in a broad range of criminal enterprises, its contempt for and threat to democratic institutions and its unaccountability.
In 1965-68 the Indonesian military engineered the slaughter of more than a half million Indonesians whom it alleged had been involved in a "coup" against the sitting President Soekarno. Employing a tactic it would resort to again in the current period, the Indonesian military allied itself with Islamic forces that did much of the actual killing. The Soeharto regime which rose to power as a consequence of the coup and which directed the massive killings sought to justify them in U.S. and western eyes by labeling the victims as “communists.”
Following the Indonesian military's invasion of East Timor in 1975, an estimated 200,000 East Timorese, one quarter of the population, died as a consequence of living conditions in TNI-organized re-location camps or as direct victims of Indonesian security force violence.
In West Papua, it is estimated that over 100,000 Papuans died in the years following the forced annexation of West Papua under a fraudulent "Act of Free Choice," perpetrated by the Soeharto regime in 1969. An April 2004 study by the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at the Yale Law School concluded that the atrocities in West Papua are "crimes against humanity" and may constitute genocide.
In Aceh, over 12,000 civilians have fallen victim to military operations that have included mass sweeps and forced relocations. These operations, almost constantly since the late 1970’s, have entailed brutal treatment of civilians including extra judicial killings, rape, torture and beatings. While the military’s quarry in these attacks, the pro-independence Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM has also been responsible for human rights abuses, the State Department's Annual Human Rights reports have consistently reported that most of those civilians died at the hands of the military.
Throughout this period, extending from 1965 to the early 1990's the U.S. military maintained a close relationship with the Indonesian military, providing training for thousands of officers as well as arms. From the late 1970’s to 1992, that training included grant assistance under IMET. The arms provided by the U.S. were employed by the Indonesian military not against foreign foes (the Indonesian military has never confronted a foreign foe except for brief clashes with the Dutch in West Papua) but rather against their own people. In the 70's and 80's, U.S.- provided OV-10 Broncos bombed villages in East Timor and in West Papua. Military offensives conceived and directed by IMET-trained officers against usually miniscule resistance caused thousands of civilian deaths.
Even with the end of the cold war, the U.S. embrace of the dictator Soeharto and his military continued as if U.S. policy were on auto pilot. That relationship endured largely unquestioned until 1991 when the Indonesian military was caught on film by U.S. journalists slaughtering peaceful East Timorese demonstrators. The murder of over 270 East Timorese youth by Indonesian soldiers bearing U.S.-provided M-16's so shocked the U.S. Congress that in 1992 it imposed tight restrictions on further U.S. military-to-military aid, including training for the Indonesian military.
Since the imposition of those restrictions various U.S. Administrations, with the support of non-governmental organizations bankrolled by U.S. corporations with major interests in Indonesia have sought to expand military to military ties. Those efforts were accompanied by claims that the Indonesian military had reformed or was on a reform course.
Claims of Indonesian military reform were confounded in 1999, when, following an overwhelming vote by East Timorese for independence from Indonesia, the Indonesian military and its militia proxies devastated the tiny half island. U.N. and other international observers were unable to prevent the killing of over 1,500 East Timorese, the forced relocation of over 250,000 and the destruction of over 70 percent of East Timor's infrastructure. The Indonesian justice system has failed to hold a single military, police or civil official responsible for the mayhem. That failure to render justice demonstrated that even when confronted by unanimous international condemnation, the Indonesian military remained unaccountable.
Moreover, TNI abuse of human rights is not a matter only of history. Indonesian military operations that began in mid-2004 in West Papua continue. Burning villages and destroying food sources, the Indonesian military has forced thousands of villagers into the forests where many are dying for lack of food and medicine. A government ban on travel to the region by journalists and even West Papuan senior church leaders has limited international awareness of this tragedy. More critically, the ban has prevented Papuan church leaders and others from distributing humanitarian relief to the thousands forced into the forests. A similar campaign in West Papua in the late 1990s led to the death of hundreds of civilians who did not survive their forced sojourn in the deep jungles of West Papua.
The recent devastating Indian Ocean tsunami turned international attention to Aceh, another primary arena in which the Indonesian military continues a brutal military campaign. Notwithstanding calls by President Yudhoyono for a ceasefire and declaration by GAM of unilateral ceasefire the Indonesian military has continued to conduct operations. These operations jeopardize relief operations and will likely stall rehabilitation and reconstruction. Both GAM and the Government appear to be genuinely pursuing a settlement through talks organized by former Finish President Martti Atahisaari. But as the former Finnish President has emphasized, to be successful, both sides must act with restraint in the field. With boasts that it has killed over 230 GAM members since the tsunami struck, the TNI clearly is not acting with restraint.
Throughout the Soeharto period (1965-1998) critics and dissenters generally were not tolerated. Despite the genuine democratic progress made since the fall of the Soeharto dictatorships, critics of the military and those whom the Indonesian military regard as enemies are in grave jeopardy. Reflecting the Indonesian military’s power in "democratic" Indonesia, those critics who meet untimely ends are often the most prominent. Indonesia’s leading human rights advocate, Munir, a prominent critic of the Indonesian military died of arsenic poisoning in 2004. An independent investigation authorized by the Indonesian President has uncovered evidence of Government involvement in this murder. In recent years Jafar Siddiq, a U.S. green card holder who was in Aceh demanding justice for Achenese suffering military abuse was himself tortured and murdered. Theys Eluay, the leading nonviolent Papuan proponent of Papuan self-determination was abducted and strangled to death. In a rare trial of military officials, his Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) killers received sentences ranging up to three and one half years. Yet Army Chief of Staff, Ryamazad Ryacudu publicly described the murderers as “heroes.” Farid Faquih, a leading anti-corruption campaigner who has targeted military and other government malfeasance recently was badly beaten in Aceh by military officers as he sought to monitor tsunami aid distribution. He was arrested and is now facing charges of theft of the assistance he was monitoring. Papuan human rights advocates who supported FBI investigations of the U.S. citizens murdered in 2002 in West Papua are under continuing intimidation by the military and were sued by the regional military commander.
More generally, the Indonesian military poses a threat to the fledgling democratic experiment in Indonesia. It receives over 70 percent of its budget from legal and illegal businesses and as a result is not under direct budget control by the civilian president or the parliament. Its vast wealth derives from numerous activities, including many illegal ones that include extortion, prostitution rings, drug running, illegal logging and other exploitation of Indonesia’s great natural resources, and as charged in a recent Voice of Australia broadcast (August 2, 2004), human trafficking. With its great institutional wealth it maintains a bureaucratic structure that functions as a shadow government paralleling the civil administration structure from the central level down to sub-district and even village level.
There are also reasons why many of us should be directly concerned about the TNI’s lawlessness. As investors through our pension and mutual funds our hard-earned wealth is invested with U.S.-based corporations: ExxonMobil and Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc., among others that are subject to extortion of “protection money” from the TNI for their Indonesian operations. Recognizing the reputational risks and potential and actual shareholder liabilities resulting from these financial relationships between U.S. companies and the TNI, institutional investors including all of New York City’s employee pension funds have brought shareholder resolutions this year calling on Freeport and ExxonMobil management to review and report to shareholders about the risks associated with corporate ties to the TNI. In short, investors should be concerned, too, about the TNI’s human rights record and the implications for the bottom line.
For much of the last decade, advocates of closer ties between the Indonesian military and the U.S. military have contended that a warmer U.S. embrace entailing training programs and education courses for TNI officers could expose them to democratic ideals and afford a professional military perspective. This argument ignores the decades of close U.S. - Indonesian military ties extending from the 1960's to the early 1990's when U.S. training was provided to over 8,000 Indonesian military officers. This 30-year period also encompasses the period when the Indonesian military committed some of its gravest atrocities and when a culture of impunity became ingrained.
The argument for reform through engagement also ignores the fact that the U.S. Defense Department already maintains extensive ties and channels for assistance under the guise of "conferences" and joint operations billed as humanitarian or security-related.
In the wake of 9/11, proponents of restored U.S.-Indonesian military ties have also argued that the U.S. needs the Indonesian military as a partner in the war on terrorism. This argument overlooks the Indonesian military’s close ties to and support for domestic fundamentalist Islamic terror groups, including the Laskar Mujahidin and Front for the Defense of Islam. The Laskar Jihad militia, which the Indonesian military helped form and train, engaged in a savage communal war in the Maluku Islands in the years 2000 to 2002 that left thousands dead. Many thousands more died in Central Sulawesi in the same period, in fighting that involved militias with security force ties.
Absent tangible evidence of Indonesian military action to curb abuses, to allow itself to be held accountable, to end corruption, to submit itself to civilian rule and to end its sponsorship of terrorist militias, the Indonesian military should be seen for what it is: a rogue institution that directly threatens democracy in Indonesia. Existing restrictions on military-to-military ties between the United States and Indonesia must remain in place, conditionality should be strengthened and the IMET ban reinstated in FY 2006.
Finally, a word about the future. The Indonesian people, Indonesian non-governmental organizations, the Indonesian media and individual Indonesians have demonstrated great courage in standing up to the intimidation of entrenched corrupt interests in their society and most especially its security forces to demand their right to live in a democratic society. The brave students who rallied in the streets in 1998 wrought a revolution, though since that historic victory, entrenched undemocratic elements have sought to undo reforms. Sadly, in some parts of Indonesia the 1998 reforms have had little meaning. The military, often employing terrorist militias, have most brutally repressed the popular struggle for reform in Aceh, West Papua and the Maluku Islands. It is vital that the central government engage civil society in these areas in peaceful dialogue and, in order to make such a dialogue viable, demilitarize those areas.
The U.S. should encourage reform and peaceful dialogue where it can. It should encourage the Government to enforce worker rights, to make far more serious efforts and to end injurious exploitation of child labor and human trafficking. The U.S. should encourage the Indonesian Government to pass legislation implementing the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The U.S. should also urge an end to intimidation of journalists through physical threat and intimidation through misuse of the courts. Moreover, the U.S. Government should itself recognize the importance of social, economic and cultural rights and encourage the Government of Indonesia to pursue development strategies that address the urgent health, education and shelter needs of the poor.
But direct U.S. involvement in Indonesian affairs would be unwelcome and most likely ineffective. Critical questions such as the role of Islam in modern Indonesia and the shape and character of its economy are for Indonesians to decide. The most pro-active course for the U.S. at this time is to step back from its growing embrace of the Indonesian military that remains the gravest threat to democracy and human rights throughout the archipelago.
see also U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance