Subject: AFR: Arms Bust Puts Indonesia Under the Gun

Australian Financial Review Thursday, April 27, 2006

Arms Bust Puts Indonesia Under the Gun

By Morgan Mellish

A small group of mainly Indonesians flew to Hawaii earlier this month but they weren't planning to bring back the usual souvenirs.

They went to Honolulu to buy 245 air-to-air Sidewinder missiles, 882 Heckler & Koch MP5 guns, 880 HK 9mm handguns, 16 HK sniper rifles, 5000 rounds of ammunition and an aviation radar system.

But on April 9 their plans came unstuck. The group, including known arms dealers for the Indonesian military and two Indonesian Air Force officers, was arrested by the FBI as they tried to make the illegal $US40million ($54million) purchase from an unnamed US company.

Four arms dealers - alleged leaders Hadianto Djoko Djuliarso and Ibrahim bin Amran, both Indonesian, plus a Singaporean and a Briton - were taken to Michigan and charged with conspiring to violate the US Arms Export Control Act. The two leaders were also charged with money laundering offences. The two officers, both lieutenant colonels, were deported.

The embarrassing incident comes as Washington gradually lifts a long-standing arms embargo put in place after the Indonesian military, known as the TNI, massacred dozens of people in Dili, East Timor in 1992.

Last November, Washington announced the arms embargo would be lifted if Indonesia's human rights record improved and if the TNI - which is known to be involved in many other illegal activities including logging, prostitution and drug running - was reformed.

Just last month, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a visit to Jakarta that Indonesia had made progress in combating military corruption. As part of these closer ties, a senior Indonesian military delegation is heading to Washington this week to discuss defence and security. But, for some in Indonesia, the Americans are clearly not moving quickly enough.

"What you've got here is an overlap of regimes," said Bob Lowry, a former Australian military attache in Jakarta and expert on the Indonesian military. "It's an example of the old system and people not adjusting to the new realities."

This latest escapade by the TNI, however, is unlikely to damage the rapidly thawing relations. After all, Washington needs the under-equipped TNI brought up to strength so it can help combat a rise in Islamic extremism and the obvious threat this poses to the West.

"America's interest is to cultivate Indonesia again in the context of the war on terror," Indonesia expert and Australian National University professor Harold Crouch said.

"They won't be shocked to know there are some crook arms dealers coming from Indonesia. I think that's well known."

Nevertheless, the incident in Hawaii has the Indonesian government ducking and weaving. Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono and the newly installed head of the military, Marshal Djoko Suyanto, said that of the weapons being purchased in Hawaii, only the radar system was actually ordered by the Air Force from Djuliarso's company, PT Ataru Indonesia. The rest, including the missiles, were for someone else.

"I met with the US ambassador and he understood our position," the Defence Minister said. "This case is about a recalcitrant business partner and, indeed, we will review our partnership [with Djuliarso]"

But many find this denial hard to accept. There's the presence of the two Air Force officers, statements by the arrested men that they were acting on behalf of the Indonesian government and, thirdly, the fact no one else in Indonesia has a need for heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles, which are used by fighter aircraft to shoot down other planes and cost about $US80,000 each. Further, the Indonesian military has previously expressed a desire to buy Sidewinders.

Mr Lowry said he had no doubt it was all done with the knowledge of the Indonesian Air Force. "The sin is that they've been caught out because the new regime doesn't allow it," he said. "What they've been caught doing was quite common until just recently.

"It's quite a large number of missiles. Who the end users of these things were going to be is one question. Under normal circumstances it would be the Indonesian Air Force. I can't image who else they'd pass them on to."

US authorities have stated the case does not involve the exporting of weapons for terrorism.

The 14-year arms embargo has left the TNI badly in need of new equipment.

"They [the TNI] are certainly rundown," Professor Crouch said.

"A lot of their planes are not flying and a lot of their ships can't go to sea. Technologically they're in a bad state."


Joyo Indonesia News Service 


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