Rep. Gilman on F-16s
Long Before Lippo, Questions on Indonesia
Sunday, November 10 1996;
Jim Hoagland was wrong when he asserted in his Oct. 24 column ["The Real Cash Scandal," op-ed] that the Clinton administration's plan to sell nine F-16s to Indonesia would have "sailed through uncontested" but for the Lippo scandal and the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize award to human rights activists in East Timor. Permit me to set the record straight.
During the August congressional recess, long before Lippo was on anyone's screen, the State Department contacted our Committee on International Relations about plans to initiate the required congressional notification process regarding the sale of the F-16s, and an informal briefing was proposed for interested members, to be held shortly after Labor Day.
I sent word back that I would not support the sale primarily because of Indonesia's poor record on human rights violations. Not the least of these violations was the government's illegal ouster in July of Indonesia's most prominent opposition leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri, from the leadership of her own party and the subsequent, government-sanctioned attack on her party's headquarters.
The State Department was also informed that, if the administration went forward with its proposal, I would introduce a resolution of disapproval and convene an early meeting of our committee for the purpose of reporting my resolution to the full House.
I believe that a resolution of disapproval of the sale would be adopted, in large part because of congressional concern over supplying advanced weapons to a government with a serious record of human rights violations against its own people.
The only way the president could force the consummation of his proposal would be to veto the resolution of disapproval and then work to ensure that it was not overridden.
The latest revelations regarding the Lippo Group have raised important questions about the administration's policy toward Indonesia, which have added an entirely new set of issues to the concerns previously expressed by members of both parties from both houses.
It is regrettable that the administration has now indicated plans to formally notify Congress in January of this proposed sale. Along with other members of the committee, I have requested the secretary of state to withhold action on this proposal until the many new questions raised by the Lippo investigation can be resolved.
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN
The writer is chairman of the House Committee on International Relations.
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