Members of House Oppose Renewal of IMET and FMF for Indonesia
September 3, 2002
The Honorable Jim Kolbe
Dear Chairman Kolbe:
We are writing to urge you to renew both the International Military Education and Training (IMET), and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance to Indonesia when you consider the FY03 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.
In our view, the recent Senate Appropriations Committee vote to restore IMET funding for Indonesia by appropriating $400,000 for this purpose was a serious mistake that is not in the long-term interests on the United States.
Although supporters of IMET and FMF funding for Indonesia claim that these programs are necessary to help Indonesia wage a war on terrorism, the reality is that Congress has already provided more than adequate funding (up to $16 million) in the FY02 Supplemental Appropriations Act alone for the training of Indonesian police. In addition, over the objections of many Representatives and Senators, the Indonesian military (TNI) will be receiving $4 million of unrestricted U.S. military assistance through the Regional Counter¬≠terrorism Fellowship program under the FY02 Defense Appropriations Act.
Examining the behavior of the TNI over the last several years, it is clear that instead of enhancing the region's stability, the TNI has aggressively worked to destabilize it. The horrendous human rights abuses of the TNI in East Timor are already well known. But what is less well known is the fact that members of the TNI and the Indonesian government appear to be providing support for a fundamentalist Islamic militia called the Laskar Jihad. Similar to East Timor, the TNI is supporting a fundamentalist militia in order to exacerbate conflict in regions throughout the archipelago -¬≠ including attacking Christian communities in the Maluku Islands and South Sulawesi. There is no evidence linking the Laskar Jihad in Indonesia to the Al Qaeda network. But it seems foolish for the U.S. to be providing military assistance to the TNI when instead of working against terrorists, it assists an Islamic extremist militia with proven human rights violations.
Although the Pentagon and State Department will argue that the assistance to the Indonesian military is needed to ensure stability in Indonesia, the record of the TNI is the exact opposite. Abuses by Indonesia's security forces have fueled separatist sentiment in Aceh and Papua. Attacks on civilian leaders, such as the November assassination of the leading Papuan leader Theys Eluay, have undermined efforts at the peaceful resolution of conflicts. In addition, the TNI is recruiting, training and arming the "Merah Puti" (red and white) militia in Papua. This militia, plus the Muslim fundamentalist paramilitaries, are terrorizing civilians under TNI direction.
Recent statements by the Secretaries of Defense and State that U.S. training of the TNI will somehow foster respect for civilian authority and human rights are not plausible. There is no evidence to support this proposition. Forty≠seven years of IMET funding for Indonesia did not curb human rights abuses. Under President Megawati, the TNI is arguably as powerful as ever before, and there is almost no incentive for the TNI to reform. Indonesia has not been serious in punishing the scores of TNI General and Colonels who are strongly suspected of war crimes and massive human rights violations in East Timor in the late 1990s. The first verdicts issued by Indonesia's ad hoc human rights court on East Timor - six acquittals and one three-year sentence for crimes against humanity - exemplify this.
Academics, human rights defenders, as well as Administration officials have stated that, at this point, military reform has essentially ended in Indonesia. Funding the TNI only gives a US stamp of approval to ongoing abuses, and sends a signal that no matter how egregious the human rights violations by the TNI may be, Uncle Sam's handouts will never stop coming.
By contrast, renewal of the IMET restrictions will convey a powerful message that the United States will not tolerate policies by the TNI which undermine the stability of the region, support Islamic extremist organizations, and violate the human rights of ordinary citizens.
Thank you for your consideration.
Chris Smith (R_NJ)