Subject: SMH: Donor nations tell Jakarta: reform or no more cash

Sydney Morning Herald 
October 18, 2000

Donor nations tell Jakarta: reform or no more cash
By MICHAEL MILLETT, Herald Correspondent in Tokyo

Indonesia yesterday parried criticism of its performance on everything from human rights to the environment as it sought to persuade the international community to hand over another $A9.2 billion to ease its crippling financial problems.

International donor bodies, including Australia, used the opening of the two-day Consultative Group meeting in Tokyo to pledge further help for the beleaguered nation, acknowledging its desperate need for foreign cash.

But the delegates, representing 18 countries and a range of international bodies including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, also expressed frustration at Indonesia's inability to live up to its commitments on economic, political and environmental reform.

It is understood they warned that Indonesia could not expect further help without demonstrating significant progress in a number of areas.

Some pivotal donor groups - notably the United States and the World Bank - have explicitly tied aid promises to Indonesia's willingness to curb the activities of pro-Indonesia militias operating in West Timor.

That threat followed the murder of three United Nations workers in Atambua last month, and the inability or unwillingness of the Wahid administration to prevent the militias preying on East Timorese refugees in squalid camps along the border.

Jakarta has taken some steps to rein in the militia, including ordering the seizure of weapons. But international critics say the efforts are half-hearted and that the Government has no power or real desire to force its military to clean up the situation in West Timor.

Sources said a number of countries backed the US in demanding a better human rights response from Indonesian authorities.

There was also criticism of Jakarta's economic performance. While the Government has been working with the IMF in cleaning up the economy, it has been accused of backsliding in politically sensitive areas.

Delegates stressed the need for the Government to adhere to its corporate restructuring program, despite its clamour for special debt relief.

President Abdurrahman Wahid has been accused of favouring business cronies in recent financial bailouts.

There was even reference to the Government's lack of progress on the environmental front.

The European Union tabled a report highlighting the extent of illegal logging still happening in many of Indonesia's remote "protected" regions.

Indonesia was also assailed outside the conference room, with human rights groups demanding that the country's powerful military stop meddling in politics and that the conference be postponed until Jakarta provided solid evidence that the militia groups had been disarmed.

The Indonesian delegation acknowledged before the talks that it was expecting a much tougher meeting than previous aid conferences.

But it appears to have argued successfully that cutting off aid would be counter-productive, hurting Indonesians while doing little to resolve the problems raised.

Japan, Indonesia's biggest aid donor, has declined to apply any real pressure.

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