Subject: SFChron: Indonesia-- what's really changed?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS San Francisco Chronicle

Indonesia -- what's really changed?

by Lynn Fredriksson

Sunday, August 12, 2001

Recent reporting in Indonesia has predictably focused on expectations about newly appointed President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

But it has virtually ignored Jakarta's responsibility for escalating military and police operations. Indonesian forces this year have claimed more than 1,000 lives in Aceh, and their deployment has resulted in the arrest of scores of prominent political activists in Aceh, West Papua and Jakarta.

While the military received kudos for an orderly transfer of power from Abdurrahman Wahid to Megawati, few commentators considered the political implications of their mutiny, and allegiance to Megawati, a politician aligned with powerful generals.

Although Megawati deserves praise for her early decree opening ad hoc tribunals on human rights violations committed in East Timor in 1999 and Tanjung Priok in 1984, how far will this gesture go?

A more telling indication of her motives has been her unwillingness to acknowledge East Timor's successful vote for independence from Indonesia in August 1999, and her support for its militia attackers such as Eurico Guterres.

The motives of Indonesia's security forces this year are equally questionable:

-- Sanctioning militia control of tens of thousands of East Timorese refugees in West Timor;

-- Condoning the provocation of violence between Muslims and Christians in Maluku;

-- Standing by during bloody ethnic attacks of Dayaks against Madurese in Kalimantan.

In West Papua (also known as Irian Jaya), the security forces have deployed thousands of additional troops, and established "pro-Jakarta" militias.

In Aceh, nearly all nongovernmental leaders have been threatened, arrested and beaten, "disappeared," killed or driven into hiding. Last week, student leader Faisal Saifuddin was arrested on charges of inciting hatred in Jakarta. And Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Muhammad Nazar has been locked up on subversion charges since last year.

This summer, a lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C., by the International Labor Rights Fund on behalf of 11 villagers against the giant ExxonMobil Corp. for its role in human rights violations committed by Indonesian security forces protecting its facilities in Aceh.

And it was one year ago this month that a personal friend, human rights lawyer Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, a New York resident, was abducted and disappeared in Medan. His badly mutilated body was found one month later, but Indonesian police still refuse to release Jafar's autopsy report.

Ten years ago, the United States weighed in on the side of human rights in Indonesia, as Congress and successive administrations began chipping away at military assistance.

By September 1999, in the midst of Indonesia's final siege on East Timor, then-President Clinton suspended what was left of U.S.-Indonesia military ties.

That November, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and a bipartisan host of representatives and senators passed a law prohibiting the renewal of most military assistance (weapons and training) until six conditions on accountability, refugee return and security in East Timor were met.

Two years later, none of those conditions has been fulfilled.

It also makes sense to refuse Indonesia's military the tools to continue repressing its own people -- until it meets additional conditions demanded by the human rights community. These are that:

-- The government of Indonesia should take effective measures to stop military and police violence against unarmed civilians across the archipelago.

-- The government should demonstrate civilian control over its security forces and make their budgets transparent.

-- The government should release all political prisoners.

-- And it should allow free and safe access for international human rights and humanitarian workers in Aceh, West Papua, Maluku and West Timor.

Past U.S. military training and equipment to Indonesia have been abused. According to a report by the International Crisis Group, the U.S. "bilateral military relationship has not been effective to date in producing an Indonesian military that meets the standards of a modern, professional force under civilian control or promoting long-term stability in Indonesia."

The Bush administration has made the mistake of reinitiating military contacts and restarting joint regional exercises not banned under law. But until reform in Indonesia is truly under way, anything more will meet with stiff opposition in Congress, and throughout the human rights community.

The Indonesian military continues to kill, torture and arrest its civilian population. Current congressional restrictions are appropriately based on human rights.

The Bush administration would do well to heed them.

Lynn Fredriksson is co-founder and advisor of the Indonesia Human Rights Network in Washington D.C.

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