Subject: TAPOL Statement on the Megawati-Bush Joint Statement

Indonesia and the current world crisis

On 19 September, President Megawati Sukarnoputri went to Washington to meet President Bush for a state visit that had been agreed before the horrendous events in New York and Washington on 11 September when more than six thousand people of many nations met their deaths as the result of a heinous, terrorist attack. TAPOL joins in mourning those who were killed, while continuing to mourn the one million or more Indonesians who met their deaths as Suharto took power in 1965/1966. On that occasion, Washington gave unstinting support to Suharto and the Indonesian army to continue with this massacre and made no calls on the world community to fight terrorism - state terrorism - which might well have halted the massacre in its tracks.

By deciding to go ahead with the meeting with the Indonesian president at a time when he is building an international coalition for his ''war against terrorism', Bush evidently expected Indonesia, with the world's largest Muslim population, to stand ''shoulder-to-shoulder' with Washington as it whips up international support for his warmongering project. In the event, Megawati went no farther than to pledge 'to cooperate with the international community in combating terrorism'.

Megawati's measured response shows that she knows full well that support for Washington in Indonesia is less than enthusiastic. Many Indonesians will not forget that during the three decades of the Suharto dictatorship, all administrations in Washington kept silent about the massive, ongoing repression and grotesque human rights abuses and did nothing to halt arms supplies until undeniable facts emerged about the death and destruction in East Timor in 1999. Megawati also knows that she could face a serious backlash from Indonesian Muslims should she sign up for a war on countries with huge Muslim populations.

Cooperation on counter terrorism

The two presidents agreed to 'strengthen bilateral cooperation on counter-terrorism'. Indonesia has been plagued for more than a year by many bombings which have killed and maimed hundreds and destroyed property. The Indonesian police have shown themselves to be virtually incapable of tracking down and bringing to justice the perpetrators of these terrible crimes. She would have done better to pledge reform of the police and improve their ability to fight crime. Undoubtedly many of those responsible for these crimes have links with groups in other countries, but reports currently circulating in Indonesia that Osama bin Laden may be behind the spate of bombings stretches credulity. Still worse, they may be part of a strategy to enhance the role of Lt.General Hendropriyono who Megawati appointed to head the new State Intelligence Agency (see page 7). No doubt, some of the $5billion now allocated to Bush's 'war on terrorism' will find its way into this Agency's coffers and Megawati's intelligence supremo will enjoy the new prominence bestowed on his network of spies and 'intel' operatives. It should not be forgotten that the army connived in inflaming the religious strife that has held Maluku in its grip since early 1999. Laskar Jihad gangs were not prevented from going to Maluku and funds from top army commands were used to support these gangs. The credentials of the Indonesian armed forces in fighting these self-confessed Muslim extremists is less than salubrious.

Accountability for human rights abuses

Megawati made a pledge, in her statement with Bush, 'to resolve outstanding issues relating to past human rights violations, especially in conflict zones'. She asserted that 'as a state based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and freedom of religion, Indonesia recognises the importance of accountability for human rights abuses'. TAPOL warmly welcomes this pledge. However, we know that, if she stands by this pledge, she will find herself on a collision course with numerous military officers, retired or still on active service, who must be held accountable for crimes against humanity in East Timor, in Aceh, in West Papua and in Indonesia during the Suharto regime of terror. The man she chose as Attorney General, A.M. Rahman, has a deplorable reputation for the job he now holds; he has stood in the way of accountability for the crimes in East Timor and is hardly likely to help her in standing by the pledge she made in Washington. While Bush agreed to lift the executive's embargo on commercial sales of non-lethal defense articles for Indonesia, he gave no undertaking to end arms sales, knowing full well that this is a matter for the US Congress where support for the Leahy amendments is still strong (see page 12). If Megawati fails to deliver on her accountability pledge, the Leahy amendments will prove an impregnable barrier to the resumption of arms sales.

This statement is being published in TAPOL Bulletin No 163, October 2001. References to page numbers relate to other articles in the Bulletin.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Croydon CR7 8HW, UK. tel +44 020 8771 2904 fax +44 020 8653 0322

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