Subject: Indon-U.S. ties
Also: Analysts say RI-U.S. ties improving, U.S. told to give concrete support
The Age December 21, 2002
US push for FBI to hunt mine killers
By Matthew Moore
Indonesia Correspondent Jakarta
US President George Bush has told Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri that her country must find and punish those responsible for shooting dead two American schoolteachers at the Freeport mine in Papua and has proposed that the FBI join the stalled investigation.
Mr Bush's message, delivered in the past fortnight, makes clear there will be no resumption of US military aid to Indonesia until the US is satisfied with progress in the case - complicating Australia's plans for closer military ties with Indonesia.
His intervention comes with a growing conviction in the US and other Western governments that the August 31 ambush involved members of the Indonesian army which guards the giant Freeport gold and copper mine.
An FBI report on the case is believed to point to involvement of Indonesia's army, a finding the army has strenuously denied since the attack took place on a misty mountain road near the Freeport mine.
The Age has learnt that Mr Bush told Mrs Megawati an agreement on how the investigation will be restarted is a critical condition to resuming the military aid that was frozen in 1999 in response to the army's role in the East Timor bloodshed. The US Congress is due on January 6 to debate a proposal to reinstate funding for a program to train Indonesian soldiers, giving the Indonesian Government little more than a fortnight to finalise an agreement on reviving the investigation.
After Mr Bush's intervention, a US official familiar with the case said there was broad agreement between the two presidents that the case must be solved honestly and openly.
"The US and Indonesia at the highest levels understand each other quite clearly that there must be a credible outcome to an investigation of what happened at Timika (in Papua) and who was responsible and those who were responsible must be given appropriate punishment," the official said.
Indonesia has received widespread international praise for the success of its multinational police team investigating the Bali bombings, prompting the US Government to push for a similar team, including FBI officers, to investigate the Papua ambush. An Indonesian schoolteacher was also killed in the incident.
Despite the sensitivity of FBI involvement, the US official said his country's government believed an agreement could be reached. "US officials are hopeful the process will go forward in a way that need not disrupt the bilateral relationship," he said.
The Indonesian police officer overseeing the Bali investigation, General I Made Pastika, spent months heading the Papua investigation. Although he has made it clear he believes there is evidence of military involvement, this evidence is not conclusive.
Instead, police handed their report to the military for them to investigate allegations that their men were involved.
Three separate investigations by the army (TNI) have all found there was no military involvement, although there is scepticism about the TNI investigating itself and finding itself innocent.
Further complicating Washington's push for a new investigation is an article published in The Washington Post last month citing an intelligence report that said the head of Indonesia's armed forces, General Endriartono Sutarto, was involved in planning an attack on the Freeport mine.
General Endriartono, who has denied the allegations, is suing The Washington Post and has promised to resign if the allegations are proved true.
Analysts say RI-U.S. ties improving, U.S. told to give concrete support
Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Bilateral relations between Indonesia and the U.S. government have been improving following Indonesia's commitment to combat terrorism, but suspicion between the two countries remain and could potentially upset ties, several international relations analysts said on Wednesday.
Suspicion remains rife, especially among the people, that the U.S. is attacking Islam and that Indonesia continues to be a safe haven for terrorists, they said.
"Ties between the two countries are getting better, but suspicion, mainly here that the U.S. is targeting Muslims in its war against terrorism, could hamper the relationship," Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) told the Jakarta Post.
On the other hand, Kusnanto said, Americans might also think that the Indonesian government was not serious in its fight against terrorism.
But the level of suspicion in the U.S. against Indonesia is not as high as the level of suspicion here toward the U.S., he said.
Meanwhile, Dewi Fortuna Anwar of the Habibie Center said growing antireligious sentiments among people in both countries would impede the two countries ties from improving further.
"At the government level, officials can draw a firm line to separate terrorism from Islam, but the general public has difficulty understanding it," she told the Post.
She urged religious leaders in both countries to communicate to their followers that the war against terrorism does not target Islam so that improving relations between the countries could be maintained.
Relations between Indonesia and the U.S. have markedly improved following the Indonesian government's move to arrest leaders of hard-line groups, including terror suspect Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.
The Indonesian government has taken tough measures, especially after the Bali bombings, which killed more than 190 people, mostly foreigners, and injured more than 300 others.
Meanwhile, Ikrar Nusa Bhakti of the National Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said the U.S. should do more to help Indonesia recover from the crisis as a reward for its drive to fight terrorism.
"Let's see what the U.S. government can help with after the terrorist attacks in Bali. They only praise our government's moves to fight terrorism and dispatch investigators here, which have had a minor impact on Indonesians," he told the Post.
He cited a good example shown by the Japanese government, which extended a US$20 million grant to Indonesia to help Bali recover from the attacks.
Meanwhile, Kusnanto, who is also a military analyst, said that the U.S. government could help Indonesia in the way of securing the country's unity by offering more training and grants to the National Police and the Indonesian Military (TNI).
"After a ten-year boycott (from the U.S.), the ability of the TNI and the police to keep Indonesia secure has dropped sharply. It's not good for the country to be plagued by conflicts in various places," he said.
Nevertheless, Dewi said that she had reservations about giving more aid to the military, saying that both countries should concentrate more on strengthening democracy in Indonesia.
"I think we need to make strengthening our democracy the number one priority that has to be supported by the U.S. government," she said.
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