Subject: AAP: Indonesia's Military Wants Stronger International Ties

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

AAP Newsfeed August 31, 2002

Indonesia's military wants stronger international ties

By Catharine Munro

JAKARTA, Aug. 30

Indonesia's military (TNI) commander today argued for greater international ties but could not fully guarantee against human rights abuses by his men.

"It's impossible that 100 per cent of all soldiers respect human rights, it's almost impossible," General Endriartono Sutarto told reporters.

The four-star general begged for understanding if there were isolated incidents of human rights abuses but offered to resign if human rights abuses continued on a large scale.

He said some Indonesians still felt "sensitive" about military relations between Australia and Indonesia, after Australia led the military force Interfet in East Timor in 1999.

The force was to restore peace in the territory following a vote for independence.

"But to cooperate with other countries militarily is a must," he said.

Indonesia cut off a security pact with Australia over Australia's role in East Timor, while Australia stopped training Indonesia's special forces because of their role in aiding and abetting the ransacking of the territory by militia gangs.

Indonesia is now under pressure from the United States to improve its security force's human rights record before the restoration of full military ties, cancelled after East Timor's secession.

Sutarto said ties should be maintained in order to head off aggression.

"Usually if there are good military ties it will contribute much to the ties of the two countries and we are able to prevent trouble, to prevent war from disputing countries," Sutarto said.

The US government has proposed small-scale military training but is yet to receive the approval for the program from its Congress.

Congress is required by law to block any funding for military training of the Indonesian military until it is satisfied that members of the military who aided and abetted the ransacking of East Timor by militia gangs are brought to justice.

The US State Department has already said it was disappointed by prosecutors' reluctance to use evidence at a human rights tribunal being conducted here.

Further verdicts, including that of former regional military commander Adam Damiri, are not expected until November.

Sutarto said it would take time for human rights training programs recently adopted by the Indonesian military to take effect.

"We can't change something in a short time that we had never provided to soldiers over decades."

He said he supported the human rights tribunal but hoped all members of the military would be found innocent of crimes against humanity.

Five officers accused of abuses in the town of Suai were acquitted by the tribunal earlier this month.

He defended the military's practice of running businesses, saying they were necessary for the institution to operate.

Analysts believed that only 30 per cent of the TNI's funds are supplied by the government.

He said he would order a full audit of military businesses, just as he had done for the army in his former role as army chief.

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