Subject: JP: RI hopes U.S. visit will boost military ties

Jakarta Post

March 23, 2005

News & Views

RI hopes U.S. visit will boost military ties

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono says the U.S. government and legislators now have a better understanding of the Indonesian Military (TNI) after his delegation's week-long visit to the country.

After reporting to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday about last week's visit, Juwono said influential U.S. figures now better understood the TNI and its role in the country's democracy.

"They, including Senators Patrick J. Leahy and Russel Feingold who are the most critical (of the military), now understand the problems faced by the TNI," he said.

The delegation informed legislators about Indonesia's progress in establishing democracy, the reform drive within the military and the role of the military in economic and democratic development, the minister said.

Juwono also mentioned the problems faced by the TNI, including its limited state budget allocation, which is deemed sufficient to cover only half of the military's expenditure.

He compared the country's defense budget of Rp 21 trillion (US$2.28 billion) a year with that of Singapore, which has a budget equivalent to Rp 45 trillion a year and Thailand's, of Rp 50 trillion.

"I told them that I led the best underpaid defense force in Asia. They were very surprised that with such a small defense budget, Indonesia remained unified despite the large number of citizens and our large territory," Juwono said.

Juwono's visit to the U.S. was to encourage the government to fully resume military ties with Indonesia. The U.S. recently decided to reinstate the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program with Indonesia.

The Indonesian delegation met with U.S. Minister of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Minister of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who has just been promoted to head the World Bank, Deputy State Secretary Robert B. Zoelllick, Senator Richard Lugar, Senator Christopher Bond, Senator Russell Feingold, U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan and former U.S. state secretary Henry Kissinger.

The U.S. has yet to annul its decision banning the sale of military equipment and spare parts to Indonesia.

Juwono said that the government hoped to be able to buy new military equipment and spare parts from the U.S. after the resumption of the IMET program, which is expected to start again by September at the latest.

"This year is for (the resumption of) the IMET program. Other programs, such as the Foreign Military Equipment Sale and Foreign Military Financial Program, depend on the resumption of the training. If this occurs, and is in line with economic growth, we could be allowed to buy new defense equipment," he said.

Kissinger had promised to convince the U.S. Senate to speedily approve the resumption of IMET with Indonesia by September, he said.

Juwono said he told U.S. legislators that the legal processes concerning the TNI's involvement in the 1999 human rights violations in East Timor were still ongoing although most of the convicts, particularly TNI personnel, had been acquitted by lower courts.

The inability of the courts to convict Indonesian Military officers for war crimes is one reason why the U.S Congress has voted to continue the arms embargo.

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