|Subject: Responses to Australia's Ambassador to the US
speech about Indonesia
Letters to the editor
March 11, 2006
Indonesia's unaccountable military
I find it odd that Ambassador Dennis Richardson, a self-proclaimed member of Australia's "Indonesia lobby," would seemingly take such a rosy view of the democratic transition now under way in Indonesia ("Embassy Row," Thursday). If the pro-Jakarta lobby had had its way, democracy in Indonesia would still be a distant dream, rather than a work in progress.
The lobby viewed Gen. Suharto and his military as the bulwarks of a stable and prosperous Indonesia. No alternatives were considered. The Indonesian people, in overthrowing the dictator, fortunately disregarded that view.
But I guess old habits die hard, because the Australian government has again fallen back on its old habit of backing the Indonesian government, and especially its military, no matter what. Australia and the Bush administration have lately embraced the Indonesian military, offering training and material. But anyone without blinders can see that the greatest obstacle to a stable, prosperous and democratic Indonesia remains the Indonesian military, which remains largely unaccountable for its corruption and human-rights violations in East Timor and elsewhere and operates largely beyond civilian control.
JOHN M. MILLER
The March 9 "Embassy Row" reported remarks by Australian Ambassador Dennis Richardson to the U.S.-Indonesia Society in which he lavished praise on Indonesia. Your coverage did not include his remarks about Papua, (aka "West Papua") a part of Indonesia where, as the State Department's Annual Human Rights Report notes, "the government largely failed to hold soldiers and police accountable for killings and other serious human rights abuse."
This reality escapes Ambassador Richardson who, according to his remarks carried in "The Australian," March 10 chastised those who raise concerns about human rights abuse in West Papua contending it was "possible to ask the question whether those whose raison d'tre was East Timor has now become Papua." He concluded that "... policy approaches to Indonesia should not be held hostage by the issue of Papua."
It was precisely this oblivious approach, adopted in Washington and Canberra, that enabled Jakarta to brutalize the people of East Timor for almost a quarter century ... as now in West Papua.
Falls Church, Va.
(Writer is a retired senior Foreign Service Officer who served as the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, 1996-99)
From: Clinton Fernandes
An interesting and highly revealing speech. Almost certainly vetted - if not drafted - at the highest levels of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
A few quick points:
1. The US-Indonesia Society was created in 1994 specifically as a result of the challenge posed by the solidarity movement in the US. It was set up by former US Ambassador to Indonesia, Edward Masters, with the support of the Indonesian government and the US State Department. Ostensibly set up ‘to increase understanding and awareness of Indonesia in the United States and to promote a better appreciation of the US-Indonesia relationship’, its real efforts were designed to counter the stream of negative publicity generated by ETAN activists (now the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network) http://www.etan.org. Faced with Congressional opposition and a grassroots campaign that had begun educating members of the US public about Indonesian atrocities, the US-Indonesia Society was described by one observer as ‘a second embassy for Indonesia in Washington since its founding’. As it wasn't formally an organ of the Indonesian government, the US-Indonesia Society could pose as an independent source of expertise on Indonesia. But it ran into troubles that were hard-wired into the system it was trying to defend, namely the actions of the Indonesian military. In particular, every time the Society argued that Indonesia was taking genuine steps to improve its human rights record, activists and members of Congress would ask the Indonesian government to demonstrate its good faith by allowing more openness in the territory. In the case of West Papua, the continuing ban on foreign media speaks more eloquently than anything Richardson might say.
2. The connection between East Timor and West Papua is not human rights groups but the Indonesian military. For example, Brigadier General Mahidin Simbolon, deputy commander of the military region that included East Timor, was promoted to Major General and placed in charge of the province of Papua. The same militia proxy tactic from East Timor began to be employed soon after he got there. Simbolon had served at least six tours of duty in East Timor. He had led the operation to capture Xanana Gusmao in 1992 and was a key actor in the Indonesian military’s covert warfare strategy. There are many more like Simbolon. The Indonesian military is the real problem in West Papua.
3. President Yudhoyono appears, at least by his actions, to understand this fact. When he won the elections, he appointed Djoko Santoso as Army Chief of Staff and took steps to sideline the hardline Ryamizard Ryacudu. Yudhoyono has known Djoko Santoso for more than a decade, and in fact promoted him to Brigadier-General a few years ago. Yudhoyono also promoted his classmates from the Class of 1973 and two of his brothers-in-law to senior positions. These appointments were made to increase his control over the TNI, which had under Megawati fallen under the sway of very hardline elements.
4. Finally, Australia's defence engagement with Indonesia appears to be having the consequence - whatever the intention may be - of supporting hard-line elements against more moderate elements in Indonesian society. Each time supportive speeches are made in favour of non-involvement in West Papua, it constitutes de facto support for continuing military rule there. Each time TNI war criminals from the East Timor days are allowed to walk around with impunity elsewhere, it constitutes de facto support for de-stabilisation and counter-democratic tendencies elsewhere in Indonesia.
Clinton Fernandes Senior Lecturer, Strategic Studies School of Humanities and Social Sciences Australian Defence Force Academy Campbell ACT 2600 (These are my views)
another posting to same list later same day:
a. For a speech given to the US_indonesia Society this is a rather shallow speech. They have published talks and discussions on their website that are give a more detailed and critical analysis of Indonesia even though the speakers nearly always look for a positive trend.
Even though Richardson says
" At a time when many conflicts globally appear almost incapable of peaceful solution, Indonesia has worked through a peace agreement with separatists in Aceh, and is working hard to address issues in Papua. Without in any way wishing to underestimate the challenge in Papua, a country which has undergone the radical transformation of Indonesia over the past seven or eight years, warrants our continued assistance in moving in the right direction. "
he doesn't say anything about what the 'right direction' is and what Australia's 'continued assistance" is going to be. For a speech an audience of experts or interested people this seems pretty shallow. I can't imagine a US ambassador to Indonesia making such bland speech - even Wolfowitz was more detailed and pointed when he was ambassador.
b. Why is he going on (in his first paragraph) about being a "member of the Jakarta lobby" and attacking a pretty small group of people in Australia to an audience in Washington ? Why would they care ?
"First, I must declare my hand. In Australia, some commentators talk critically about the so-called ‘Indonesia lobby’. Ostensibly, this is a group of people primarily government officials, academics and some in business, who conspire together to pervert Australia’s true national interests for those of Indonesia. As a rule of thumb, all government officials who have either served in Indonesia, or who have worked on Indonesia in Canberra, are considered part of the conspiracy. Having both served for four years in Indonesia, and having worked on matters Indonesian in Canberra, I am by definition, a member of that lobby. "
Most of his speech is about chasing the members of JI. Is it reasonable to think that this the beginning and end of Australia's present policy to Indonesia ?
Any answers ?
Full Speech by Richardson
ADDRESS BY DENNIS RICHARDSON
AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES
TO THE US-INDONESIA SOCIETY
8 MARCH 2006
Thank USINDO and American Australian Association
· Two comments by way of introduction:
- First, I must declare my hand. In Australia, some commentators talk critically about the so-called ‘Indonesia lobby’. Ostensibly, this is a group of people primarily government officials, academics and some in business, who conspire together to pervert Australia’s true national interests for those of Indonesia. As a rule of thumb, all government officials who have either served in Indonesia, or who have worked on Indonesia in Canberra, are considered part of the conspiracy. Having both served for four years in Indonesia, and having worked on matters Indonesian in Canberra, I am by definition, a member of that lobby.
- I suspect that nothing I say here today will be new to an audience such as this. The fact that you are involved with the US-Indonesia Society or are interested enough to come here today, means that you already have a real awareness of Indonesia and its importance. So I apologise in advance for those who may have come along expecting some new insights.
· The purpose of my address today is to outline the reasons why Indonesia is of enduring importance, and especially so at this time; to outline some of the challenges Indonesia faces, and to say a few words about Australia and Indonesia.
A quick look at some basic facts shows just what a significant country Indonesia is:
* Indonesia is a big country, covering a land area of some 735,000 square miles, making it three times the size of Texas and the fifteenth largest country in the world. But Indonesia is a archipelagic state and if you include its exclusive economic zone it covers an area of more than two million square miles
* Indonesia stretches some 3,200 miles from its westernmost tip of Banda Aceh to its eastern border with Papua New Guinea. Further from New York to Los Angeles, or from London to Baghdad. Indonesia has land or sea borders with Papua New Guinea, Australia, East Timor, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Palau, and Viet Nam.
* Indonesia straddles, and its archipelagic waters encompass, some of the busiest sea lanes in the world. For instance, through the Malacca Straits alone pass 25 per cent of the world’s GDP, and a third of the oil.
* Indonesia is the world’s ninth largest exporter of energy.
* After China, India and the United States, Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country. It is a young and urbanising country, home to a rich diversity of cultures, from its Melanesian cultures in the East, through the Hindu culture of Bali, through the rich tapestry of Java, through Sumatra to the Bataks, to the Acehenese.
* So Indonesia is a large, populous, young and growing country, situated strategically and dominant in its immediate region. But that could be said also of others. Where Indonesia really gets interesting is not so much what it adds up to, but what it amounts to.
Why Indonesia Matters
* At a time when there is so much talk of democracy and the intrinsic value of tolerance, at a time when terrorists seek to promote religious and ethnic violence globally for their own ends, here we have a country which, in little more than seven years, has gone from a military authoritarian regime to a democratically elected President and Parliament. Voter turnout in Indonesia’s 2004 elections was about 80 per cent, in elections judged to be free and fair. Some ten major parties are represented in the 550 seat Parliament. Indonesia’s media is numerous, vibrant, free and diverse.
* Indonesia’s Presidency now changes hands peacefully, in marked contrast to its experience in its first 50 years of independence.
* Despite some of the serious violence in recent years, Indonesia has a long history of religious tolerance. The world’s largest Muslim country celebrates the key religious festivities, not only of Islam, but of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.
* I still exchange Christmas cards with friends in Muslim Indonesia without needing to worry about a battle between ‘Christmas’ and ‘Holiday’ cards.
* Indonesia faces big challenges. It suffered badly in the financial meltdown of 97-98, with its GDP only recovering to pre-meltdown levels in 2004. Its GDP per capita still lags, as does direct foreign investment.
* As is acknowledged by Indonesia’s leadership, corruption, both institutional and private, remains a major challenge.
* Some in Indonesia promote the idea of an Islamic State under Sharia Law.
* And there is the challenge of terrorism, with Indonesia being the centre for Jemaah Islamiya and associated groups which share the ideology of the global Jihardists.
* Even today there are a small number of pesantrens in Indonesia which teach a militant literal interpretation of the Koran. And for that small number of students who wish to give substance to those teachings there are terrorist training camps available in the Southern Philippines.
* Over the past four years we have seen:
- the attack in Bali on 12 October 2002
- the attack on the Marriott Hotel in August 2003
- the attack on the Australian Embassy on 9 September 2004
- the second attack in Bali on 1 October 2005.
* Before October 2002 there was active debate in Indonesia about the existence or otherwise of terrorist cells. I think it would also be fair to say that parts of the Indonesian body politic were in denial. That cannot be said today. Since October 2002, the Indonesian Government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies have worked hard, in cooperation with other countries such as Australia, to take the fight to the terrorists. Well over 200 terrorists and terrorist suspects have been arrested, with more than 40 convicted for their involvement in the first Bali bombing. And one of the key masterminds, Azahari, is dead.
* The ideology behind 9/11, behind Madrid, behind Istanbul, behind Morocco, and behind London and elsewhere, is the ideology behind the attacks in Indonesia. The latter is simply the South East Asian manifestation of the former. But if you compare some of the Western media coverage of the second attack in Bali to the coverage of London, you would think that the former was an attack unconnected to the latter, rather than the following chapter in a global story yet unfinished.
* The bottom line is simple enough. If democracy and terrorism are central elements at play in the world today, then Indonesia’s centrality ought to be self-evident. A country which has turned to democracy and has a tradition of tolerance, deserves our full support and commitment if we are to be principled and consistent.
* At a time when many conflicts globally appear almost incapable of peaceful solution, Indonesia has worked through a peace agreement with separatists in Aceh, and is working hard to address issues in Papua. Without in any way wishing to underestimate the challenge in Papua, a country which has undergone the radical transformation of Indonesia over the past seven or eight years, warrants our continued assistance in moving in the right direction.
* Indonesia should not be seen solely or mainly in terms of terrorism. It is important in its own right because of the facts outlined earlier. For instance, no serious discussion of East Asian politico-strategic dynamics, and no consideration of broader regional architecture can succeed without taking account of Indonesia.
* It is certainly against this background that Australia has always sought to engage seriously with Indonesia, from support for its independence in the 1940s, to the attendance by Prime Minister Howard at the inauguration of President Yudyhono, Indonesia’s first directly-elected President.
* Events in East Timor in 1999 certainly saw a significant strain in the relationship, but the doomsayers who predicted that our bilateral relationship would forever suffer serious damage were proved wrong.
* I believe the Administration here in Washington understands very well the importance of Indonesia. That is why President Bush and President Yudyhono have met on three occasions over the past year, that is why the decision was taken a few months back to restore military-to-military ties, and that is no doubt why Secretary Rice will soon visit Indonesia, before going on to Australia.
* But the issue of Indonesia goes beyond government. Hence the importance of organizations such as the United States-Indonesia Society, the Asia Society, and the Asia Foundation. Their work is critical in ensuring balance as, too often, the voice of critics is always loudest.
For all who believe that democracy is intrinsically good; for all who believe in religious and ethnic tolerance, for all who take a hard-nosed view of politico-strategic issues, Indonesia deserves full support. Our support should not be allowed to be held hostage to issues such as corruption and Papua. Rather, we should have the good sense to look at the unmistakable trendlines and seek to reinforce them.
By James Morrison March 9, 2006
'Small-minded' critics Australian critics who felt snubbed when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a visit in January were "small-minded" and their complaints were "unfounded and unreasonable," Australia's new ambassador to the United States said yesterday.
"I think she has been very conscious about the comments over the delay," Ambassador Dennis Richardson said, predicting that Miss Rice's rescheduled visit will be a success.
Mr. Richardson said he will travel to Australia to help welcome Miss Rice when she arrives on Monday. She also is planning to visit Indonesia.
Miss Rice canceled her original trip to Australia and Indonesia in January after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fell critically ill and threw Middle East peace efforts into confusion.
"I think the comments were unfounded and unreasonable," Mr. Richardson said of complaints that Miss Rice had snubbed a reliable American ally that is part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. "For any country like Australia to feel slighted is small-minded."
Mr. Richardson yesterday addressed the U.S.-Indonesia Society on Australia's relationship with Indonesia, calling the world's most populous Muslim nation a "model" for the coexistence of Islam and democracy in Southeast Asia.
The ambassador, who served in the Australian Embassy in Indonesia before coming to Washington, proudly declared himself part of what some Australian pundits call the "Indonesia lobby."
"Ostensibly, this is a group of people -- primarily government officials, academics and some in business -- who conspire together to pervert Australia's true national interests for those of Indonesia," Mr. Richardson said.
However, a stable and prosperous Indonesia is in Australia's national interests, he said, noting that the vast archipelago of more than 13,500 islands has developed into a genuine democracy more than seven years after violent demonstrations forced the dictator Suharto to step down.
"At a time when there is so much talk of democracy and the intrinsic value of tolerance, at a time when terrorists seek to promote religious and ethnic violence globally for their own ends, here we have a country which, in a little more than seven years, has gone from a military, authoritarian regime to a democratically elected president and parliament," Mr. Richardson said.
He praised Indonesia as an ally in the war on terrorism, recounting the Islamic terrorist attacks in that nation since the first Bali bombings in October 2002 that killed 202 persons, including 89 Australians.
Mr. Richardson also cited Indonesia as a model for religious tolerance, adding that the predominantly Muslim country celebrates key Christian, Hindu and Buddhist festivities.
"I still exchange Christmas cards with friends in Muslim Indonesia without needing to worry about a battle between 'Christmas' and 'holiday' cards," he said.
Indonesia's new ambassador to the United States, who earlier served as ambassador to Australia, said he was pleased with Mr. Richardson's remarks.
"There is an Australian lobby for Indonesia in the United States," said Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat.