Subject: US considers cut in military aid to Indonesia 

US considers cut in military aid to Indonesia

Last Updated 14/06/2007, 22:36:19

The United States House of Representatives is again considering cutting military aid to Indonesia because of its failure to reform its military and to prosecute senior officers for the violence in East Timor in 1999.

Last November the US agreed to resume military ties with Indonesia after 1999's violence in East Timor caused them to be cut.

Indonesia argues that it is making reform progress even though at least 60 per cent of the military's budget still comes from its own businesses.

But our Jakarta correspondent, Geoff Thompson, says failure to prosecute senior military officers, such as former military chief General Wiranto, and other alleged human rights abuses are fuelling a proposal, now being considered by the US House of Representatives, to cut 25 per cent of military aid.

Indonesia is lobbying members of the US house and the Senate and says it remains confident all of $US10 million in promised military aid will be delivered.

A final decision is expected in September.

Rights groups concerned

International human rights groups say they are concerned about the Indonesian government's decision to scale back laws restricting the military's business activities.

When Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became President in 2004, the momentum for reform of Indonesia's notorious military, TNI, had already begun.

A month earlier, Indonesia's parliament passed a law banning military commercialism and committing the government to a takeover or dissolution of all military businesses in 2009.

The newly-elected president pledged to see the legislation through.

However, Indonesia's defence minister, Juwono Sudarsono, has confirmed this week that according to the government's criteria, only six of 1,500 businesses previously identified as eligible will not be classified as commercial interests.

The announcement has disappointed human rights observers, including Charmain Mohamed, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.

She has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program that the military's pursuit of profits has resulted in human rights violations.

"Because they are prioritising profit-seeking over other professional activities, this is actually causing them to commit human rights violations," Ms Mohamed told Radio Australia.

"We did lots of research in South Kalimantan where the military is running cooperatives overseeing illegal coal mining activities.

"Because they are much more focused on trying to control the illegal coal mining industry it's leading them to commit abuses - extorting money, beating people who are illegally mining coal and intimidating them.

"So profit-seeking is directly causing human rights violations."

Military budget insufficient

Minister Sudarsono says Indonesia's security and defence budget allocation has always been insufficient and the TNI has been involved in business since Indonesia's independence.

Political and security affairs specialist, Kusnanto Anggoro, however, doubts the profitability of TNI businesses and says the government needs another direction.

"Lack of a sufficient budget should be compensated with adequate planning for defence," he said.

Charmain Mohamed says the Indonesian government must take control of the military to stop the human rights violations that have resulted from TNI business activities.

"The core problem with addressing impunity is that the civilian government has no control over the military while they do not control their finances," she said.

"The first step will be getting the military out of their own businesses, getting the civilian government fully in control of 100 per cent of the military budget and only that way can you start getting full civilian control and accountability of what the military do.

"And on this key issue Yudhoyono has clearly failed."

The full story is available on Connect Asia's homepage: 

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