INDONESIA: US restores military ties

Thursday 10 March 2005, by James BALOWSKI

Washington announced on February 26 that Indonesian participation in the US International Military Education and Training (IMET) program would restart immediately.

Jakarta - State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had concluded that Jakarta is determined to continue its cooperation with the FBI in the case of two US citizens who were murdered in 2002 and “and thus have fulfilled the requirements articulated in the legislation to allow for resumption” of the program.

“The department expects that Indonesia’s resumption of full international military education and training will strengthen its ongoing democratic progress and advance cooperation in other areas of mutual concern”, Boucher said.

Indonesian foreign affairs spokesperson Marty Natalegawa said the decision was a recognition of the “democratic progress” Indonesia had made. “This is a development that deserves to be welcomed”, Natalegawa told Agence France Presse on March 1. “The resumption of the program represents an acknowledgment of the far-reaching democratic changes that have taken place in Indonesia in recent years.”

The decision caps a quiet lobbying campaign by deputy US defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who has openly advocated that the restrictions were hurting US interests more than helping them.

The lobbying campaign intensified following the devastating December 26 tsunami, with Washington asserting that had it maintained the previous links, coordination between US troops and the TNI during relief operations would have been more effective.

Congress first voted to restrict Indonesia from the IMET program following the Dili massacre in 1991. All military ties were severed in September 1999 when the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor. The ban was extended after the ambush and murder of two US school teachers in West Papua in 2002.

The US-based East Timor Action Network (ETAN) condemned Rice’s decision as “a setback for justice, human rights and democratic reform”.

“The Indonesian military’s many victims throughout the country and East Timor will recognize this policy shift as a betrayal of their quests for justice and accountability”, the group said in a statement issued on February 27. “While the amount of money may be small, its symbolic value is enormous.”

Rather than promoting reform, ETAN said that the TNI will view the decision as an endorsement of business as usual - brutal human rights violations and continued impunity for crimes against humanity.

“In recent years Congress has maintained only one condition on full IMET cooperation by Indonesian authorities with an FBI investigation into the ambush murders of two Americans on a Freeport company mining road in Timika, West Papua. But cooperation by Indonesia has been spotty at best. The sole suspect indicted so far by a United States grand jury remains at large in Indonesia. His military links, which appear to be extensive, seem to have hardly been examined.”

ETAN was referring to alleged Free Papua Movement member Anthonius Wamang. A new report by the West Papua-based Institute for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (ELSHAM) has uncovered evidence linking Wamang and the TNI to the attack.

In a February 17 press statement, ELSHAM said that IMET funds should not be released until the FBI “explores well-documented ties between the TNI and Wamang as well as a number of yet-to-be indicted coconspirators”.

The ETAN statement ended by warning that, by restoring TNI participation in IMET, “the US is in effect saying, ’Never mind, we really didn’t mean it,’ when it comes to solving the Timika ambush or establishing accountability for crimes against humanity”.

From /Green Left Weekly,/ March 9, 2005.

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