The Guardian 9 March, 2005

US restores military support
to Indonesia

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) has condemned the recent announcement by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Bush Administration is to restore full International Military Education and Training (IMET) for Indonesia.

In a statement John M Miller, spokesperson for ETAN, said:

"The Indonesian military's many victims throughout the country and East Timor will recognise this policy shift as a betrayal of their quests for justice and accountability."

"While the amount of money may be small, its symbolic value is enormous. The Indonesian military (TNI) will view the restoration of IMET as an endorsement of business as usual. For the TNI, business as usual means brutal human rights violations and continued impunity for crimes against humanity."

The US broke off the cooperation with the Indonesian military following the massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery on November 12, 1991 when more than 270 civilians were mown down by troops wielding US-supplied M-16 rifles. Until last week, a condition for restoration of military cooperation was a full accounting of the human rights violations in East Timor and the pursuit of those responsible. There have been only very limited prosecutions by Indonesian authorities of some of the low-level officers involved.

The US also demanded that Indonesia's huge military budget be made more transparent. This condition has not been met, either.

The Bush Administration also dropped its insistence that those responsible for the ambush and murder of two US citizens outside Timika in West Papua in 2002 be brought to justice. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had previously undertaken to one of the victims' widow that the Timika case would be seen through to "its exhaustion". In June 2004, following an FBI investigation, an Indonesian citizen, Anthonius Wamang, was indicted for the killings. However, the suspect remains at large in Indonesia, thanks, it seems, to his extensive military connections.

ETAN insists that the policy shift on the part of the US has nothing to do with any improvements in the behaviour of the TNI:

"Given this lack of progress, the State Department's certification of cooperation is false and misleading. It has far more to do with fulfilling the administration's long-term goal of re-engagement with the Indonesian military, than bringing to justice all those responsible for the ambush or encouraging democratic reforms", Mr Miller said.

The US's claim that progress has been made in recent years is contradicted by some highly-placed Indonesian spokespersons. Indonesia's minister of defence, Juwono Sudarsono, recently told the New York Times that the military "retains the real levers of power" and "from the political point of view, the military remains the fulcrum of Indonesia".

Jakarta's ambassador to London wrote last June that "Six years of civilian-based party politics has not resulted in any measurable degree of effective 'civilian supremacy', much less 'civilian control'."

ETAN sees the influence of Paul Wolfowitz, US Deputy Secretary of Defence and former ambassador to Indonesia, in the latest decision to re-engage the Indonesian military. He maintains that Indonesia has entered a "new era". He once told Congress that "Any balanced judgement" of the country's human rights situation under then-President and dictator Suharto, "needs to take account of the significant progress that Indonesia has already made" due to Suharto's "strong and remarkable leadership."

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