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ETAN On Resumption of Military Ties with Indonesia

ETAN Opposes Resumption of Military Ties with Indonesia

For Immediate Release

May 24, 2000

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668

East Timor Acton Network Opposes Any Resumption of Military Ties with Indonesia

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today called on the U.S. government to cancel plans to conduct a joint military exercise with the Indonesian military (TNI) this summer. This training is part of a proposed program to gradually restore military relations frozen since early September, when Indonesian troops rampaged through East Timor.

"The administration says it must reward TNI for modest reforms imposed on it by popular opposition in Indonesia. But the suspension of U.S.-Indonesia military ties has helped the Indonesian government make progress in bringing its military under control. Resuming military cooperation now will only hurt efforts to get the armed forces out of politics," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for the ETAN.

"Any resumption of military engagement sends a signal to the Indonesian armed forces that the U.S. government believes they have been rehabilitated, legitimizing the human rights abuses and terror tactics they continue to practice in Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere in Indonesia. Militias with TNI support continue to harass East Timorese refugees in West Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia. Prosecutions of human rights abuses in East Timor and elsewhere are moving slowly and military investigators are playing a prominent role in what are supposed to be civilian investigations. Indonesia's human rights law remains stalled in parliament," said Miller.

"We are working with members of Congress and others to make sure that U.S.-Indonesian relations promote human rights and democracy rather than return to old habits of coddling a military whose commitment to reform is tenuous at best. In the past, whenever Congress or the administration has blocked military training or certain weapons transfers the Indonesian military has taken notice. Each time the U.S. has moved to resume or reinforce military ties, TNI has taken it as approval for business as usual, not as a reward for any reforms or good behavior," said Miller.

"The Clinton administration is focusing first on the navy and air force, arguing that their human rights records are better than the army's. But air force planes and navy ships were integral to the massive, well-planned Indonesian military and militia operation which systematically destroyed and looted East Timor and forcibly transported a third of the population out of the territory following its pro-independence vote," he added.

The administration is planning to stage a CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) military exercise with the TNI next July or August. CARAT is a large-scale, high prestige exercise involving navy, marines, and air force that stages simulated amphibious invasions of Indonesian islands. Previous CARATs, including one held last August just before the East Timor vote, have included patrolling, live fire training, and raids. Some Indonesian officers went directly from last August's CARAT to East Timor and participated in the worst violence there.

Journalist Allan Nairn, speaking before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Human Rights, May 11, said "One of these officers, Lt. Col. (later Col.) Willem, helped coordinate the Indonesian naval forces in CARAT and then went to Dili where he served as a senior official in KOREM military headquarters, the very base from which the Aitarak militias staged their terror raids during late September. I saw this first hand since I was a prisoner in KOREM and was interrogated by Col. Willem." Willem has since been promoted to head the personal staff of Admiral Widodo, the national TNI commander.

On September 9, President Clinton suspended all U.S. ties with Indonesia. Soon after, the Indonesian military began to pull out of East Timor and Indonesia gave permission for an international peacekeeping force to enter the territory.

Late last year Congress put part of this ban into law. The FY 2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act stipulates conditions which must be met before normal military ties can be restored. These include refugee return to East Timor and accountability for military and militia members responsible for human rights atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia. They also require Indonesia to actively prevent militia incursions into East Timor and to cooperate fully with the UN administration in East Timor.

The Repatriation and Security Act of 2000 (HR 4357) recently introduced in the House of Representatives by Jim McGovern (D-MA), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and others, would prohibit relations and assistance to the armed forces of Indonesia until the Indonesian government provides for the territorial integrity of East Timor, the security and safe return of refugees, and prosecution of those individuals responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor and elsewhere. A similar bill is expected in the Senate.

The 1998 CARAT was cancelled after the congressional uproar over JCET (Joint Combined Exchange Training), the program under which the U.S. taught urban warfare and sniper technique in circumvention of the congressional ban on U.S. military training for Indonesia.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. founded following the November 1991 massacre supports a genuine and peaceful transition to an independent East Timor. ETAN has 28 local chapters throughout the U.S. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org)

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end

John M. Miller Internet: john@etan.org Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network 48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 Web site: http://www.etan.org


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