East Timor Action Network/US – 2005-01-20 12:07:08
September 18 – As Indonesians prepare to go to the polls on Monday, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) stated, “No matter which presidential candidate prevails, the Indonesian military has already won.”
“Military reform in Indonesia is dead, and neither candidate is likely to resuscitate it,” said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. “On both candidates’ watch, the military has re-asserted itself in the areas it most cares about.”
“We urge the Bush administration to abandon its misguided plans to expand assistance to the Indonesian military,” said Karen Orenstein, ETAN’s Washington Coordinator.
“We cannot support democracy by propping up the institution that has done the most to undermine it,” she added. “Any aid will be taken as an endorsement of military business-as-usual.”
“Peaceful elections are an important element of democracy; so too is respect for fundamental rights by institutions within a country,” said Miller.
Monday’s runoff pits incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri against her former security minister Lt. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, known as SBY. According to the latest polling, SBY has a large lead.
“Neither candidate has a record of support for prosecution of high-ranking military and police personnel for crimes against humanity in East Timor. On the contrary, under their administration, several of those accused of serious crimes have been handed responsibilities for sensitive military operations in Aceh, West Papua or elsewhere,” said Orenstein.
The Bush administration reportedly plans to release military training funds under the IMET program by the end of this month and to request funds for weapons under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program for 2006. Seventy organizations recently wrote the Secretary of State opposing these plans, saying that Indonesia has yet to fully meet past and current Congressional conditions restricting Indonesia’s access to the programs.
ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975 and continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its armed forces. ETAN is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates or political parties. See www.etan.org for more information.
Background on the Candidates
Initially Abdurrahman Wahid’s vice president, Megawati became president of Indonesia after her predecessor was impeached for corruption in July 2001, a move many observers believe grew at least partly out of his efforts to rein in the military and his peace overtures toward Aceh and West Papua.
Widely viewed as a passive and ineffectual leader, Megawati has failed to bring about much-needed and popularly supported military reform, including civilian government control over the military, transparency of the military’s budget and the dismantling of its “shadow government” territorial command structure throughout Indonesia. Her administration has also failed to challenge the military’s impunity with respect to severe and widespread human rights violations in Aceh, West Papua, East Timor and elsewhere. Although she has made overtures to East Timor, her administration has refused to cooperate with the UN-mandated Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor. Under her watch in December 2003, Indonesian forces bombed a disputed island near East Timor’s Oecussi enclave.
Retired Lieutenant General SBY became coordinating minister for politics and security affairs in August 2000, a post he held until he resigned in March 2004 from Megawati’s cabinet to run for president.
On behalf of Megawati’s government, Yudhoyono oversaw the deployment of tens of thousands of troops in Aceh, despite the cease-fire then in place. When martial law was declared in Aceh in May 2003, Indonesia launched its largest military operation since the invasion of East Timor in 1975. More than 2000 have been killed since then, most of them civilians.
Although widely viewed as a reformer, the Western-educated SBY spent nearly his entire career in the military and oversaw Megawati’s repressive policies in Aceh and West Papua. He was armed forces (TNI) commander General Wiranto’s top deputy in 1999, when Indonesian troops leveled East Timor after it voted overwhelmingly for independence.
SBY has always been a stalwart defender of the TNI against allegations of human rights violations, whether in Aceh, West Papua or East Timor. In a January 2004 speech, he reassured military hardliners by saying, “Democracy, human rights, concern for the environment and other concepts being promoted by Western countries are all good, but they cannot become absolute goals because pursuing them as such will not be good for the country.”
In 1999, Yudhoyono was responsible for all territorial commands as the TNI’s chief of territorial affairs and reported directly to Wiranto. In a June 1999 meeting with a ranking Australian military official, he dismissed allegations of TNI complicity in ongoing violence in East Timor. After Indonesia agreed to withdraw from East Timor, SBY minimized the military’s crimes there, telling reporters “I am worried of opinion being formed in the international community that what happened in East Timor is a great human tragedy, ethnic cleansing or a large-scale crime, when in reality it is not.”
SBY took part in the invasion of East Timor in 1975, serving several tours there in the 1980s, including one as a battalion commander.
Yudhoyono was chief of staff of the Jakarta regional command when security forces and their proxies attacked the offices of the Indonesian Democratic Party at a time when it was chaired by Megawati. She has since failed to support or order a government investigation into the 1996 assault which left at least five dead.
SBY was trained in the US — at Fort Benning, GA and the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
John M. Miller is ETAN’s Media & Outreach Coordinator. East Timor Action Network: 12 Years for Self-Determination & Justice 48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201, (718)596-7668, Fax: (718)222-4097, Mobile phone: (917) 690-4391 Web site: http://www.etan.org