Thu, 26 Oct 2000

Asia Defense Pact the last resort, says Mahfud

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D. said on Tuesday that the planned establishment of an Asia Defense Pact should be understood as a last resort if foreign countries continuously put political pressure and economic embargoes on Indonesia.

"The planned establishment of such a defense pact is in anticipation of foreign pressure and embargoes.

"If Indonesia is really cornered by pressure and economic embargoes, we'll then propose the establishment of the defense pact with other countries," Mahfud told reporters at the House of Representatives (DPR) compound after attending the deliberation of the government-initiated draft law on lawyers, in his capacity as ad-interim Minister of Justice and Human Rights.

The idea of establishing the defense pact was initially voiced by Mahfud on Sunday.

The minister, however, dismissed speculation that he had sought popularity by his recent statement.

"I have never made strange or controversial statements nor tried to raise confusion among the public.

"I just work to serve the nation and the people, and not for my personal interests," he said, while blaming the press for blowing up the issue.

He admitted to having sent the message amid deep concern over the suspension of the United States' military aid, including spare parts, to Indonesia following the violent unrest in the East Timor capital of Dili in September last year.

He asked the public to understand the context of his statement.

"I said it was a good idea for Indonesia, Japan, China and India, for instance, to establish a new defense alliance as a last resort if the United States and its allies continue to put pressure on Indonesia," he said.

He regretted the United States' military sanctions against Indonesia, saying that the superpower should not include political clauses in its military assistance.

"We'll be glad to have good military ties with other countries, but they should not attach political agenda to their military assistance," he said.

Mahfud noted that a number of warplanes and warships had been grounded, while an F-5 Tiger jetfighter and several bombers' engines have been "kept" in several countries following the suspension of US military assistance.

He revealed the possibility of Indonesia forging bilateral military cooperation with other countries to get spare parts for its warplanes and warships.

Asked to comment on the U.S. Embassy's denial regarding his spy charges against American "infiltrator" Aaron Ward Maness who was deported last week, he said the government through the military headquarters was seeking legal evidence on his activities during his recent visit to Irian Jaya.

"The Cendrawasih Military Command overseeing Irian Jaya is collecting data on his (Maness) activities in the province. The government will unveil its stance after the investigation is completed," he said after receiving Maj. Gen. Albert Inkiriwang, the command chief, at his office on Tuesday.

Mahfud defended his spy charges against Maness as the latter had collected pictures of Irianese people killed in the recent Wamena riot and sent them to his home country while migrants to Irian Jaya who were not killed in the incident were not exposed. (rms)