Fri, 22 Sep 2000

Cohen should be much wiser

Many if not most Indonesians would agree with William Cohen's stern message to the Indonesian government to disarm the pro- Indonesia militia. However, it is evident that the way he conveyed it has sparked responses that may be counterproductive to the efforts to bring about democratization in this country. Some prominent members of the political elite have called his action as interference with Indonesian's sovereignty, and this has certainly sparked blind nationalism and anti-U.S. protests. This could have serious political ramifications. Mr. Cohen should realize that President Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur is still struggling to clean up the military which is clearly still linked to the old regime. Although most people in Indonesia would like the government to act more sternly and rapidly, we do realize that the country is facing a tough political period, and nothing can be changed overnight. Instead of threatening Indonesia with an embargo, Mr. Cohen should have offered assistance in resolving the pro-Indonesia militia problem on the border between East Timor and Indonesia.

Mr. Cohen should have been better advised about the customs and cultures of Indonesia. The Indonesian people, currently totaling over 200 million, certainly do not deserve an embargo. I thought William Cohen was much smarter than Jesse Helms. Now, I must say that I am having second thoughts.