Sat, 11 Sep 1999

TNI unfazed by Western moves to cut military ties

JAKARTA (JP): Officials and observers here shrugged off the decision by several Western nations to suspend or review their military ties with Jakarta over the East Timor issue.

Indonesian Military (TNI) spokesman Maj. Gen. Sudradjat played down the suspension of military ties, saying they would be resumed once the situation allowed.

"It's their internal policy so we can only respect their stance. Do you think there is anything we can do about it," he said.

Military observer Hasnan Habib told The Jakarta Post that Washington's decision to cut military ties over the East Timor issue was the culmination of years of reports linking the Indonesian Military to human rights violations.

He said the United States Congress had wanted to suspend military ties since the 1991 Santa Cruz incident, in which the military shot and killed hundreds of protesters in Dili.

The U.S. suspended the International Military Education Training program for Indonesia in 1992, and the U.S. Congress foiled Indonesia's plans to purchase U.S.-made F-5 fighters from Jordan.

Indonesia lashed back by canceling the purchase of U.S.-made F-16 fighters due to perceived U.S. meddling in its internal affairs.

"However, this will have little impact on the overall relationship between Jakarta and Washington," Hasnan said.

Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom also said on Friday they were reviewing their military ties with Indonesia.

"Australia has emotional and historical ties with the East Timorese, particularly from the period of the Japanese occupation. 50,000 East Timorese were killed defending Australian troops," Hasnan said.

Observers noted that Australia, which had long been a haven for proindependence East Timorese, was facing an election year.

It would be in the interest of the incumbent administration to focus on the East Timor issue and send a strong public relations message to the Australian electorate that Canberra was doing its utmost to help the East Timorese. This message could include, if necessary, jeopardizing ties with Jakarta, which is already seen in an unfavorable light by the Australian public, they said.

In recent years, military ties between the two countries have been at a high following the signing of a 1995 agreement on maintaining security.


Syamsuddin Haris of the Indonesian National Institute of Sciences accused Washington of being hypocrites.

"It is the United States who should take responsibility for East Timor for approving the Indonesian military presence in East Timor," Syamsuddin said.

He said that in the Cold War climate of the mid-1970s, the United States feared the birth of an Asian Cuba in Australia's backyard.

Indonesia's entry into East Timor had the blessing of the United States, particularly in light of the fact that the communist-based Revolutionary Front for East Timor Independence had earlier declared East Timor independent.

Syamsuddin said the economic impact of the latest developments could be profound, keeping in mind that the U.S. government could persuade the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cancel its financial aid to Indonesia.

"The U.S. decision could lead to a change in IMF policy ... we have to admit that Washington dominates the IMF," Syamsuddin said.

Political scientist Kusnanto Anggoro of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said on Thursday that Washington's decision to suspend all military ties with Indonesia was "the most serious pressure" that the international community had put on Jakarta.

"I believe that more pressure will be put on the government and it is not unlikely that the U.S State Department will also persuade the World Bank to freeze its loan to Indonesia," Kusnanto told The Jakarta Post. (05/byg/emf)