Tue, 23 Aug 1994

U.S. congress staffers here to improve ties

JAKARTA (JP): A delegation of six key Congressional staffers are currently in Jakarta to study the economic and political relations between Jakarta and Washington, amid mounting U.S. criticism towards Indonesia's human rights record.

Consisting of senior aides to members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, the delegation, which arrived on Sunday, will embark on a week-long educational tour.

The visit is sponsored by the U.S.-Indonesia Society (USINDO) which boasts such luminaries as former minister of finance Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, former minister of environment Emil Salim and former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz as its members.

Congressional criticism has been growing in the past year against Indonesia's labor record and alleged human rights abuses in East Timor.

The mounting anti-Indonesian sentiment in Congress has resulted in last year's blockage of Indonesia's intended purchase of American made F-5 jet fighters from Jordan and the recent cancellation of a U.S. military training program.

Just last week the United States inflamed relations even further by linking the arrest of an Indonesian dissident labor leader to the renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences.

Lobbying groups

USINDO, established in 1993, is one of the foremost lobbying groups in promoting better relations between the two countries, especially since it involves persons close to the government circle.

During a private, informal coffee gathering hosted by the United States Information Service director Wesley Struat here yesterday evening, he seemed to play down the significance of the visit by calling it as a mere "educational" tour.

Despite being described as a private, non-government "holiday" trip, the delegation is scheduled to meet with a surprisingly large number of key government officials including Minister of Manpower Abdul Latief, Minister of National Development Planning/Chairman of the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) Ginandjar Kartasasmita and the Vice-Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) J.A. Katili.

The delegation will also journey to East Timor and call on the province's military commander Col. Johny Lumintang, Governor Abilio Soares and the vocal Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

A trip to Yogyakarta and Bali is also planned where they will inspect various development projects such as the Integrated Post Management near Borobudur, the world's largest Buddhist shrine, in Central Java. (mds)