Tue, 24 Jun 2003

U.S. Senate moves against RI military over Papua incident

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesians might have forgotten the bloody attack at Tembagapura, Papua, 10 months ago. But Americans, or at least the U.S. Senate, have not.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is trying to block U.S. military aid to Indonesia following revelations that Indonesian Army soldiers were most likely responsible for the attack in which two Americans and one Indonesian were killed and eight other Americans were wounded.

A front page report on Monday in The Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ) said that the committee had approved an amendment prohibiting the release of US$600,000 in military training funds for Indonesia until President George W. Bush certified that the Indonesian government would bring to justice those responsible for the attack.

The amendment is expected to reach the Senate floor this summer.

The Bush administration, according to the report, has opposed the amendment.

A White House spokesman, Sean McCormack, said: "It is important that we do everything possible to improve the human rights record of the Indonesian military through continued interaction with the U.S. military."

Nevertheless, the U.S. government still does not know for certain who ordered or carried out the ambush despite an investigation by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at the scene.

Congress has been given intelligence reports that support the conclusion of a preliminary Indonesian police investigation that found that "there is a strong possibility" the shooting was carried out by Indonesian soldiers.

"The preponderance of evidence indicates to us that members of the Indonesian Army were responsible for the murders in Papua," Matthew P. Daley, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told AWSJ in an interview.

"The question of what level and for what motive did these murders take place is of deep interest to the United States."

The military, however, has denied involvement in the attacks. Instead, it has blamed the poorly-armed separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM).

The FBI is continuing to investigate the case as its agents were not given free access to sources at the scene when in Indonesia. They were required to interview witnesses in the presence of the Indonesian authorities and were not allowed to bring forensic evidence back to the U.S. for analysis, the report said.

Given the incomplete status of the investigation by the FBI, the U.S. State Department is still debating whether to release $400,000 in fiscal-year-2003 military funds to Indonesia.

And yet, Indonesia has received other funds from the U.S. According to the AWSJ report, since the Papua attack on August 31, 2002, the U.S. Defense Department has given US$4 million to the Indonesian military for counter-terrorism training.