Sat, 15 Jan 2000

U.S. warns of antireform forces

JAKARTA (JP): The United States sounded a strong warning against domestic forces wishing to suppress democratic reform in Indonesia, and warned the military against hindering the work of a national inquiry investigating violence in East Timor.

In a telephone interview with Indonesian journalists here, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke said the whole world was watching political developments in Jakarta with "sympathetic concern".

"We are sympathetic because we are watching a great drama, a struggle between the voices of democracy and reform and the process of corruption and militarism.

"This struggle will have profound effects on the future, not only in Indonesia, but Southeast Asia and perhaps beyond," he said during the telephone interview.

"We are seeing news reports about a (possible) military coup in Indonesia; we would view this with the most, the greatest, possible concern.

"I hope that these rumors are false. Any Indonesian Army officers or any military officer thinking of military adventurism have forgotten that we are now in the 21st century. The past can not be repeated, that damage to Indonesia would be unbelievable."

Holbrooke, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, discussed at length the need for accountability for the violence which occurred in East Timor following the Aug. 30 self-determination referendum there.

He repeatedly expressed his support for President Abdurrahman Wahid and Attorney General Marzuki Darusman's attempts to reveal the truth behind the violence, and accused the military of attempting to thwart the work of the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violation in East Timor.

He said attempts on the part of some segments of the military to deny accountability and the continued obstruction of the investigation "greatly trouble us".

He warned that if such obstruction continued "international pressure for accountability to an international commission, notably the commission that (UN Human Rights Commissioner) Mary Robinson set up, will increase dramatically".

Following calls for the establishment of an international tribunal following the post-ballot violence in East Timor, the Indonesian government formed a domestic inquiry, saying that those responsible for the violence should be tried in Indonesia.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan this week reportedly began reviewing a report by a special UN commission looking into the violence in East Timor.

Final recommendations from the UN could include the establishment of an international tribunal.

Holbrooke said "it is our strong preference" that the process of accountability be held internally (in Indonesia).

"However, I can just tell you if there is any inability to deal with this internally, the international pressure for an intentional inquiry that goes beyond the current commission of inquiry will absolutely increase," he said.

Holbrooke said "if the people in the military continue to oppose (the domestic inquiry), they will do great damage to their own country and bring the international pressure to a much higher level".

Representatives of the defense team representing Indonesian Military officers alleged to have known about or been involved in the violence in East Timor asserted they were ready to face an international tribunal, but said it was premature even to consider this possibility.

Indonesia's domestic commission of inquiry has questioned several top generals about the violence, including former military chief Gen. Wiranto.

When asked about Indonesian generals who might be called before a tribunal, Holbrooke said was not aware of it.

"But certain generals are trying to prevent the inquiry from doing their work," he said.

"The main message we feel it is critical to say is that international pressure for such an outcome will increase if the Indonesian government is not able to pursue their own internal inquiries; we believe this is happening.

"A huge struggle is continuing on all fronts between the forces of progress, the future oriented democratic process of President Wahid and Attorney General Marzuki, and the Indonesian military, who are protecting themselves, who are refusing accountability and openness," he said. (mds/prb)