Fri, 18 May 2001

Washington readying new ambassador to Indonesia

JAKARTA (JP): The United States government has quietly made preparations to replace the current Ambassador to Indonesia, Robert Gelbard, with Ralph "Skip" Boyce, Antara reported from New York.

Leading American Indonesianist William Liddle of Ohio University was quoted as saying that the appointment is already widely known among government officials.

"I heard about it myself from colleagues," he said.

Boyce is deputy assistant to the U.S. secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

However, the Senate still has to approve Boyce's appointment, Liddle said.

Liddle claimed that on various occasions, ranking State Department official James Kelly had informally introduced Boyce to a limited audience as the candidate for U.S. ambassador to Jakarta.

Asked if Boyce's appointment would be coupled with new policies on Indonesia, Liddle said he had yet to see an indication that the new envoy would bring new policies to Jakarta.

So far, the Bush administration had yet to show any new direction in foreign policy on Indonesia, in particular, regarding the archipelago's current political situation, he said.

Thus, it is not true if some parties had said that the U.S. government supported or no longer supports something that is happening in Indonesia, including the issue of national leadership, he added.

Gelbard, who was assigned to Jakarta during the Clinton administration, had triggered strong resistance from various political elements in Indonesia.

He has been repeatedly accused of interfering in Indonesia's domestic affairs through his statements.