Date: Thu, 15 May 97 09:44:43 CDT
From: (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Two Faces of the Indonesian Military
/** reg.easttimor: 539.0 **/
** Topic: More on Canada and ABRI **
** Written 3:19 PM May 14, 1997 by in cdp:reg.easttimor **

Two Faces of the Indonesian Military

By Edward Alden, Vancouver Sun,
7 May, 1997

Following is the unedited version of the story filed by Vancouver Sun reporter Edward Alden, which was then edited and published on May 7, 1997.

The published version was posted to this news conference earlier this week. The item was posted as "Canada on Indonesian military."

Kerry Pither

JAKARTA - There are two faces to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia, the powerful and feared ABRI with which Canada is for the first time contemplating closer ties.

The one that Indonesia wants to present to the outside world sits in army headquarters at Marcus Besar, in a lush suburb in the southeast corner of Jakarta best known for the tourist attraction called Taman Mini, a 100-acre theme park with full-scale replicas of the unique dwellings from each of Indonesia's 27 island provinces.

Army headquarters lies behind iron gates and lightly-armed guards, more than a kilometre down a spectacular grass and tree-lined boulevard worthy of Paris or the Pentagon. It is a headquarters that, palm trees aside, would fit readily in Ottawa, the image one of a stable, well-financed and professional military.

Major-General Agus Widjojo (pronounced Wijaya) is the face of that professionalism. The speech writer and political adviser to the armed forces commander in chief General Feisal Tanjung, Widjojo comes across as a soft-spoken, well-educated, almost unassuming representative for a force that he feels is deeply misunderstood and misrepresented by the western media.

While he acknowledges that "maybe we have made mistakes," what he wants to tell Canadians is that, whatever its failings, it is the armed forces that has created the stability and predictability that has attracted almost $8 billion in Canadian investment to Indonesia, and produced three decades of nearly double-digit economic growth.

The other face of the ABRI is the one that Arie and Hamid see in their squatter's slum of 30,000 people called Muara Baru, on the northern waterfront of Jakarta, side-by-side with gated communities where the cheapest homes sell for $175,000. In a shanty town where most of the people are either unemployed or make less than $2 a day assembling shoes or ballpoint pens, the army has already bulldozed and burned down the homes of more than 250 people, and is readying itself to raze the rest in order to clear the land for another high-priced condominium and apartment development.

When the troops came to burn down the houses, said Arie, the people were given one day's notice to clear off the land. The next day, as the defiant residents tried to resist, the bulldozers flattened their homes.

They are not the only ones in this country of 180 million people to feel the often brutal hand of the ABRI. Indeed, the Taman Mini tourist park was itself built in the early 1970s only after the army forced out all the residents to carry out a pet project of Indonesian President Suharto's late wife Madame Tien Suharto.

And another 250 people have been camped on the doorstep of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights since their shanties were demolished April 17.

Muara Baru - on the edge of Jakarta's tourist district - is lucky in many ways because it can be found quite easily by foreign journalists. The threat of international exposure gives the residents a kind of protection that the poor in remote provinces such as East Timor, Aceh or Irian Jaya could scarcely imagine.

On those islands, according to reports by independent human rights groups, the army still routinely terrorizes residents and engages in torture and other human rights abuses, particularly in East Timor where an almost crushed independence movement continues sporadically to resist Indonesia's 1975 occupation of the island. The death toll in that bloody occupation has been at least 100,000, and possibly many more.

And while the army's methods have become more subtle over the years, it still maintains absolute political control over the country. The election campaign now under way is a charade in which the army will ensure victory by its chosen political party, known as Golkar, through the use of bribery and intimidation.

In Muara Baru, the residents have been bluntly warned that the only way to prevent the destruction of their houses is by ensuring that at least 90 per cent of them vote for Golkar on May 29. Even if that happens, says Hamid, few of them trust the army to keep its word.

Canada is currently considering a series of requests by the Indonesian armed forces to establish closer ties, particularly by agreeing to train Indonesian officers in Canada. Even critics of the army's role here say that such training would probably help to make the force more professional and sensitive to human rights concerns.

But at the same time, if Canada chooses to align itself more closely with the ABRI, it will be making a decision that the army of Major-General Agus Widjojo is an institution that can be worked with, that can be reformed and that - whatever the terror it brings to the lives of people like Arie and Hamid - is a force that serves Canadian interests in the region.

)From the perspective of Canadian investment and the safety of the 5,000 Canadian expatriates living on the islands, that decision might make sense. Despite some inevitable fallout from the Bre-X fiasco, Canada's business prospects in Indonesia are extremely bright, with exports exploding from $350 million in 1991 to $825 million in 1996.

But below a still thin veneer of prosperity and stability, Indonesian society is seething. There are deep ethnic and religious hatreds - particularly against the generally rich Chinese who make up about three per cent of the population and control many of the businesses - that could well erupt into mass violence without the clubs of the police or the machine guns of the army ever ready to respond.

Many Indonesians think that Canadians, living in a country with a long and peaceful past, cannot possibly understand the potential for chaos in a country like Indonesia that has been wrenched by civil war and bloody violence throughout its history.

It takes very little to get the Indonesian generals to launch into a disquisition on that history. Three hundred and fifty years of exploitative Dutch rule, three and half years of a brutal Japanese occupation during World War II, a period of chaotic parliamentary democracy in the 1950s, and an attempted Communist coup in 1965 which the army brutally put down by slaughtering anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 people and ousting then president Sukarno for tying himself too closely to the communists.

The lessons the military learned from this history, says Widjojo, are that full-blown political democracy "did nothing to gain prosperity," and that the armed forces were the only institution with enough cohesion to rule the country, resist communism, and prevent political chaos and civil war. And since 1965, the ABRI has ruled Indonesia.

Under the leadership of the general who led the anti-communist massacre, President Suharto, the army has insinuated itself into every corner of Indonesian life, unifying Indonesia through fear, an aggressive campaign of infrastructure development, and a national ideology that demands consensus and religious and ethnic tolerance.

Even the strongest critics of the armed forces here are willing to concede that it did something that had never been done in the country before - provide the basis for rapid economic growth. Per capita GDP has increased from US$80 in 1967 to US$1300 today, and to almost double that level in Jakarta. Much of Jakarta is a booming, modern city with more Land Rovers, Mercedes and Toyota Land Cruisers crawling through the snarled traffic than would ever be seen on the streets of Vancouver.

Even in East Timor, the army has pumped millions of dollars into the local economy in a so far futile attempt to win "the hearts and minds of the people," said Widjojo.

But critics say that the army, having helped in the critical task of economic development, has grown increasingly corrupt, extending its long arms into the pockets of every shop and household in the country. Paying protection money to the ABRI is now effectively a requirement to run any business in Indonesia, says Dede Oetomo, a sociologist at the Universitas Airlangga in Surabaya. And the army has also tolerated the more extreme corruption of Indonesia's leadership under Suharto, who has turned much of the country's economy over to his six children and a handful of other friends and cronies.

Further, they say, the army refuses to give way to civilian politicians at a time when a new middle class is emerging, and when demands are growing to address the vast economic disparities that many see as the greatest threat to the future stability of the country.

Non-governmental organizations that try to foster an open political debate face constant harassment by the government and the military, said Asmara Nababan, executive-director of the International Forum on Indonesian Development in Jakarta.

And when Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of former president Sukarno and the head of the Indonesian Democratic Party, threatened to lead a genuine popular challenge to the regime last year, she was deposed by the military and replaced with a puppet leader.

Juwono Sudarsono, a professor of international relations at the University of Indonesia and currently vice-governor of the national military college, says that a lot of the country's bad press internationally is "because Indonesia is still a military-dominated and corrupt regime dominated by a corrupt family."

Yet Canada's ambassador to Indonesia Gary Smith is cautiously willing to endorse the notion that, for the moment, there is no alternative to authoritarian military rule in Indonesia.

"There's a great legacy in terms of thinking that the military is required to keep the stability that's essential here for economic growth," says Smith. "We've had many, many decades, centuries to develop our system and here the military still has to play that stabilizing role."

Smith's hope, and the hope of reformers like Sudarsono, is that over time the military will gradually be willing to reduce or even discard its political role, allowing the emergence of a civilian democracy without the violence of a social revolution.

"We have to try and work with those people here," Smith said. "They talk about change without risk. The issue is how do you get from here to there."

In addition to working with the military, that means an active Canadian role in supporting human rights monitoring in Indonesia, he said. Indonesia has asked for a full-time Canadian advisor to its newly-formed national human rights commission, for instance, and Canada plans to send one here this fall.

According to Sudarsono, who spoke in Ottawa and Vancouver earlier this year, as long as the economy keeps growing, "the military's role in the social and political life of the country will gradually recede."

But Major-General Widjojo, who sits at the right hand of the armed forces commander, says that the social role played by the military will be "everlasting, " and that its political influence will decline only when the civilian population is ready for democracy.

"It is the self-perception of the armed forces that the civilians are not ready to take up the roles and responsibilities of running the country," he said.

"The armed forces in Indonesia is not to be left only as an instrument of security at the hands of the government," he added emphatically. Maybe its political influence will diminish somewhat, "but somehow we will find a way to play an active role in formulating state policy and social control."

And what of the army's legacy of human rights abuses, of the killings in East Timor and the violence that continues to be visited on political opponents of the regime and on the tens of millions of poor Indonesians in places like Muara Baru?

The problem with western concepts of human rights, Widjojo says, is that "you start by looking into the issue from the individual, what is done to him. We see the issue starting from society. What are its problems and where is it going?"

With a penetrating stare, the general pauses. "If it's good for society, acting harshly on the individual - you can do that."

/** reg.easttimor: 540.0 **/
** Topic: More on Canada and ABRI(2) **
** Written 3:48 PM May 14, 1997 by in cdp:reg.easttimor **

Here is the unedited story filed by Alden to the Vancouver Sun--which was edited then printed on May 3.

The published version was posted on this news conference as "Canada wants to fund ABRI" earlier this week.

There is some very interesting information here not included in the published version.

Kerry Pither

SURABAYA, INDONESIA - Despite Canada's serious concerns over continued human rights violations and political repression by the Indonesian military, the Canadian government is actively considering a series of requests by Indonesia's armed forces to establish closer ties with the Canadian military.

On Indonesia's wish list are military training assistance, police training, regular exercises with the Canadian navy and the stationing of a full-time military attache in Ottawa.

While Canadian officials emphasized that the discussions were "extremely preliminary," they made it clear that Canada is willing to entertain requests that as recently as two years ago would have been quickly dismissed because of Canadian outrage over the Indonesian army's role in human rights abuses, particularly in East Timor.

"It has to be finessed at a political level," said one Canadian official, "It's the optics of putting out public dollars to train people who are associated with ABRI [the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia]. That's what makes it so difficult."

Some of the requests - particularly for training and exercises - were put forward Thursday by Indonesian navy officials in the first working meetings ever held between the navies of Indonesia and Canada. Officials from both sides met aboard the Canadian patrol frigate HMCS Vancouver , which arrived in Surabaya Wednesday as part of a six-nation mission known as Westploy.

Westploy is intended to underscore Canada's effort to expand security ties in southeast Asia. But the Indonesians are also using the visit as an opportunity to pressure Canada to accept closer military ties.

The Indonesian navy, for instance, wants to begin exercises at sea with the Canadian navy, and would like an agreement in place in time for Canada's next planned deployment to southeast Asia in 1999, said Lieutenant Colonel Mike Murphy, the Canadian Forces adviser in the region who coordinated the frigate's visit to Indonesia.

And Canada's ambassador to Indonesia also confirmed in an interview here Thursday that the Indonesian armed forces are asking for the first time to place a permanent military attache in Ottawa. Ambassador Gary Smith said the Canadian government is "waiting for them to put a proposal forward," but gave no indication whether Ottawa would look favorably on the request.

Indonesia's defence attache to Washington, Army Brigadier-General Sudrajat, told the Vancouver Sun in an interview last week that Indonesia wants a full-time attache in Canada by this fall. Sudrajat currently handles any defence-related issues with Ottawa from his post in Washington.

Canada is also considering adding a second defence attache in the region, Murphy said, which could possibly mean posting a Canadian officer full-time in Jakarta

The Indonesian armed forces are eager to undertake military education and training in Canada, Sudrajat said. Such training could include Indonesian participation in Canada's Military Training Assistance Program, a [please check dollar figure]-million annual program in which Canada pays for educating officers from developing and transitional economies. For some countries, Canada also offers direct combat training for officers

Indonesia has been looking for other options for foreign military training since the U.S. Congress in 1992 blocked funds for U.S. military training over the human rights issue. While the U.S. program - which includes both officer education and military exercises - was partly restored in 1994, Congress is again threatening to cut it off.

With respect to the police, which are a branch of the Indonesian armed forces, Smith said the Canadian government is "favorably disposed" to accept a request to train Indonesian police. Indonesia has also asked Great Britain for similar police training.

With Canada, the request has been put forward at very senior levels, Smith said, including Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, Indonesia's chief of police and its Ambassador to Canada.

Indonesia also reiterated the request during a visit to Ottawa and Vancouver last month by the special ambassador for East Timor Lopez da Cruz. Lopez da Cruz met with reporters in Vancouver to try to answer charges that torture and other human rights abuses by the Indonesian armed forces are continuing on the island, which Indonesia occupied in 1975.

While the proposals are certain to draw fire from Canadian human rights groups, Indonesian non-governmental organizations - which form the closest thing to a political opposition under the tightly controlled regime of Indonesia President Suharto - said Canada should accept the requests. Asmara Nababan, executive secretary of the International Forum on Indonesian Development in Jakarta, said that Indonesian NGOs generally favor the U.S. military training program.

"It depends on the type of training," he said. "As far as we are able to monitor, that kind of training is very important for officers to be exposed to other ideas." He said that many of the 400 graduates of the U.S. program are among the military officials who are "more open and responsive to society, to democracy, and to human rights."

Through such training "they will learn about international standards, international values of human rights," he said

The first priority should be police training, according to Nababan. About 80 per cent of the current training for Indonesian police is in military techniques. What they don't learn properly, he said, is how to be civilian police. "They really very badly need that training."

An Indonesian two-star general in the office of General Feisal Tanjung, the armed forces commander in chief, said that such military training is critical "in that we are able to see what is going on outside our world so we have a comparison."

Nonetheless, if Canada goes forward with the initiatives, it will be tying itself more closely to a military that is desperately feared in much of the country and enforces its rule with an iron fist.

Unlike in Canada and other western countries where the military's role is to protect the country from outside threats, Indonesia's army is almost entirely focused on suppressing internal threats to the regime. The armed forces here also play a "dual function" in which, in addition to their military tasks, they have a hand in almost every aspect of the economy, society and government.

President Suharto, a former military general, rules with the support of the armed forces, and the military is determined that his successor will also be drawn from their ranks.

During the election campaign taking place here, the military has established strict rules curbing political activity, and has intervened daily to quell demonstrations that are occurring here in the run-up to elections for Indonesia's House of Representatives May 29.

The military also played a key role last year in forcing Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia's former president Sukarno, out of the leadership of the Indonesia Democratic Party, the main opposition party. Megawati was thought to be edging too close to a direct challenge to the leadership of Suharto, military officials said.

That action touched off riots in Jakarta last July, in which Megawati supporters say several hundred people were killed by fire from army troops - though the officially released figures were only two people died.

Despite such atrocities, and the continued human rights abuses in remote areas like East Timor, some Canadian officials believe there are opportunities to work with the Indonesian armed forces and try to nudge it towards becoming a more professional organization.

There are some officers who would like to see the military gradually reduce its political role and allow civilian politicians to make real decisions, Ambassador Smith said. Canadian cooperation with the military might help to encourage those reformist tendencies, he said.

With regard to police training, Smith said that it "makes sense" for Canada to try to curb abuses by the Indonesian police "because that would remove one of the difficult points we have in our relationship."

"They realize there could be some room for improvement in how the police interact with the community," he said, and are looking to Canada and Great Britain as models.

While Nababan was supportive of the training proposals, he also called on Canada to be more outspoken in defence of human rights and democracy in Indonesia.

Canada, he said, is "very cautious" not to offend the Suharto regime by focusing too much on human rights abuses by the army. "We think Canada can play a significant role in supporting change and democracy here," he said.

Smith said that any initiative for expanded Canadian cooperation with Indonesia's military "is going to have to evolve over time I think. We have reservations in some regards about some of the human rights questions here."

Canada's recent policy of expanding military ties with the countries of southeast Asia is spelled out in a confidential 1995 DND policy paper obtained by the Vancouver Sun under the Freedom of Information Act. But the paper acknowledges the danger of trying to build closer links with repressive military regimes such as Indonesia.

"The potential for breakdown of internal order in response to the growing dichotomy between economic development and political control may increase as authoritarianism becomes more unacceptable to societies that are experiencing increasing economic freedom," the paper says.

Indonesia's election campaign, where the military is desperately trying to suppress growing political unrest, demonstrates that dilemma all too clearly.

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