Saturday, March 19, 2005

Recent Reformed Indonesia and US Ties: Two Sides of A Coin (6 of 10)

Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-0128

Opening Statement
Honorable Dan Burton
Committee on International Relations
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific

Hearing: “Indonesia in Transition: Recent Developments and Implications for U.S. Policy”
Date: March 10, 2005

Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening this important and timely hearing to highlight the importance of the world’s third largest democracy, fourth largest nation, and home of the largest Muslim population.

The Government of Indonesia (GOI) is one country that should be a major focus of American foreign policy. When so many positive stories in the Muslim world are obscured by protracted violence in areas of historic conflict, it is high time to take notice of the important strides Indonesia is making. As you are well aware, Indonesia has embarked on a dramatic transition to democratic governance over the past six years, culminating in the country’s first directly elected President. Indonesia serves as a role model for democracies throughout the world.

A major secular state with a Muslim majority, Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy and is gaining International recognition for its strides towards complete democratization, making progressive political and constitutional reforms while also demonstrating that Islam and democracy are not mutually exclusive and can – in fact – successfully work in tandem. Moreover, newly elected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) has made clear his intentions to actively work to rid Indonesia of its problems with corruption, pledging to bring to an end a “culture of impunity” while enforcing greater transparency throughout his government.

In one calendar year, Indonesia has successfully demonstrated its commitment to embrace democracy on three separate occasions: Parliamentary elections in April; a first round of Presidential elections in July; and of course the September 20th Presidential runoff that ultimately determined the first directly-elected Indonesian President.

Now the real work begins. Economic growth and political reforms can and must occur in tandem, and we wish the new leadership in Jakarta great success in both areas. More foreign investment in this resource-rich country will not only create new employment opportunities, but it will also help improve the standard of living for many Indonesians. And, as you can imagine, the positive role that U.S. foreign policy, business and investment can play is enormous.

Currently, the United States actively supports the Indonesian Navy to protect the vitally important sea lanes of Southeast Asia, through which an estimated 60 percent of global shipping tonnage passes. The threat of terrorism in Southeast Asia is real and Indonesia has suffered from several major attacks in recent years. In order to quell terrorist threats, Indonesia’s government is discovering new ways of working with regional law enforcement and intelligence communities in hopes of rooting out homegrown radicalism. We should continue to work closely with the GOI on counterterrorism operations to thwart the efforts of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) – Al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asia franchise – and other groups bent on creating a Pan-Islamic state within the region. The most impressive successes have been in the area of law enforcement; hundreds of JI members have been arrested, thus disrupting the network’s command and control structure.

On December 26, 2004, the American public – and International community at large – was forced to learn a lot about Indonesia as a result of the tsunami that left behind a path of extreme devastation and destruction throughout Indonesia and the myriad of other East African, South and Southeast Asian nations. This unfortunate natural disaster was a seminal event in both of our nation’s histories and ultimately demonstrated that our governments, civil society institutions, and militaries can effectively come together and work towards a common goal. We were pleased to witness such a positive signal for the future relationship between the U.S. and Indonesia, and were reassured that this cooperation is one of many indications that both of our countries will continue to benefit from increased engagement.

As you already know Mr. Chairman, one of the many consequences of this devastating disaster was the call for renewed military cooperation between the United States and Indonesia. While the GOI has made dramatic reforms to weed out corruption and increase transparency, the same unfortunately cannot be said for several rogue units within Indonesia’s Army (ABRI). Previously existing patterns of behavior by these rogue elements continue to persist in very troubling ways. Currently, it is estimated that only 30 percent of TNI’s budget comes directly from the GOI itself, and the military engages in private and sometimes illegal businesses in order to make up their budget shortfall. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the recent tsunami, TNI utilized their resources to airlift members of the militant group Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front) to Aceh. Reports still surface from Aceh and West Papua implicating elements of the TNI in human rights abuses. We are deeply concerned about the slow pace of military reforms within Indonesia as members of the TNI continue to avoid justice in cases involving gross violations of human rights, whether committed in East Timor, Aceh, Papua, or elsewhere in the archipelago.

The U.S. State Department’s decision to certify Indonesia for IMET is one step in our long-term goal of broadening and strengthening our military relationship with Indonesia. However, we must support deeper reform efforts by the GOI to institutionalize professionalism, respect for human rights, weed out corruption and increase transparency in the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI). It is my sincere hope that our government will continue to practice careful and diligent oversight with regards to IMET funding for all nations.

Regardless, I am still particularly concerned about the slow pace of legal resolution of cases involving gross violations of human rights, whether committed in East Timor, Aceh, Papua, or elsewhere in the archipelago. The reinstatement of IMET was predicated on the GOI’s cooperation with the FBI in their investigation of a brutal attack that occurred on August 31, 2002, when 10 schoolteachers and a 6 year old child were ambushed – with heavy gunfire – as they were returning from a picnic to their residences in Tembagapura, Indonesia. The attack resulted in the death of two American citizens, Rick Spier and Leon Burgon, and one Indonesian citizen – Bambang Riwanto. Seven of the eight surviving Americans were seriously wounded. Initial investigations led some to believe that a rogue group from the military was involved in the ambush. Regardless, a joint U.S.-Indonesian investigation culminated in the indictment by a U.S. grand jury of Anthonius Wamang, an Indonesian citizen purportedly with connections to several rogue militant groups throughout the region. However, to our disappointment, Anthonius Wamang remains free to this day, and the Indonesian authorities – as we have been informed – have not issued an indictment for Wamang’s arrest.

In addition, the trafficking of women and children – especially since the recent Tsunami – is an ever-present problem throughout Indonesia’s archipelago. Following the Tsunami, I was pleased to see that President Susilo issued a decree that prevented children under the age of 16 from leaving the country without their parents to prevent traffickers from praying on these vulnerable orphans. Furthermore, the Minister for Social Affairs ordered that all orphaned children be taken to the Home for Social Protection of Children (RPSA), where they were offered protection and medical care until reunited with their families.

On June 14, 2004, the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released their annual report, stating that “Indonesia is a source, transit and destination country for persons trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. Indonesian victims are trafficked to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia. Extensive trafficking occurs within Indonesia’s borders for forced labor and sexual exploitation.” Since that report was issued, I am encouraged by the Indonesian’s increased law enforcement efforts and greater convictions for trafficking-related offenses. We must continue to work with the GOI to ensure that there are continued improvements within their judiciary in order to ultimately make certain that there is effective prosecution of traffickers.

With regards to U.S. and other international investment, we must not forget that Indonesia’s economy was battered in the financial crisis of 1997 and governing this sprawling archipelago has not been easy in the wake of the economic meltdown and dramatic political change we have witnessed in the seven short years of post-Soeharto Reformasi. Much remains to be done, particularly in the areas of judicial reform, corruption, human rights and social welfare.

U.S. investment in the country totals some $25 billion, and more than 300 major American firms do business there as a massive decentralization process is being implemented. The United States should continue providing support to help Indonesia stabilize and consolidate these political and economic gains. Through a combination of strategic development supports and more effective public diplomacy we can engage Indonesia well into the future.

Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. I look forward to hearing the testimony of all of our witnesses today. It is my hope that by the end of the day we will have a better understanding of Indonesia’s transition towards complete democratization.

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