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Washington Supporting Indonesia's Developing Democracy

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

The U.S. ambassador to Indonesia says the United States backs Indonesia's developing democracy, and its fight against terrorism. He also says Washington wants increased military cooperation between the two countries.

U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, B. Lynn Pascoe, says the United States supports democratic reform in Indonesia.

In an interview with VOA in Jakarta, Mr. Pascoe said the process of democratic reforms is well underway. The U.S. role, he said, is to give any assistance it can to help Indonesia build its democratic institutions.

Indonesia last year held its first direct presidential election, and has expanded democratic institutions during the past six years, after decades of strongman rule.

As a result of the transition to democracy, and Indonesia's support in Washington's role on terrorism, the United States has eased restrictions on military aid to Jakarta. Aid had been frozen for several years because of the Indonesian military's dismal human-rights record.

When Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met with President Bush earlier this year, they made it clear that they want military ties to grow.

"The two presidents said publicly and privately that they look forward to complete normalization of our military to military relationship, but of course that is legislation, it is in the law at the moment, restrictions on the foreign military financing, so we will have to work with the Congress in the months ahead to see what changes can be made in that," said Mr. Pascoe.

Mr. Pascoe added that Washington wants to see foreign investment increase in Indonesia, which is one of the poorest countries in Asia. But he says U.S. business leaders are concerned about corruption and the rule of law, but he believes President Yudhoyono is addressing those issues.

"Many businessmen want to invest here, many businessmen strongly believe in the kinds of reforms that the president is pushing, and they are quite optimistic, actually, so am I," he said.

Indonesia is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Another concern for investors and the U.S. government is the risk of terrorist attacks.

Mr. Pascoe says the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah is trying to disrupt Indonesia's democracy, weaken its government, and drive foreigners out of the country.

"It is a very dangerous group of quite warped individuals who have their own very strange view of the world that I think gets very little support among the people of Indonesia," he said. "But the fact of the matter is that they still have not all been caught and the government will have to continue working on that and where we can give some assistance, some small assistance, we will do that."

The terrorist group is believed to be responsible for several bombings aimed at Western tourists and Western-owned properties, in which more than 220 people died. Jakarta has arrested dozens of suspected group members and charged them in connection with the attacks.

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