Accessibility links

Jakarta Welcomes US Decision to Increase Military Sales

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

In Jakarta, officials are welcoming a U.S. decision to allow the sale of weapons and other military goods to Indonesia. However, human rights observers in Indonesia are critical of the move, saying the Indonesian military still has not been held accountable for past abuses.

Washington has long argued the restoration of military ties with Indonesia, which has the largest population of Muslims in the world, is necessary to help the country fight terrorism.

Indonesian authorities have arrested dozens of Islamic militants responsible for a series of deadly bombings over the past few years and sentenced several to death.

In part because of Jakarta's cooperation in the fight on terrorism, the U.S. State Department Tuesday waived restrictions on the sale of weapons and equipment such as aircraft parts to Indonesia.

The sales had been blocked for years because of concerns over the Indonesian military's record of human rights abuses.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yuri Thamrin, says Jakarta welcomes the increased military cooperation.

"We believe this is a reflection of recognition by the U.S. side, appreciation by the U.S. side in terms of Indonesia's seriousness, in promoting democracy, in fighting terrorism, and bringing peace process in Aceh," he said.

Jakarta signed a peace deal with separatist rebels in the province of Aceh last August, ending a 29-year conflict that left more than 10,000 people dead.

Sidney Jones, the director of the International Crisis Group in Jakarta, says while there has been little significant military reform in Indonesia, so far, the troops have obeyed the Aceh peace terms.

But Ms. Jones says the troops responsible for past abuses must be held accountable.

"The sad fact is that all of the pressure in the world and all of the pressure from the U.S. through the embargo made no difference in terms of actually achieving accountability for past abuses and I think the task is now to find another mechanism so that the people who have been victims of abuses can actually get some sense of justice," said Ms. Jones.

Washington cut ties with the Indonesian military in 1999, after military-backed thugs rampaged across East Timor, killing over one thousand people, as the country voted for independence from Jakarta.

But in the past year, the United States has gradually eased restrictions. Officials in Washington say they will help Indonesia modernize its military but will continue to pressure Jakarta to bring those responsible for past human rights violations to justice.

XS
SM
MD
LG