October 4 , 2010
Dispatches From the Edge
Bedding Down With the Devil in Indonesia
By CONN HALLINAN
Bedding down with the Devil is the only way one can describe a recent decision by the Obama administration to resume contact with the Indonesian militarys (TNI) most notorious human rights abuser, the Special Forces unit, Kopassus. Following a July meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates lifted the 1999 ban on any contact with the unit.
The Indonesian military has a long record of brutality toward its own people, starting with the massacre of somewhere from 500,000 to 1 million Communists and leftists during a 1965 military coup. That massive bloodletting was followed by a reign of terror against separatist groups in Aceh and West Papua and the invasion of East Timor. In the latter case, the UN estimated that as many as 200,000 died as a direct result of the 24-year occupation, a per capita kill rate that actually surpasses what Pol Pot managed in Cambodia.
But, even by the brutal standards of the TNI, the 5,000-man Kopassus unit has always stood out. It kidnapped and murdered students in 1997 and 1998, made up the shock troops for the Indonesias invasion of East Timor, and ruthlessly suppressed any moves toward independence in West Papua.
West Papua is the western half of New Guinea that Indonesia invaded in 1969.
Working with Kopassus, which remains unrepentant about its long history of terrorizing civilians, will undermine efforts to achieve justice and accountability for human rights violations in Indonesia and Timor-Leste [formally East Timor], says John M. Miller, national coordinator of East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).