Thursday, October 19, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: What’s Next for Indonesia-Vietnam Defense Ties?

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: What’s Next for Indonesia-Vietnam Defense Ties?:   Last week, the defense ministers from Indonesia and Vietnam led their respective delegations for another round of their bilateral d...

What’s Next for Indonesia-Vietnam Defense Ties?


Last week, the defense ministers from Indonesia and Vietnam led their respective delegations for another round of their bilateral defense meeting held in Jakarta. The meeting saw both sides discuss broader regional and global security issues as well as take stock of their bilateral defense cooperation, including outlining future steps for cooperation through the signing of a new joint vision statement out to 2022.

As Indonesia-Vietnam relations have developed over the years, from a comprehensive partnership agreement signed in 2003 to a strategic partnership in 2013, the two countries have also looked to make progress in the security domain as well. Recent defense dialogues have focused on further steps to implement their memorandum of understanding inked in 2010, efforts to develop defense ties more generally including joint exercises, dialogues, and military equipment, and means to better manage challenges, including the treatment of fishermen amid some recent clashes at sea.

Last year was an active year for defense ties, with Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu making his first Vietnam visit since assuming his position and then-General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong making a trip to Indonesia – the first by a Party chief since the late Ho Chi Minh in 1959 and the first by a top Vietnamese leader since the inking of the 2013 strategic partnership. Though the focus of his visit, which included a meeting with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, was on the relationship more generally, there were some defense-related developments including the signing of a letter of intent on cooperation between their two coast guards.

This time around, Vietnam Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich was in Jakarta to meet with several top Indonesian officials, including Ryacudu for their defense meeting on October 13. During the meeting, both sides discussed the broader regional and global challenges they both confront, including terrorism, cybercrimes, human and drug trafficking, illegal fishing, and the South China Sea issue. Ryacudu in particular emphasized the fact that none of these challenges could be confronted alone and required partnership among regional states.

The two sides also discussed thornier issues, most notably managing their maritime boundaries amid some recent clashes at sea as both concluding negotiations on the delimitation of their exclusive economic zones. This has been an ongoing issue that has factored into their recent engagements even though it often is not as widely publicized in official accounts by the two sides as much as other areas of convergence.

They also reviewed the existing infrastructure of the bilateral defense relationship, agreeing to continue the joint working group for their armed forces and the implementation of a defense policy dialogue into 2018. They noted areas for future progress such as education and training and defense industrial cooperation. Both sides also inked a joint vision statement to guide the overall defense relationship out to 2022. That was both a notable step in the institutionalization of the defense relationship and yet another indicator of the emphasis they are placing on security ties as being a pillar of the broader Indonesia-Vietnam strategic partnership.

By Prashanth Parameswaran for The Diplomat

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia, Russia Ink Defense Protocol Amid Fighte...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia, Russia Ink Defense Protocol Amid Fighte...:   Indonesia and Russia held the latest iteration of their talks on military technical cooperation. The dialogue, which saw the signin...

Indonesia, Russia Ink Defense Protocol Amid Fighter Jet Deal


Indonesia and Russia held the latest iteration of their talks on military technical cooperation. The dialogue, which saw the signing of a protocol agreement, comes as both sides consider ways to further boost their defense collaboration even as they manage existing challenges.

As I have noted before, as Indonesia modernizes its military, Russia, currently Jakarta’s largest military supplier, has obviously been part of the conversation. But though both sides have been mulling several deals as well as broader advances in defense cooperation over the past few years, they have also had to factor in their priorities, which on the Indonesian side includes a greater insistence on developing its domestic defense industry.

From October 10 to October 11, the two countries held the thirteenth iteration of their talks on military technical cooperation (MTC). During the talks, officials as well as defense industry representatives from both sides discussed several issues, including areas of potential cooperation as well as overcoming challenges.

Unsurprisingly, one of the areas of focus was how to ensure that ongoing defense collaboration between the two countries is in line with Indonesia’s existing procurement laws and its policy objective of developing its domestic defense industry. Indonesia’s Law 16 specifies that offsets, local content, and countertrade should be worth no less than 85 percent of the value of the contract, with local content making up no less than 35 percent of this.

One outcome from the meeting, the Indonesian defense ministry disclosed in a statement released thereafter, was the inking of a draft protocol. The agreement, Indonesian defense officials said, would facilitate not only the purchase of defense equipment from Russia, but also the strengthening of broader defense ties including areas like joint development and joint production as well as maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) through technology transfers.

The military-technical agreement comes as both countries continue to make progress toward the inking of a long-mulled Indonesian purchase of Sukhoi Su-35 multirole combat aircraft. As I have noted repeatedly, the deal has faced repeated delays since Indonesian defense minister Ryamizard Ryacudu first announced Indonesia had decided to buy the aircraft in September 2015, including over procurement regulations (See: “Why is the Indonesia-Russia Fighter Jet Deal Still On Hold?”).

As of now, though Indonesia is not expected to build the aircraft or parts of it by itself, both sides have been working out the structure of the deal to include MRO, countertrade, and offset opportunities, including Indonesian export of commodities and defense products. Though specifics are still being negotiated, Indonesian officials have previously said that, within the $1.14 billion expected deal for 11 Sukhoi jets, around $570 million will be paid for in Indonesian commodity exports such as palm oil, tea, and coffee, with around $400 million sourced through an offset program, and the remaining paid for through cash.

Thus far, Russia, which is eager to make further inroads in the defense realm in key Asian markets, has been willing to factor in Indonesia’s domestic priorities into the discussion. This pattern continued at the dialogue held last week with the Sukhoi deal still on the horizon, with the latest date of finalization set by Indonesian officials as November.

By Prashanth Parameswaran for The Diplomat

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Jakarta’s new governor doubles down on identity - ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Jakarta’s new governor doubles down on identity - ...: Jakarta’s new governor doubles down on identity - the  pribumi /non- pribumi  cleavage is alive and well in Indonesian politics, and a l...

Jakarta’s new governor doubles down on identity - the pribumi/non-pribumi cleavage is alive and well in Indonesian politics, and a leading politician is betting that exploiting this cleavage is good politics

Jakarta’s new governor doubles down on identity - the pribumi/non-pribumi cleavage is alive and well in Indonesian politics, and a leading politician is betting that exploiting this cleavage is good politics


Jakarta’s new governor, Anies Baswedan, was inaugurated in a large and highly publicised ceremony on 16 October. After a highly racially and religiously charged gubernatorial campaign that saw Anies defeat incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama—a Chinese Christian since imprisoned on charges of blasphemy—many Indonesians had hoped for a period of calm. Anies might have contributed to that by delivering a moderately religious but clearly nationalist and inclusivist inauguration address in his first speech as governor.

This is not what he delivered. Instead, Anies has doubled down on the identitarian religious rhetoric that sustained his campaign and propelled him into office. One particular line from his speech as attracted particular attention among Indonesia’s liberals, progressives, and religious and ethnic minorities:

Jakarta ini satu dari sedikit, satu dari sedikit kota di Indonesia yang merasakan kolonialisme dari dekat. Penjajahan di depan mata itu di jakarta, selama ratusan tahun. Di tempat lain mungkin penjajahan terasa jauh, tapi di Jakarta bagi orang Jakarta yang namanya kolonialisme itu di depan mata. Dirasakan sehari-hari. Karena itu bila kita merdeka maka janji-janji itu harus terlunaskan bagi warga Jakarta. Dulu kita semua pribumi ditindas dan dikalahkan. Kini telah merdeka, kini saatnya menjadi tuan rumah di negeri sendiri. Jangan sampai Jakarta ini seperti yang dituliskan pepatah Madura: etek se bertelor, ajam se rameh, katanya. Itik yang bertelur, ayam yang mengerami. Kita yang bekerja keras untuk merebut kemerdekaan. Kita yang bekerja keras untuk mengusir kolonialisme. Kita semua harus merasakan manfaat kemerdekaan di ibu kota ini.

Jakarta was one of only a few cities in Indonesia that felt colonialism from up close. Colonisation was in front of one’s eyes in Jakarta, for hundreds of years. In other places, perhaps, colonisation felt far away, but for the people of Jakarta colonialism was right in front of their eyes. It was felt on a daily basis. Because of that, when we became independent, those promises [of independence, as Anies mentioned earlier: namely prosperity, protection, and knowledge—Ed.] had to be fulfilled for citizens of Jakarta. Previously, all of us pribumi [indigenous people] were oppressed and defeated. Today we are independent, and it’s time to become the hosts in our own country. Don’t let Jakarta like what is written in the Madurese saying: etek se bertelor, ajam se rameh. The duck lays the eggs, but the chicken broods. It was we who worked hard to contest independence. We who worked hard to drive out colonialism. We all have to feel the benefits of independence in this capital city.

There are three important observations from this excerpt.

  1. Even after nearly seventy years of independence, colonial legacies matter. Anies is able to compose a powerful political message that invokes the socioeconomic effects of colonialism. Anies (or his speechwriters) believe that this is message that still resonates. In my view, he is right.
  2. This is a presidential speech, not a gubernatorial one. The looks exactly like the speech of a candidate preparing himself for a 2019 presidential run, placing Jakarta at the centre of national politics and staking a claim for himself as a national politician. Elsewhere in the speech he invokes folksy sayings from ethnic groups around the archipelago (Acehnese, Batak, Banjar, Madurese, Minahasa, Minang), figuratively pushing a pin in each of Indonesia’s regions and saying “I am speaking to you too.”
  3. Every Indonesian who hears this speech will understand that it is targeting ethnic Chinese Indonesians. Specifically, it is associating Chinese Indonesians with the long colonial period and its legacies on everyday politics. Pribumi is a term that connotes indigeneity, but specifically, it identifies those citizens of Indonesia who are viewed to be descended from foreign populations (Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Europeans, and others). Anies appears to have conveniently forgot that he himself is of Hadrami descent. Alternatively, he might not have forgotten at all, but rather he knows that Indonesia’s wealthy Arab Indonesian elite faces none of the discrimination that Chinese Indonesians face in places like Jakarta. The visual imagery surrounding Anies’s installation reflects similar kinds of politics. One notable banner that has generated much discussion appears below:

The long term consequences of this for Jakarta and Indonesian politics are hard to predict. However, anyone hoping that Anies would revert to the moderate Islamic persona that he had cultivated prior to his gubernatorial campaign must now be disappointed. His lickspittles might argue that his use of non-Muslim religious language at the beginning and end of his speech signals his understanding that Jakarta (like Indonesia) is a religiously diverse city. But this view ignores the reality of Anies’s inauguration: the pribumi/non-pribumi cleavage is alive and well in Indonesian politics, and a leading politician is betting that exploiting this cleavage is good politics.


Tom Pepinsky is an associate professor in the government department and a faculty member of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University. He studies comparative politics and political economy, with a focus on emerging market economies in Southeast Asia.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Suharto: A Declassified Documentar Obit from the N...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Suharto: A Declassified Documentar Obit from the N...: Suharto: A Declassified Documentary Obit National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 242   ...

Suharto: A Declassified Documentar Obit from the National Security Archives

Suharto: A Declassified
Documentary Obit
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 242


Washington, DC, January 28, 2008 - As Indonesia buries the ex-dictator Suharto, who died Sunday at the age of 86, the National Security Archive today posted a selection of declassified U.S. documents detailing his record of repression and corruption, and the long-standing U.S. support for his regime.
The documents include transcripts of meetings with Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, as well as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Vice-President Walter Mondale, then Vice-President George H. W. Bush, and former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke.
Additional documents detail U.S. perceptions of Suharto from the earliest years of his violent rule, including the 1969 annexation of West Papua, the 1975 invasion of East Timor, and the so-called “Mysterious Killings” of 1983-1984.
“In death Suharto has escaped justice both in Indonesia and East Timor,” said Brad Simpson, who directs the Archive's Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project. “But these declassified documents, detailing the long record of U.S. support for one of the twentieth century’s most brutal and corrupt men, will contribute to our understanding both of Suharto’s rule and of the U.S. support which helped make it possible."
Most of the documents posted today have been declassified as a result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by the Archive, in addition to documents unearthed in the National Archives (NARA) and Presidential libraries.
In the coming weeks the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project will be posting additional documents concerning the events leading up to Suharto’s downfall in May 1998.
Read the Documents
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Initial Report on Suharto
This National Intelligence Estimate prepared by the CIA at the end of 1968 offers a positive portrait of Suharto and the New Order regime he had assembled following his ouster of Sukarno in March 1966 and consolidation of control in the intervening months. Just 18 months after the bloody massacres involving the murder of between 500,000 and one million alleged supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party, the NIE states that “the Suharto government provides Indonesia with a relatively moderate leadership.” The estimate reports, “There is no force in Indonesia today that can effectively challenge the army's position, notwithstanding the fact that the Suharto government uses a fairly light hand in wielding the instruments of power. Over the next three to five years, it is unlikely that any threat to the internal security of Indonesia will develop that the military cannot contain; the army--presumably led by Suharto--will almost certainly retain control of the government during this period.”

Suharto's Meetings With U.S. Officials
National security adviser Henry Kissinger briefs President Nixon on his upcoming visit to Indonesia and likely conversations with Indonesian President Suharto. Kissinger argues that there is no U.S. interest in getting involved in the issue of West Irian and that its people will choose integration with Indonesia. In Nixon's talking points, Kissinger urges that the President refrain from raising the issue except to note U.S. sympathy with Indonesia's concerns.
Suharto made his first visit as head of state to the U.S. in May 1970. The trip came amidst a major crackdown on political parties in Indonesia aimed at insuring the dominance of the Joint Secretariat of Functional Groups (GOLKAR) and the Army in parliamentary elections scheduled for 1971, as well as detailed revelations of pervasive corruption among government and military officials including smuggling, bribery, kickbacks and nepotism. Privately the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta warned that the corruption and authoritarianism of the New Order would progressively undermine its rule even as it eliminated or co-opted its opponents. Publicly, however, the White House fairly gushed over the state of relations with Jakarta and the Suharto regime’s performance, viewing the trip as a chance to strengthen its already cozy ties with the Indonesian dictator (who must have been surprised to learn that he presided over one of the “largest democratic countries in the world”). “There are no issues between the U.S. and Indonesia,” Henry Kissinger wrote the President approvingly, “and relations are excellent.” Suharto was offering to help support the U.S.-backed Lon Nol government in Cambodia, the regime continued to welcome American investors and pursue a “pragmatic” five year development plan, and Indonesia was increasingly identifying with U.S. regional goals as the Administration began its inexorable drawdown in South Vietnam. “What Suharto has done and is doing accords perfectly with your concept of Asian responsibilities under the Nixon Doctrine,” the national security advisor observed.
Memorandum of Conversation, President Suharto of Indonesia, The President, Dr. Kissinger, May 26, 1970
Source: Richard M. Nixon Papers, Subject Numeric Files, 1970-1973, Box 2272
In his meeting with President Nixon, Suharto frankly admits to having “nullified the strength” of the Indonesian Communist Party, an apparent reference to the mass killings of alleged PKI members, and states that “tens of thousands” of its members “have been interrogated and placed in detention.” President Nixon largely confines himself to questions and supportive statements concerning U.S. support for the Suharto regime. Over the course of Suharto’s two-day visit, the White House reassures Indonesian officials of their continued commitment to Southeast Asia and pledges to increase military aid to $18 million to enable Indonesia to purchase 15,000 M-16 rifles to replace the AK-47s it is covertly sending to Cambodia to assist the Lon Nol government which recently overthrew the government of Prince Sihanouk.
Memorandum of Conversation between President Ford, President Suharto, Dr. Kissinger, et al., July 5, 1975
Source: Gerald R. Ford Library, National Security Adviser Memoranda of Conversations, Box 13, July 5, 1965 - Ford, Kissinger, Indonesian President Suharto

This document records a conversation between Suharto and Ford at Camp David on July 5, 1975, five months before the invasion of East Timor. Speaking only a few months after the collapse of the Thieu regime in South Vietnam, the two presidents shared a tour d'horizon of East Asian political issues, U.S. military assistance to Indonesia, international investment, and Portuguese decolonization. Suharto brought up the question of Portuguese decolonization in East Timor proclaiming his support for “self-determination” but also dismissing independence as unviable: “So the only way is to integrate [East Timor] into Indonesia.” Ford gives no response.
U.S. Embassy Jakarta Telegram 1579 to Secretary State, December 6, 1975 [Text of Ford-Kissinger-Suharto Discussion]
Source: Gerald R. Ford Library, Kissinger-Scowcroft Temporary Parallel File, Box A3, Country File, Far East-Indonesia, State Department Telegrams 4/1/75-9/22/76
On the eve of Indonesia’s full-scale invasion of East Timor, President Ford and Secretary Kissinger stopped in Jakarta en route from China where they had just met with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. For more than a year the U.S. had known that Indonesia was planning to forcibly annex East Timor, having followed intelligence reports of armed attacks by Indonesian forces for nearly two months. Thus, Ford or Kissinger could not have been too surprised when, in the middle of a discussion of guerrilla movements in Thailand and Malaysia, Suharto suddenly brought up East Timor. “We want your understanding,” Suharto stated, “if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.”
Ford and Kissinger took great pains to assure Suharto that they would not oppose the invasion. Ford was unambiguous: “We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have.” Kissinger did indeed stress that “the use of US-made arms could create problems,” but then added that, “It depends on how we construe it; whether it is in self defense or is a foreign operation.” Thus, Kissinger’s concern was not about whether U.S. arms would be used offensively—and hence illegally—but whether the act would actually be interpreted as such—a process he clearly intended to manipulate. In any case, Kissinger added: “It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.”
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke’s visit to Jakarta in April 1977 and his lengthy meeting with President Suharto was the first by a high-ranking Carter Administration official.  The visit occurred during the run-up to tightly-controlled Presidential and parliamentary elections in which hundreds of Suharto opponents had been arrested and critical newspapers shuttered.  It thus represented, in the words of the U.S. Embassy, an “unusual opportunity” to advance concerns about human rights and democracy more generally - had that been Holbrooke’s intention.  In his meeting with Suharto, however, the Assistant Secretary offered no criticism of Indonesia’s human rights record while “acknowledging efforts President Suharto appeared to be making to resolve Indonesian problems,” especially on  East Timor, where he “applauded” the President’s judgment in allowing Congressional members to visit the territory but remained mute on reports of ongoing atrocities.  Suharto responded that Indonesia did “not seek to hide anything” in East Timor – at a time when journalists and relief organizations were banned and visitors allowed only under military escort.
Memorandum for the President from the Vice President, "Visit to the Pacific," April 26, 1978
Source: NSA Staff Materials, Far East Files, Box 7, Carter Library
From May 9 to May 10, 1978,Vice President Walter Mondale visited Indonesia as part of a larger regional visit and the Carter Administration's initiative to "deepen relations" with the Suharto regime. This Memo for President Carter requested his approval for Mondale's policy goals for the trip, including the expedited delivery of sixteen A-4 fighter jets to Indonesia, which was then preparing for a massive campaign of aerial bombardment of East Timor in an effort to crush armed resistance to its occupation of the territory. Mondale's briefing memo makes no mention of East Timor.
In a May 10 meeting with Indonesian President Suharto, Mondale noted that Indonesia's 1977 release of thousands of political detainees had "helped create a favorable climate of opinion in the Congress" for expanded American arms sales. He suggested to Suharto that releasing prisoners more regularly would further improve public opinion and deflect criticism - a suggestion the regime later implemented. The Vice President likewise noted the two nations' "mutual concerns regarding East Timor," in particular "how to handle public relations aspects of the problem." As with the problem of political detainees, Mondale suggested that allowing humanitarian groups such as Catholic Relief Services access to East Timor would not only help refugees in the area (overwhelmingly generated by Indonesian military operations) but "have a beneficial impact on U.S. public opinion."
In October 1982 Suharto came to the U.S. on an official state visit, the highest honor accorded visiting dignitaries.  The briefing papers and summary of Suharto’s plenary session with President Reagan are most notable for what they do not contain – a single mention of human rights in Indonesia or East Timor.  The visit offers striking reminder of the degree to which the Reagan Administration abandoned any high level concern about human rights in Indonesia through the 1980s.
In August 1983 East Timorese guerrillas attacked Indonesian military forces at the airport in Dili, killing 18 soldiers. In response to the attack, and as part of a larger military offensive involving 10,000-12,000 troops, Indonesian soldiers carried out several large massacres: of 200-300 civilians near the town of Viqueque, and at least 500 civilians in villages near Mount Bibileu. These two lengthy cables describe those operations and the breakdown of the ceasefire which preceded it, and fits a persistent pattern lasting from 1975 to 1999 in which U.S. Embassy officials expressed skepticism over the scale or even the existence of Indonesian atrocities in East Timor. In the second cable, the embassy officer repeats the claim, apparently from an Indonesian source (whose identity is excised), of several hundred killed near Viqueque.
In May, 1984 Vice President George H. W. Bush visited Indonesia as part of a longer trip that included stops in Japan and South Asia. The briefing papers prepared for Vice President Bush highlight the continued focus on commercial and security relations over considerations of human rights.  In 1984 the U.S. provided $45 million in credits for foreign military sales (FMS) and $2.5 million in International Military and Educational Training (IMET), “our second largest IMET program worldwide.”  Vice-President Bush’s political scene setter notes that “political activity in Indonesia is tightly controlled,” with “no organized political activity” between national elections and opposition forces “dispirited and incapable for the foreseeable future of mounting a direct challenge to his power.”
Vice President Bush’s visit came on the heels of a major Indonesian military offensive in East Timor in which hundreds of civilians were massacred and in the midst of a period of severe repression in Indonesia punctuated by “a government-organized campaign of summary killings of alleged violent criminals” known as the “mysterious killings,” which began in late 1982 and continued through 1984.  The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta estimated that the government had summarily executed about 4,000 people, with continued killings reported.
In his meeting with Suharto, however, Bush, like Reagan and previous high-ranking U.S. officials, offered nothing but praise for the dictator, assuring him that “our relations with Indonesia are most significant and that we derived great satisfaction from our relations with Jakarta.”  As with Suharto’s 1982 visit to the U.S., there was no mention of human rights, and discussion focused largely on U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and China.

Suharto and Corruption
Memo from David Gunning from Peter Flanning, Weyerhauser Company – Indonesia Problems, December 5, 1972
Source: Nixon White House Central Files, Subject File, Country File Indonesia, Box 37
U.S. officials were aware from the start of the deeply entrenched corruption of the Suharto regime.  This memorandum outlines the sort of protection rackets the Suharto regime offered to foreign investors as the cost of doing business in Indonesia.  It details an arrangement that the Weyerhaeuser Company (one of the world’s largest timber companies) made with the Army for a timber concession in Borneo, offering the Army “a 35% interest in the concession at no cost in order to insure government cooperation.”   Weyerhaeuser officials express concern that “this arrangement has not provided the protection which was expected” and that “disconnected actions by disparate army officers and civil servants” in addition to the Army’s rake-off are threatening the company’s profitable operations.
This lengthy telegram describes the mounting concern with corruption voiced by the Intergovernmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI), a donor consortium established in 1967 to coordinate foreign aid to Indonesia. It describes “increased, though fragmentary information of widespread and growing corruption” and “the consensus of all informed observers that scale is large and growing, that it involves highest echelons in government, and that this in turn is causing it to spread and deepen in all branches of social and economic life.”
Memo from Carleton Brower to the Ambassador, What Happened While You Were Away, August 10, 1973
Source: Lot File 76D446, Box 12, National Archives
These two memos describe Suharto’s personal intervention in a timber concession in Kalimantan being sought after by the International Paper Company. The head of IPC stated that “the matter was of the most extreme sensitivity; that Suharto would brook no interference.” The second memo describes how, after complex notions involving IPC and the Indonesian government, “Suharto and his people were talking over the entire concession for their own profit.”
In unusually blunt language, the memo describes Suharto’s purported plan: “three dummy corporations, one headed by his half-brother, one by his son, and one by the notorious Bob Hasan group, will reportedly exploit the concession. The memos seem to show that Suharto and his colleagues in this enterprise are totally uninterested in proper timber management or development of a wood processing industry and are intending only to rape the concession for maximum short term profit.” [Note: The memos summarized by these documents were not included in the lot file box at the U.S. National Archives.]

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s West Papua Headache Continues

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s West Papua Headache Continues: Indonesia’s West Papua Headache Continues In West Papua, old issues continue to simmer, perhaps threateningly so unless Widodo can ne...

Indonesia’s West Papua Headache Continues

Indonesia’s West Papua Headache Continues

In West Papua, old issues continue to simmer, perhaps threateningly so unless Widodo can negotiate deftly with people who have little in common with Indonesia’s central authorities and those who run the conflict-prone country.

The latest escalation in tensions between locals and Widodo’s administration erupted last week when it was revealed that a secret petition had been passed around, gathering 1.8 million signatures, demanding a free vote on independence for West Papua.

The demands were presented to the United Nations in New York by exiled pro-independence leader Benny Wenda. But the bid was rejected, with doubts cast over the veracity of the petition by Jakarta.

In fact, The Jakarta Post reported that the chairman of Special Committee on Decolonization, Venezuela’s Rafael Ramirez expressed “indignation with those individuals and parties who had manipulated his name for their own purposes.”

“I have never received anything or anybody regarding the issue of West Papua,” he apparently said in a doorstop interview at UN headquarters.

The United Nations, and the international community more generally, may not want to upset the Indonesian government. But the 1.8 million signatures figure, if correct, represents around a whopping 70 percent of the West Papuan population. Separatist agitation also has a long history there, amid sporadic crackdowns by the military that have obviously not worked.

And the petition did in fact exist. It asked the UN to appoint a special representative to investigate human rights abuses in the province and to put West Papua back on the decolonization committee agenda and ensure their right to self-determination.

It was that committee which refused to accept the petition.

“In the West Papuan people’s petition we hand over the bones of the people of West Papua to the United Nations and the world,” Wenda said, adding the petition was banned in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, and blocked online.

“After decades of suffering, decades of genocide, decades of occupation, we open up the voice of the West Papuan people which lives inside this petition. My people want to be free.”

Indonesia can ill-afford another conflict, having dealt with similar issues with respect to East Timor and Aceh that threatened the country’s political and social stability.

West Papua was lumped within Indonesia’s sovereign borders through a forced and controversial annexation by Indonesia that has been well-documented. Since then many reports have documented how indigenous people have been subjected to harassment, ranging from beatings to murder.

Peter Arndt of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission compiled one report accusing the Indonesian government of staging violent incursions into the region and systematically expelling Papuans from their homes in what amounted to a “slow-motion genocide.”

According to the report, the indigenous people of West Papua now account for just 40 percent of the population, compared with more than 95 percent three decades ago.

Released a year ago, the report also found that the situation in West Papua was “fast approaching a tipping point.”

“In less than five years, the position of Papuans in their own land will be worse than precarious,” it said.

“They are already experiencing a demographic tidal wave. Ruthless Indonesian political, economic, social and cultural domination threatens to engulf the proud people who have inhabited the land they call Tanah Papua for thousands of years.”

Doubts surrounding the recent petition might be real. But the fact is there are fewer doubts surrounding human rights abuses committed by the military and the hostility felt among locals on West Papua.

This is a highly combustible mix. And it comes at a potentially troubling time for Widodo ahead of presidential elections in 2019. So far, although he has visited the area several times and focused his efforts on economic issues, resolving the harder political questions has proven elusive. Navigating them will demand a skillful and more sensitive approach, which is a far cry from the clumsy, violent and authoritarian hand of the military we have witnessed previously.

Luke Hunt ‘The Diplomat’