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Issue #1683      May 6, 2015

The Bali 9 Duo and the Indonesian military in SE Asia

The Information Officer of the Australia East Timor Association (AETFA), SA, Andrew Alcock, has issued the following statement on the deaths of the Bali 9 Duo, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and the nature of the regime that has been ruling Indonesia since 1965:

All people who believe in human rights, compassion and fairness are rightly appalled at the execution of the Bali 9 Duo, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Suharto with US Secretary of Defense William Cohen, January 14, 1998.

It is totally understandable that there is a great outpouring of grief due to the deaths of these two young men who had regretted their involvement in the drug trade and were spending their lives to help others.

The Indonesian government must be condemned for the way these executions occurred and its treatment of the Chan and Sukumaran families and the Australian government.

However, why should anybody who has followed the history of Indonesia over the past 50 years be surprised about the behaviour of this government and its military, the Tentera Nasional Indonesia (TNI)?

It could well be asked why Indonesia had not faced international political sanctions long before now.

In 1965, the CIA assisted the TNI to overthrow the democratically elected government of former president Sukarno and install the dictator, General Mohamed Suharto. In the early 1960s, the US, under former president John Kennedy, interfered with the decolonisation process being organised by the Dutch government of the day to give independence to the people of West Papua.

The US was interested in the gold, copper and other minerals in this country and this was the reason why it used its political leverage to ensure that West Papua became part of Indonesia, even though its people are Melanesians and not Asians. Just as it had done in the case of Israel’s take over of Palestinian land by force, the UN shamefully endorsed the outcome of the Act of Free Choice in West Papua of 1969 which was carried out with little effective supervision by the UN and which occurred with much TNI brutality.

The US Freeport McMoRan corporation controls the largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine in the world at Grasberg in West Papua, from which it has made huge profits over the years. The tax from the minerals taken from the mines is one of the largest inputs into the Indonesian economy.

Suharto was the dictator of Indonesia from 1965 until 1998. During those 33 years, the TNI committed genocide and sickening human rights abuses in Indonesia, West Papua, East Timor (now Timor-Leste) and Acheh. Indonesian human rights observers say that the TNI murdered three million after the 1965 coup, which is a much higher estimate than Amnesty International’s estimate of between half a million to a million.

It has also been particularly repressive against some ethnic groups in the Indonesian archipelago because they want to be free of the TNI brutality eg the people of the Malaku Province (the Moluccan Islands). The TNI is responsible for the deaths of about 400,000 West Papuans since its occupation of that country in 1962; the wiping out of a quarter to a third of the population of East Timor during its 24-year illegal occupation of that country and tens of thousands of Achehnese.

In West Papua, hardly a week goes by without reports of murders, rapes, torture and other human rights abuses being committed in West Papua. The Freeport McMoRan corporation employs the TNI to conduct security at the Grasberg mines and this has been used as an excuse by TNI officers to conduct terrorism against the local people.

However, the mainstream media and western governments that so often preach to others about democracy, the rule of law and human rights, studiously ignore what is happening there.

So while the current Australian government is rightly angry about the arrogant and callous attitude about this state murder by the Joko Widodo government, there are many more important reasons why action should have been taken by Australia and the international community against this extremely brutal government and its military before now. The TNI is described by some as the largest terrorist force in our region because of its murderous behaviour since 1965. In addition, it is also very corrupt as is Indonesia’s legal system. After all, the judges in the case of the Bali 9 Duo wanted bribes not to decide on the death sentence.

The criminal actions of Indonesian governments for a period of over 50 years should have meant that it was accorded international pariah status a long time ago.

Australian leaders only have to look at their own track record in its relations with Indonesia. Since 1965 they have either endorsed or been apologists for some of Indonesia’s unacceptable behaviour including the murder of the Balibo 5, the five Australian-based media workers, who were savagely murdered by the TNI in 1975 during an incursion into East Timor before the full-scale invasion. These men committed no crime. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Australian leaders and security covered up this crime – just as they did about the massacres that occurred in East Timor throughout the TNI occupation. In 2007, a NSW coronial inquiry into the deaths found that the TNI had a case to answer and that there should be an investigation by the Australian Federal Police ( AFP). After very little effective investigation by the AFP, the investigation was called off in 2014. Reasons for this include lack of Indonesian cooperation and Australian government machinations.

In addition, from time to time, a number of TNI officers known to be involved in war crimes have been guests of government agencies.

Such craven appeasement over the past decades invites the arrogant responses we have seen from Indonesian leaders just recently. Like the Israeli leaders, they know that they will be protected by the US no matter what outrageous actions they perform. They know that the US considers Indonesia to be a US client state and they know that Australia almost always toe the line in relation to US policies.

When Geoffrey Robertson QC, the renowned Australian international human rights lawyer commented on the executions of Chan, Sukumaran and their fellow victims, he stated emphatically that a diplomatic response by itself will not achieve very much and that tough political action is required.

The tame response of the Abbott government to withdraw the Australian ambassador to Indonesia is extremely weak and will achieve little. In a few months’ time, the executions will have been forgotten and the Indonesian government and the TNI will just continue their brutal methods.

We must not forget that no senior TNI officer has been brought to justice for the mass murders, barbaric human rights abuses, the repression or mayhem the Indonesian military has committed in the past 50 or so years. This is not a government that values democracy, human rights, social justice or the rule of law or doing anything effective to combat its notorious corruption or that of its military.

It seems to AETFA SA that more appropriate actions against this rogue regime would be to introduce a cessation of all military and police aid to Indonesia until it withdraws from West Papua, ceases its brutality in the region and takes actions against the war criminals and human rights abusers in the TNI. In addition, it could encourage other nations through the UN to organise international boycotts similar to the one that was instituted against the apartheid regime in South Africa and to establish an international tribunal to try the alleged war criminals in the TNI.

Because of its compliance to US, Indonesian and Israeli policies and practices, Australia is seen internationally as a nation that is not committed to international social justice, democracy, the rule of law and human rights. For many Australians who believe in a fair go, this causes great shame. We need to be doing much more to work for peace, justice and human development in our region.

This situation could be changed if our leaders devoted themselves to making Australia an independent and non-aligned nation that was firmly committed to the principles referred to above.

Next article – Victory Day 70th Anniversary – The heroic defeat of fascism

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