Rice Underlines Need for Indonesian Military Reform

Rice Underlines Need for Indonesian Military Reform

condoleezza_rice.jpgSINGAPORE ~ US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice underlined on Thursday the need for reform of Indonesia’s military after a report blamed the country for gross human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999.

Rice said Washington would continue military-to-military contacts despite Indonesia’s recent acceptance of a report saying it was responsible for abuses amounting to crimes against humanity during East Timor’s independence vote.

She also said she was “content” with Indonesia’s response to the report, even though Jakarta has rejected calls for criminal prosecutions and no Indonesian general has ever been punished for their role in the violence.

“The recommendations of the commission I am sure will be implemented and both governments will find a means to make certain that justice is done,” she told reporters on the sidelines of a regional security forum here.

She was referring to the release of a long-awaited truth and friendship commission report earlier this month which said the Indonesian military was responsible for violence that killed some 1,400 people in East Timor in 1999.

The report, which named no perpetrators and made no recommendation for prosecutions, was jointly written by East Timorese and Indonesian officials and was immediately accepted by the governments of both countries.

It was the first time Indonesia has accepted responsibility for the 1999 violence in its former province, which it annexed in 1975. East Timor finally gained formal independence in 2002.

But both sides were quick to dismiss calls for an independent tribunal to try the perpetrators, saying it was time to move on for the sake of bilateral relations and regional stability.

Rice said she believed the US-Indonesian military-to-military contacts, which were suspended after the violence and resumed more than three years ago, were useful to promote reform of the Indonesian armed forces.

“This is a good, democratic government that has a strong record of wanting to work and be responsive on human rights issues,” she said of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration.

“We’ve known for a long time there are concerns about reform in the military, need for reform in the military. The United States has been active in helping and encouraging that agenda with Indonesia.

“We’re going to continue to work closely with the Indonesian government. We will help in any way that we can.”

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