Lilian Budianto — The number of Indonesian generals banned by the United States due to implication in human rights violations has decreased since the revocation of the US arms embargo in 2005, says an envoy.
“Our military-to-military cooperation is greatly improved and we are convinced that the number [of banned generals] has gone down,” Indonesia’s deputy chief of mission for the United States Salman Al Farisi told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Farisi declined to mention the number of banned generals and how many had been restored, saying that “Jakarta has been negotiating the issue with the United States at many forums and they have responded well.”
The United States imposed an arms embargo on Indonesia in the 1990s over poor human rights records in the volatile provinces of Papua, Aceh and the then East Timor.
The embargo was waived in 2005, but a number of “notorious” generals implicated in rights violations were still banned from traveling to the United States.
The ban sparked protests by lawmakers when the then secretary-general of the Defense Ministry Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, whom civil groups accuse of human rights abuses during the 1998 Jakarta riots as well as in East Timor, failed to get a visa to the United States for the G20 trip with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last year.
Maj. Gen. Pramono Edi Wibowo, commander of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), elements of which were involved in the kidnapping of activists, also failed to obtain a visa on the same trip, but Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Djoko Santoso denied the banning of Pramono.
Farisi said Indonesia had a strong political currency, with the rise of its democratic profile, and would use it to “buy things from the United States”.
Indonesia and the United States will launch a comprehensive partnership that covers a wide range of cooperation, including military, during a visit by US President Barack Obama and family to Jakarta in the third week of March.
When asked whether the negotiations on the comprehensive partnership included the revocation of the ban on the Indonesian generals, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said: “Let’s wait and see once [the agreement draft] has been finalized and launched.”
Source: the Jakarta Post