EU Arms Embargo to Indonesia Lifted Despite Worsening Situation in the Archipelago

17 Noviembre 2005

EU Arms Embargo to Indonesia Lifted Despite Worsening Situation in the Archipelago
Brussels, 17 January 2000

The following are three articles on the EU arms embargo to Indonesia. The first article is a declaration on the lifting of the arms embargo by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union, the second and third are from two UK newspapers, The Guardian and The Independent. They contain critical statements about the defense offered by the EU to the decision to resume arms sales to Indonesia. Sales have been resumed since January 17th 2000, when the EU wide embargo was lifted. This happened despite an international campaign and a plea by Jose Ramos-Horta to retain the ban (see ASEM Watch 46).

Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the situation in Indonesia

The EU has noted the historic changes of the last few months in Indonesia. It supports the efforts of the new democratically elected Indonesian Government and welcomes the steps taken by President Wahid to strengthen the country's democracy, to reform the military and judicial systems, to restore the vitality of its economy and to solve its internal conflicts through dialogue rather than force.

The EU therefore believes that the restrictive measures taken against the previous Indonesian Government in September 1999, and which expired today, need not be renewed but notes that the EU policy regarding arms exports will be governed by strict implementation of the EU Code of Conduct. In this context the EU will continue to follow closely events in Indonesia.

The European Union is deeply concerned at the appalling violence in the Moluccas, the tensions in Irian Jaya and the persisting conflict in Aceh. The EU underlines the need to ensure accountability for past human rights abuses, particularly in East Timor, and the need to meet international concern about the fate of the tens of thousands of refugees who remain in West Timor.

On the eve of President Wahid's visit to Europe, the European Union reaffirms its support for a strong, united and democratic Indonesia and offers its help to the new Indonesian government in overcoming these challenges in order to strengthen the ties, which bind together the European Union and a democratic Indonesia.

The Central and Eastern European countries associated with the European Union, the associated countries Cyprus and Malta and the EFTA countries, Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this declaration.

The Guardian, 20 January 2000

John Aglionby, Jakarta - The foreign office minister John Battle yesterday defended the resumption of British arms sales to Indonesia in spite of the rapidly escalating social unrest, a divided military and warnings from other countries.

He urged the world to dispel its long-held view of Indonesia as an unstable, military-controlled state and to welcome the emerging democracy into the international fold. Mr Battle said after two days of talks with Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid and government officials in Jakarta that it was time to get rid of outdated and antiquated views on Indonesia. "It is not commonly understood internationally that there is a new president elected, that there are new ministers, that there's a program of reform, and my view is that the government needs to be underpinned in that program of reform," he said.

In such circumstances, and in the light of Indonesia's withdrawal from East Timor, he said, there was no reason to reimpose the European Union arms embargo against Jakarta.

"The situation in East Timor has changed massively," he said, referring to circumstances four months ago, when the embargo was imposed. "The TNI [Indonesian military] are not in East Timor, thankfully, and the situation is different. What we're talking about now is a new government that has to cope with the legacy of what went on there."

However, he stressed that there would be "no free flow through of arms and no questions asked tomorrow", because both the EU and Britain had strict codes of conduct regarding arms exports to Indonesia. "The international community is not going to go away," he said. "It's going to watch the situation and see how the government handles it. It's going to be a case by case basis."

Britain is one of the biggest arms suppliers to Indonesia. In 1998 Britain exported arms worth 73 million Pounds to Indonesia. In order not to lose future business, British diplomats and arms dealers have regularly courted Indonesian dealers and generals during the embargo period when all links were supposed to have been broken.

The Dutch foreign minister, Jozias van Aartsen, who is also in Jakarta, said that when he reports on Indonesia to the EU council of foreign ministers next Monday, "without any doubt there will be a very positive outlook". Neither referred to the current state of the military, which, after decades as the country's most powerful political force, is now deeply divided over its future role. There is speculation that some generals, particularly those threatened with prosecution over their involvement in East Timor, are plotting a coup.

It is widely accepted that barely half of the armed forces support President Abdurrahman and his reform programme. Mr Battle met only one general in Jakarta, the mines and energy minister, Bambang Yudoyhono, who no longer has hands-on control of any troops. Mr Van Aartsen sidestepped questions about whether he trusted the military to respect the civilian government's reform program.

However, with more than a quarter of the country affected by social unrest that the military appears unable to control, Washington is still worried about the situation and refuses to lift its arms embargo until the generals are brought completely to heel. Many other western diplomatic missions in Jakarta share their concern.

One diplomat said it was "pretty irresponsible" of Mr Battle and Mr Van Aartsen to make judgments without consulting the military high command or considering many other factors. "The place is in a mess and what is more frightening is that we don't know how bad a mess it is," he said. "The military is even more splintered than it was a year ago, access to this cabinet is worse than to the last cabinet and ministers are running scared and keeping their heads down because they don't know what the president is going to say next."

The Independent, 20 January 2000

Richard Lloyd Parry, Jakarta - The European Union is endangering Indonesia's fragile democracy by resuming the export of weapons at a time of intense unrest and growing fears of a military coup, an Indonesian cabinet minister told The Independent in an interview yesterday.

Although peace has returned to East Timor, violent conflicts are erupting all over Indonesia, many of them apparently provoked by the Indonesian military in an attempt to undermine President Abdurrahman Wahid's democratically elected government.

Yesterday, the EU lifted its ban on arms sales to Indonesia four months after it was imposed during the chaotic violence, which followed the referendum on independence in East Timor.

A member of President Wahid's cabinet, Indonesia's first democratically elected government in 40 years, said that it was "two-faced" of European countries to speak of promoting reform in Indonesia, while simultaneously selling arms to the country's divided and mutinous military. "It points to the ambiguity of Western countries who want to pave the way to democratic development but also want to make money from selling arms," said Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, Indonesia's maritime minister.

"You always have this inconsistency. It's like giving cigarettes to a teenager, when you know they do harm, and excusing it because it will make him feel good."

In the last few days, there have been church burnings on the holiday island of Lombok and riots in the city of Medan, as well as ongoing conflicts in the Spice Islands and the rebellious province of Aceh.

"We all have a sense that elements of the army are trying to effect a creeping coup d'etat," Mr. Sarwono said. "They are subverting the work of the government by perpetuating a controlled and limited state of unrest."

Last weekend the United States gave a blunt warning to the Indonesian generals to abandon their plans to overthrow the government. "A huge struggle is continuing on all fronts between the forces of progress, the future-oriented democratic forces of President Wahid and the Indonesian military... who are thwarting the process," the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, said.

If the feared coup does take place, it will happen stealthily, against the background of an exhausted president, broken by months of unrest, a public worn out by promises that are never kept, and a general who mysteriously restores order within a matter of weeks. But the result will probably be the same - a crackdown on political opponents and newspapers, the delay of elections, and officers promoted to civilian posts.

On the face of it, the argument by the big, arms-exporting European nations, led by France and Britain, sounds reasonable enough. Since the arms ban was imposed, they argue, Indonesia has changed.

Back then, in September, Jakarta was close to becoming an international pariah. The Indonesian army and its militias embarked on a campaign of violence in an attempt to frustrate East Timor's vote for independence. In Jakarta, President Habibie was incapable of stopping them. In an effort to force Indonesia into agreeing to an international peace keeping force, the EU, along with the US, cut off its arms exports.

The pressure worked. The military pulled out of East Timor, the peacekeepers went in and peace was restored. A month later Mr. Wahid, a moderate Muslim cleric, defeated Mr Habibie in the country's first truly democratic presidential election.

"We want to develop relations with President Wahid's government that address human rights and promote trade and commerce," said the Foreign Office minister John Battle, who is visiting Jakarta. According to him this is the reason for the reopening of the arms trade.

But Indonesia is far from being a democratic paradise. During 32 years of dictatorship under the former President Suharto, the army became the country's most powerful institution, a position it still holds despite the democratic reforms of the past two years.

Mahathir's legitimacy in doubt amidst victory
Charles Santiago

Prime Minster Dr. Mahathir Mohamed's 14-member National Front coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN) managed to form the government but suffered a sharp erosion of support among the country's ethnic Malay majority. This loss in Malay support for Dr Mahathir and United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the dominant partner of the Front, is striking. This is because opposition to the Mahathir leadership and UMNO emanates from the very community that has benefited immensely from the government's affirmative action policies and makes up the key constituency of the party.

The results of the general elections raise critical questions for UMNO and Dr Mahathir in particular. Clearly, the results have undermined the leadership of Dr Mahathir as party leader and have profound implications for party ideology and legitimacy. Most importantly, the Islamic party, known as PAS, a member of the four party opposition Alternative Front, emerged as a credible alternative and party of choice of the Malays. The Islamic parties' unprecedented stealth performance in the Malay heartland and in other states clearly demonstrates this phenomenon.

The UMNO lost 22 parliamentary seats, numerous state seats and the oil rich state government of Trengganu to the Islamic party, PAS. The Islamic party managed to retain the neighboring state of Kelantan, which it captured in 1990. UMNO's loss would have been worse if not for the crucial non-Malay support in ethnically mixed and largely urban seats. In fact the BN's victory was largely due to swing votes of non-Malays, especially the Chinese.

An analysis of the voting pattern indicates that the incumbent National Front coalition recorded a fall in the percentage of popular vote across the board in most states. Analysis of the votes cast for parliamentary seats indicate that the Front's popular vote fell by 9 % from 65% in 1995 to 56% in 1999.

In fact UMNO managed to capture only about 48.6% of the popular vote in 60 parliamentary constituencies where the Malay community constituted about 2/3 of the voters, clearly demonstrating Malay backlash against Mahathir and UMNO.

Clearly, these trends indicate that support for UMNO is waning amongst the Malays. More importantly, the election results demonstrate the loss in popular support for Dr Mahathir as the leader of UMNO, the party of the Malays. Furthermore the election results eloquently raise another important point: the continued relevance of UMNO as the legitimate champions and protectors of Malay rights and interests.

Underlying the anti-UMNO, and specifically anti- Mahathir sentiment among the Malay's is a rejection of Mahathir's 'business as usual' approach to resolving the countries political crisis in the aftermath of Malay political unrest following the arrest, assault and court trials of then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim - clearly the darkest moment in Malaysian political history.

Essentially, the Malay protest message is that it will no longer tolerate UMNO's 'business as usual' and lackadaisical approach to resolving the political crisis emanating from the Anwar episode. These protest votes had another purpose - to call for an immediate dismantling of various elements of the elaborate political and economic infrastructure built to support the wealth accumulation efforts of the elite in the country, specifically in UMNO. Thus in rejecting the UMNO as the party of their choice, the Malays voted in favor of fundamental reforms in the way the countries politics and economy is organized. These reforms include - the practice of good governance, the dismantling of authoritarian rule, an end to corruption, independence of the judiciary and an equitable distribution of wealth etc.

Latest Arrest of Eleven Spiralling towards Totalitarianism
Suaram Press Statement, 25 January 2000

Suaram strongly protests the arrest of 11 people, including 2 women, this morning during a peaceful gathering. These 11 people were among the hundreds of people who had gathered to lend support to Reformasi leaders on trial this morning. They were waiting for the leaders to finish meeting with their lawyers at the Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre when police moved in and arrested people.

Malaysians, like everyone else in the world have the basic right to peaceful assembly. However this right has been interpreted by the Barisan National government to only allow gatherings by their missions and gatherings to show support for the BN leaders. We are spiralling up the ladder of authoritarianism so rapidly that one day, Malaysians may wake up to a totalitarian state.

The behavior of our " Mesra" or "friendly" police is nothing short of offensive, unruly and brutal. One of the detainees was pushed so hard that the bus-stop pole outside the Legal Aid Centre came off from the cemented ground. When witnesses protested the actions, they were threatened in turn. The arresting officers were not in uniform, making it difficult for witnesses to identify these thugs. SUARAM fears for safety and well being of the 11 detainees as they may be subjected to continue offensive actions of the police.

SUARAM calls for the immediate release of the arrested. Furthermore, the Home Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi must take full responsibility for the callous actions of his police force, and issue an immediate apology to the 11 people, if he is at all respectful about human decency and human rights

Released by
Elizabeth Wong

Eleven People Have Been Arrested
Suaram Urgent Alert, 25 January 2000

At around 10.30am., the police moved and arrested 11 members believed to be from parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN). Our people at the scene say that the ELEVEN were brutally arrested by the police and was dragged away.

The eleven arrested so far has been identified as :

  1. Sabran Mohd Hamzah
  2. Gopalakrishnan
  3. S.Pushpa
  4. Nelson Nyanggai
  5. Yap Weng Keong
  6. Abdul Malek Hussain
  7. Mohd. Tahriq Ali
  8. Mohd Rizal Nasarin
  9. Nor Azinah Mohd Noh (w)
  10. Khaliah Sheikh Mohd. (w)
  11. Aslibullah

The eleven- most of them Parti Keadilan Members- are now taken to the Jalan Stadium Police station. Leaders are also moving to the stadium to negotiate their release. Please make statements, send lawyers etc. to seek their release.

Meanwhile the trial of Hishamuddin and five others at the Majistret court has been postponed to tomorrow. We expect more arrest to take place as the police continue to disrupt peaceful gathering.

For more information:

ASEM Watch Statement of Intent

TNI believes that ASEM (Asia Europe Meeting) provides both a challenge and opportunity for direct engagement with the substantive issues of Asia Europe relations. To date the ASEM process has focused mainly on the area of economic co-operation, giving little attention to political and security dimensions. TNI together with partners in Asia undertakes both research and analysis on the wide range of strategic questions emerging from the ASEM process.

In this context, TNI has developed ASEM Watch to:

  1. Disseminate information and analysis from a variety of sources on the emerging policy issues in ASEM and respond to an expressed need in the NGO-PO community for a more accountable and transparent process.
  2. Accelerate the re-thinking of the major changes that are shaping a different and new Europe and Asia, and to develop a more strategic response to ASEM on a people-to-people basis.
  3. Facilitate the development of an NGO-PO network in Europe and in Asia, which will engage with the key concerns that go beyond the geo- economic and geo-political agenda of the official ASEM.