Wednesday, February 26, 1997

Suharto won't help U.S. build Democracy in Burma

Andreas Harsono 
American Reporter

JAKARTA -- It was a bright and sunny day in Jakarta, but that didn't help cheer up American diplomats William Brown and Stanley Roth as they emerged from a critical meeting with President Suharto. 

Brown, the U.S. Special Envoy on Burma, was tight lipped about the talks, whose main agenda is to persuade Suharto to pressure Burma to liberalize. The country is a pariah state due to its military junta's notorious human rights record. 

"We've had a very interesting, fruitful and productive conversation with the president of Indonesia," Brown told reporters before slipping into an awaiting car on June 14, 1996. 

Both Brown and Roth, a security expert on Asia, were on a six-country tour to lobby the governments of Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to pressure the Burmese junta to hand over power to the democratically-elected National League of Democracy (NLD). 

An aide to Suharto, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, however, told journalists separately that Suharto had told his American visitors that Indonesia will maintain its policy of "constructive engagement" with Burma. 

"Our position is clear. ASEAN's position on Myanmar has not changed from what it calls the constructive approach to pull Myanmar out of isolation," Alatas added, indicating that the diplomats' approaches had fallen on deaf ears. 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is widely known that the Western world and ASEAN have been long been at odds about how to deal with the Burmese junta. 

The United States and European countries favor a tough stand against Burma, including political isolation and economic sanctions. But ASEAN, which strictly adheres to a policy of non-interference in neighbors' domestic affairs, has initiated a "constructive dialogue" with Burma, apparently believing that greater exposure to the outside world would help bring about change. 

The West does not accept such reasoning. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once even described SLORC -- the acronym for Burma's ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council -- as "an ugly acronym for an ugly government." 

Albright bluntly said that if things get uglier for NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whom she met in 1995, the U.S. may impose sanctions on Burma, a move that may worsen relations with ASEAN, which wants to extend membership to Rangoon in July. 

But Suharto is obviously confident that ASEAN need not bow to Western pressure on the issue. ASEAN is much stronger now than a decade ago during the Cold War period. He moved further and boldly went to Burma in a landmark visit last week. A red carpet, 21-gun salute, flag-waving children, lavish dinner and other first class treatment welcomed Suharto to Rangoon when he first visited in 1974. 

Indonesian state-owned TVRI network closely covered the visit, broadcasting the wide-ranging activities of the Indonesian delegation from their arrival at the Rangoon airport to Suharto's meeting with SLORC chairman Gen. Tan Shwe. 

Suharto openly told his Burmese hosts that he fully supports Burma's entry into ASEAN and repeated his longstanding assertion that Indonesia would not meddle the internal problem of other countries. He also led his delegation to witness the signing of a memorandum between Citra Lamtoro Gung, a business group controlled by his eldest daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings. 

Suharto apparently ignored Western objections to the visit. "It obviously baffled people like Brown," said an observer, describing that the U.S. government should assign more heavyweight diplomats who know ASEAN really well to renegotiate the issue. 

Suharto also ignored a call made by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, who has repeatedly urged ASEAN not to invest in Burma and to refrain from constructive engagement with Rangoon until the SLORC's human rights record improves. 

As if expecting Western pressure, a commentary in the Burmese language press accused "greedy and power hungry" people in the opposition of trying to disrupt the Indonesian visit and thereby sabotage Burma's entry into ASEAN. 

 The opposition, said the commentary, wanted to keep Burma out of the mainstream and its people in poverty. But despite pressure from such people and from the Western world, ASEAN "stuck to its determination" to bring Burma into the regional grouping, the commentary said, adding that ASEAN countries understood Burma was striving for "disciplined democracy" and that "Burma will become a member of ASEAN very soon." 

ASEAN: Clash With U.S.? 

Political scientist Dewi Fortuna Anwar of the Jakarta-based National Institute of Science (LIPI) said that it is "a little bit pretentious for a U.S. envoy to influence someone who has been in power for more than 30 years." 

Suharto, the undisputed ruler of Indonesia, rose to power in 1965 following an abortive coup attempt blamed on communists. He then consolidated his power with the full support of the army and led Indonesia from bankruptcy toward becoming one of the successful emerging economies of the Asian Pacific. 

But political scientist George Junus Aditjondro said the reason behind the visit is not only politics but also business. Conglomerates run by the Suhartos, such as Citra Lamtoro Gung, are stepping into Burma to fill a vacuum left by Western companies driven away by threats of boycott. 

"With many companies pulling out of Burma, it will create less competition for the companies owned by the ruling elite," said Aditjondro, an Indonesian dissident now living in self-exile in Newcastle, Australia. 

Aditjondro listed more than a dozen companies operating in Burma that are controlled by the children and relatives of Suharto and their Burmese counterparts. Indonesia has made investments in Burma totaling 200 million dollars in cigarette manufacturing, trading and logging since the SLORC took power in 1988. 

An Indonesian company controlled by a relative of Suharto is now constructing the biggest cement factory in Rangoon. 

The Indonesian investment, however, is much smaller than those of France, Singapore, Japan, the United States and even Malaysia, which has built gambling casinos in Rangoon. Anwar said other ASEAN countries are more aggressive about penetrating the market in Burma as well as in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. 

Laos and Cambodia are also to join ASEAN in July. Both of them, however, agreed that the political agenda of the military rulers in Burma and Indonesia is highly similar. Both countries were declared independent after the World War II under the leadership of nationalist figures like Sukarno, Mohammad Hatta, Sutan Syahrir in Indonesia and Aung San and U Nu in Burma. 

According to Anwar, whose institute often helps shape government policy, both Indonesia and Burma tried to implement Western-style parliamentary democracy in their early days, and that ir resulted in instability and secessionist movements in the remote areas of their countries. 

Burmese army generals seized power in 1962 under Gen Ne Win, who opted for socialism to develop the country. Indonesian generals, though, chose the path of capitalism when they backed Gen. Suharto to develop Indonesia. The military failed in Burma but succeeded in Indonesia. 

Now the Burmese generals want to change their strategy and import the lessons learned by Indonesia. Anwar even predicted that Indonesia would be the "blueprint" for the SLORC to develop the economy of Burma and to gradually decrease the role of the military, just as the Indonesian generals do. 

"At the moment, compared to Indonesia, the Burmese military is much more involved in politics. They have no Dwifungsi to legitimize their involvement," said Anwar, referring to the Indonesian military doctrine which legitimizes the involvement of the military in politics and military affairs. 

She also said that the Indonesian generals initially did not want to seize power, "They could if they want in the 1950's. They did not do it until they had to do it, in 1965," she added, referring to the political turbulence here of 1952 and 1957. 

But the Indonesian military's involvement in politics is "legislative pretension," or at best, according to Anwar, is a "semi-constitutional arrangement" not based on the Indonesian constitution but on parliamentary resolutions. 

"The military here has never gunned down the protesting students," she said, explaining that the SLORC does not bother to engage in harsh treatment of their middle class opponents and intellectuals. 

She added that some Indonesian officers dislike the idea of comparing themselves to the Burmese generals. "They feel they are more civilized than the brutal Burmese officers," she said. 

Suharto, perhaps, did not bring the blueprint to Burma himself, but the visit itself was the blueprint. Suharto, as always, designed a perfect strategy that does not openly confront his opponents but also gains support from his opponent's enemy. 

Andreas Harsono is a freelance journalist based in Jakarta.

Saturday, February 22, 1997

Suharto's Burma Trip Could Spark Militarism, Warns Opposition Leader

By Andreas Harsono 
The Nation 

Jakarta -- An opposition figure has questioned the purpose of President Suharto visiting the military regime in Burma, speculating that the visit might revitalise fascism and militarism in the historically-troubled southeast Asian region. 

Indonesian politician Sri Bintang Pamungkas told The Nation yesterday that the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) in Rangoon had long imported military doctrines and techniques from Jakarta. '

'Suharto is now looking for friends to excuse the practice of fascism in Indonesia, to legitimise the practice of having only one single state ideology, one single party system and widespread intelligence services," Pamungkas said. 

The former legislator said that former fascist-communist countries in southeast Asia, which include Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, could easily adopt a renewed fascist-militaristic ideology. 

Suharto arrived in Rangoon yesterday from Vientiane on the last leg of a tour to Cambodia, Laos and Burma. 

The Indonesian president, who rose to power in 1965, visited Burma in 1974 during the rule of Burmese strongman Ne Win. 

According to Pamungkas, the Slorc generals had adopted the Indonesian doctrine of ''Dwifungsi Abri" which literally means the ''Armed Forces' Dual Function" and principally justifies the involvement of active officers in politics. 

An Indonesian envoy in Rangoon once said the Burmese government would like to imitate the Indonesian government in three key areas: the Indonesian state ideology Pancasila, the 1945 constitution and the Dwifungsi Abri. 

Rangoon has also learned from Jakarta sophisticated methods to suppress dissent as well as intelligence techniques to divide-and-rule the opposition in a bid to suppress Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. 

''Suharto's move is very dangerous. He could incite the rise of militarism here. He might build Asean [The Association of Southeast Asian Nations] into a fascist-military block," said Pamungkas, referring to the Vietnam War, the communism threat in Malaysia and southern Thailand, border conflicts between Indonesia and Malaysia in the 1960s, as well as the civilian war in Cambodia which concluded with the end of the Cold War. 

Indonesian officials said that during his visit Suharto would sign a memorandum of understanding between Citra Lamtoro Gung, a business group controlled by his eldest daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings. 

Indonesia has already begun cooperating with Burma in the cement and tobacco industries and trading. Indonesia's PT Semen Cibinong said last month that it would invest US$210 million (Bt5.25 billion) in building cement plants in Burma. 

Other observers said Suharto wants to give his support to Laos, Cambodia and Burma, which are expected to enter Asean in July. 

Asean's current members are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

A human rights campaigner said in a separate interview that Suharto's support for the military regime in Rangoon is supposed to be answered with broader Asean support of Indonesia's stance on East Timor. 

''It's parallel. Suharto wants to get wider support on East Timor. Burma wants to get Asean support as well as deal with international pressure," said Bonar Tigor Naipospos of the Jakarta-based Pijar rights organisation. 

Pijar is among a few Indonesian NGOs which openly supported and displayed Suu Kyi's picture during last year's pro-democracy street protests in Jakarta in support of Indonesian leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. The protests ended in street riots on July 27. 

Naipospos said Suharto needs Burma, especially after East Timorese Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo and resistance leader Jose Ramos-Horta received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize Award in December. 

''Suharto wants to stress his stance that other countries, especially Western ones, should not intervene in the internal affairs of countries like Burma or Indonesia," he said, adding that despite freer trade and globalisation, Suharto wants to stick to his own rule that politics should be separated from human rights and democratisation issues. 

Naipospos also said that the international community should realise now that Suharto had become the ''main guardian" of the Burmese generals. ''If they want to put pressure on Burma, they have to put on their agendas the name of Suharto as well," he added. 

The mouthpiece of the Burmese military regime, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, once dubbed the relationship between Indonesia and Burma, ''Two Nations with a Common Identity" as it reported a sharp increase in the exchange of official visits between the two governments. 

Indonesian officials including Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and Defence Minister Edi Sudrajat visited Rangoon in February 1994 and November 1995, respectively. 

In August 1994, businessman Hutomo Mandala Putra of the Humpuss business group and the youngest son of President Suharto also led a high-profile business delegation to Rangoon. 

Slorc leader Senior Gen Than Shwe also met Suharto in Jakarta in June 1995 and in November 1996 while his aide, Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, who heads the intelligence service, travelled more frequently to Jakarta. 

The Burmese embassy in Jakarta is the largest among Burma's in southeast Asia, demonstrating that Jakarta is crucial for Slorc. The Burmese ambassador, U Nyi Nyi Tant, a close associate of Khin Nyunt, is portrayed as the spearhead of his nation's lobbying efforts in Jakarta, which also hosts the Asean Secretariat.

Friday, February 14, 1997

Buku Peristiwa 27 Juli Dicekal di Jawa Tengah

JAKARTA, (SiaR, 14/2/97). Buku berjudul Peristiwa 27 Juli dilarang beredar di Jawa Tengah dan Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta oleh Bakorstansda (Badan Koordinasi Stabilitas Nasional di Daerah) Jawa Tengah.

Mayjen TNI Soebagyo Hs, ketua lembaga ekstra judicial yang juga Pangdam IV Diponegoro itu kepada Suara Merdeka, harian yang terbit di Semarang, mengatakan bahwa larangan edar di wilayah Kodam IV dilakukan setelah mempertimbangkan siapa penerbitnya. Soebagyo mengatakan Kodam akan merupaya mencegah peredaran buku itu bekerjasama dengan instansi pemerintah lainnya.

Buku Peristiwa 27 Juli diterbitkan oleh Institut Studi Arus Informasi (ISAI) dan Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI). Buku ini diluncurkan bersama dua buku terbitan ISAI lainnya, yakni Seandainya Saya Wartawan TEMPO dan Ilusi Sebuah Kekuasaan, pertengahan Januari lalu di Jakarta.

Dalam acara itu Dr. Arief Budiman, yang juga salah satu pendiri ISAI, menyampaikan orasi politiknya.

Dasar pencekalan itu menurut Soebagyo karena ISAI dan AJI merupakan lembaga terlarang, dengan demikian terbitannya juga terlarang.

Andreas Harsono, Sekretaris Umum ISAI membantah bahwa ISAI adalah lembaga terlarang dan tak diakui pemerintah. "ISAI terdaftar di Pengadilan Negeri dan Dinas Sosial setempat. ISAI juga memiliki Nomor Pokok Wajib Pajak di kantor pajak," katanya kepada BBC seksi Indonesia.

ISAI didirikan oleh sejumlah jurnalis dan intelektual tahun 1995, beberapa waktu setelah pembredelan tiga penerbitan nasional, TEMPO, Editor dan DeTIK. Sejumlah tokoh ternama seperti Goenawan Mohamad (pemred mendiang Majalah TEMPO), Aristides Katoppo (Direktur Pustaka Sinar Harapan), Mochtar Pabottingi (peneliti LIPI), Arief Budiman (sosiolog), Ashadi Siregar (dosen UGM) ikut mendirikan lembaga ini. ISAI kini dipimpin Goenawan Mohamad.

AJI, yang juga ikut menerbitkan buku ini, didirikan di Sirnagalih, Bogor oleh sejumlah wartawan dan akademisi segera setelah pembredelan TEMPO, Editor dan DeTIK. Organisasi profesi wartawan ini memang tidak dikehendaki oleh PWI (Persatuan Warta- wan Indonesia) yang sangat pro pemerintah.

Sejumlah wartawan yang ikut mendirikan AJI dipecat PWI. Sementara melalui Menteri Penerangan, Haji Harmoko, aktivis AJI yang aktif di media massa dipecat. AJI dipimpin oleh Ir. H.Satrio Arismunandar, wartawan Kompas yang kehilangan pekerjaannya karena mendirikan organisasi wartawan alternatif ini.

Walaupun kehadirannya tidak dikehendaki, namun hingga kini belum pernah ada keputusan pemerintah yang melarang AJI.

Bakorstanasda Jateng beberapa waktu lalu menyita dua buah buku Peristiwa 27 Juli dari Toko Buku Gramedia Semarang. Sebelumnya, buku setebal 257 halaman dan dijual seharga Rp 15.000,- ini laris terjual.

Buku bersampul warna jingga ini berkisah tentang peristiwa-peristiwa seputar penyerbuan Kantor DPP PDI oleh segerombolan oknum militer, termasuk perjuangan Ketua Umum DPP PDI, Megawati di sidang pengadilan melawan pemerintah Soeharto.

Buku ini juga menulis tentang bagaimana tuduhan ABRI dan Pemerintah Soeharto bahwa Partai Rakyat Demokratik (PRD) sebagai dalang Kerusuhan 27 Juli hanya merupakan fitnah belaka. Pada bagian terakhir dimuat hasil polling yang menggambarkan ketidakpercayaan masyarakat terhadap keterangan pemerintah dan ABRI seputar Peristiwa 27 Juli.

Monday, February 10, 1997

Mixed Initial Reaction to US Report on Indonesia

The Nation

JAKARTA, 10 February 1997 -- Indonesians have given varied responses to a critical report published by the US State Department citing corruption, serious human rights abuses and excessive use of force in the country's crackdown on dissidents.

Some Muslim activists attacked the report, saying that the US government was hypocritical and should not intervene in Indonesia's internal affairs. "The report clearly indicates the tendency in America to meddle in Indonesia's domestic affairs," one activist said.

More sober intellectuals, however, said that Indonesian officials do not need to overreact to the report, saying the government should admit the allegations are true and solve them.

The report was published on Jan 30 and is usually used as a standard reference among US executive and legislative bodies to draft its foreign policy. It said rising pressure for change in Indonesia has triggered tough government action that further infringed on fundamental rights.

"Legal protection against torture is inadequate and security forces continue to torture and mistreat detainees, particularly in Irian Jaya and East Timor," the report said.

"Despite a surface adherence to democratic reform, the Indonesian political system remains strongly authoritarian. There continues to be numerous credible reports of human rights abuses by the military and the police," it continued.

The State Department's annual survey of 194 countries and territories, however, also said that there were "encouraging signs along with substantial grounds for continuing concern".

It explained the primary mission of the 450,000-member Indonesian Armed Forces is the maintenance of internal unity and stability. Military spending is about 1.4 per cent of the gross national product, but the armed forces retained substantial non- military powers under a "dual function" concept that accords it a political and social role in developing the nation.

No progress was made in accounting for those still missing in the 1991 and 1995 crackdowns in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, the report said, where the number of troops used were "unjustifiably high".

Authorities also maintained their tight grip on the political process and denied "citizens the ability to change their government democratically".

Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said on Feb 5: "There are many aspects in the report not based on fact and which we believe have been exaggerated. We will give a response to the report."

Independent observers said the report was well researched, full of details, quite moderate and did not differ much from those by some Indonesian non-governmental rights organisations.