Published on Webdiary - Founded and Inspired by Margo Kingston (/cms)

Aiding the Javanese Empire

By Ian MacDougall
Created 31/05/2007 - 15:25

At Margo's suggestion, this contribution to Richard's Aid for Who? [0] piece is worth a separate debate / conversation ...

by Ian MacDougall

In AusAID’s latest annual report (05-06) [pdf [1] or HTML [2]] under ”Tsunami Financial Assistance and Australia-Indonesia Partnership Bill 2004-2005 – adjustment determined by the Finance Minister” (p.207) we read that total assistance given Indonesia by the Australian taxpayer was $1,000,830,000. This figure does not include voluntary donations given the victims by Australian donors to charities.

On p. 18 of the same report we read that AusAID ”is structured to meet two outcomes.” These are:

Outcome 1: Australia’s national interest advanced by assistance to developing countries to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development.

Outcome 2: Australia’s national interest advanced by implementing a partnership between Australia and Indonesia for reconstruction and development.

In other words, Indonesia is a full half of the policy objectives of the whole Australian overseas aid program, and a major financial recipient. Australian development, reconstruction and above all, military aid has been all about trying to buy the friendship of Indonesia, particularly of its ruling elite, and especially of that section of that ruling elite made up by Indonesia’s military caste.

The major contradiction in all this, of which the present NSW coronial inquiry into the Balibo events is merely the latest expression, is that the actions of the Indonesian military since 1965 have been an ongoing outrage to the sensibilities of the civilised (never mind just Australian) world. The massacre of about 1 million Indonesians in the course of the events following the dubious Untung coup attempt of 1965; the long drawn out genocide in East Timor following the invasion of 1975, of which the Balibo events form just one tiny part, and which involved the deliberate killing of around a third of East Timor’s 650,000 people, can never be erased from world memory. They will remain forever, just like Hitler’s Holocaust.

Australian drug mules remain imprisoned in Indonesia, some facing execution, while war criminals drenched in blood ride freely through the streets outside. Justice has neither been done there, nor seen to be done there.

All governments in Indonesia since Suharto’s have avoided punishing anyone responsible for any of the huge number of outrages and war crimes committed by the Indonesian military since 1965. In this act of omission they have been tacitly supported by successive Australian governments of both persuasions, which have bent over backwards to curry favour with Indonesia, apologised for and excused its military, and have fooled nobody but themselves in the process.

At the same time, we Australian taxpayers have supplied Indonesia with generous military aid, including training of their murderous Kopassus units. We have massively boosted the Indonesian air force by giving it all the Australian Air Force’s French-built Mirage fighters when they became surplus to requirements. Etc.

Yet despite all that, buying Indonesia’s friendship has not worked, and the relationship remains fragile. It only takes a single court inquiry to provoke a major diplomatic row.

In yesterday’s Australian [3] we read that “retired Lieutenant-General Sutiyoso, who is the Governor of Jakarta, and was a member of the commando squad believed responsible for the deaths of the Australians is outraged at being requested to give evidence to the NSW coronial inquiry… The police were acting on a subpoena issued by the Glebe Coroners Court, which is investigating the death of Brian Peters, one of five Australian-based newsmen killed at Balibo in October 1975.”

This “prominent Indonesian politician who is tipped to become the country's next president” has “demanded an apology from Australia after police barged into his hotel room in Sydney.” The report adds:

I want a formal apology from the Australian government," said the Governor, who is in his second term as head of the city of 14 million people and who has deep-rooted political support in Indonesia.

"If not, is there any point continuing the relationship between the two countries?"

Allowing for the rhetorical flourish, one is none the less inclined to agree that he asks a valid question. If Indonesian friendship is so fragile and comes so expensive, he is probably right. One would think that, with all the aid and support that has been given over the years, Australians as taxpayers would be treated with a little less contempt by Indonesian officialdom. Never mind the legal concept of justice. A visiting Australian politician politely requested to give evidence under diplomatic immunity to an Indonesian court would comply without any fuss. If not, Downer would demand to know why.

We could save ourselves an awful lot of billions of dollars, and arguably put them to far better use, than investing them in this ‘relationship’.

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