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The Indonesian-United States Relationship

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To mark the sixth anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, where Indonesian soldiers with U.S. equipment opened fire on a funeral procession, killing more than 250 East Timorese people, activists around the country will be protesting the close ties between Washington and Indonesian dictator Suharto. [includes rush transcript]

Although Indonesian interference in East Timor has been widely condemned and two East Timorese won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, the Clinton administration has only increased its ties with Jakarta. Indeed, President Clinton will be meeting with Indonesian dictator Suharto next week, and Defense Secretary William Cohen heads to Jakarta this week. These meetings come on the heels of a recently announced $30 billion IMF bailout of Indonesia — a bailout which has been strongly backed by Washington.


  • Barney Frank, a congressman from Massachusetts who recently condemned Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin’s support of a $30 billion bailout of Indonesia this past month.
  • Matthew Jardine, of the Los Angeles chapter of ETAN and the author of two books on East Timor, including East Timor’s Unfinished Struggle: Inside the Timorese Resistance with Constancio Pinto, published by South End Press, and East Timor: Genocide in Paradise, published by Odonian Press.

Call the U.S. embassy in Jakarta (011-62213442211) and let them know Americans are aware of the kidnappings and arrests.

You can contact the East Timor Action Network at 914-428-7299 for more information.

Related links:


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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As we’ve been playing this documentary, we have gotten word that an American in East Timor has been arrested. We are double-checking this, and we’re going to give you information at the end of the show, as well as numbers to call. But right now we turn to Massachusetts Congress Member Barney Frank, who we speak to on this sixth anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, where Indonesian military, armed with U.S. M16s, gunned down more than 250 Timorese.

Barney Frank, you have written a letter, along with a number of other Congress members, protesting the United States extending a $3 billion line of credit to back up a $30 billion IMF and World Bank loan package to Indonesia. Tell us more about it.

REP. BARNEY FRANK: I signed a letter, along with several of my colleagues, complaining very strenuously about the administration’s support of a bailout for Indonesia with no conditions dealing with the environment, with human rights or with labor rights. In fact, frankly, it was an example of why so many of us voted against Fast Track, even though, in principle, we like the notion of globalization. And it’s because this administration has followed previous administrations in refusing to take seriously concerns about equity, about fairness, and about human rights and the environment.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk a little more about human rights in Indonesia and occupied Timor?

REP. BARNEY FRANK: Yes, the Indonesians are one of the worst offenders against the whole notion of international law and human rights. When Portugal gave up East Timor to the U.N., the notion was that there would be some kind of plebiscite, referendum, for the people of East Timor to decide how they wanted to be governed. Instead, the Indonesians, brutally and with total military force, just marched in and took it over. I mean, it was ironic that Indonesia was one of those countries which used to talk about the evils of colonialism, and they are now, themselves, one of the worst practitioners of brutal colonialism in the world. They are controlling the people of East Timor over the objections of the people of East Timor. They give them no liberty in the area of political speech. They have cracked down on them culturally. They’ve cracked down on them on religious terms. Many of the East Timorese, reflecting Portuguese control, are Catholics. Remember, it’s an exiled bishop of the Catholic Church who got a Nobel Prize from East Timor because of the Indonesians’ abusive dealings.

And here we have the International Monetary Fund announcing that they’re going to bail out the Indonesian economy. The U.S. Treasury adds a $3 billion standby guarantee, so we not only allow the IMF to do this, or support the IMF in doing this, but we put $3 billion in return—in addition in the pot. And not a word is said in the program about the brutal mistreatment of the people of East Timor. Not a word is said about these terrible fires raging out of control that are seriously polluting much of that whole area, that are burning Indonesia with no real attention of the Indonesian government. And nothing is said about the repressive nature of Indonesian politics.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress Member Frank, right now at the United Nations, there is this showdown, particularly between the United States and Iraq, where the U.S. is saying Iraq is not abiding by U.N. Security Council resolutions. Well, Indonesia is not abiding by U.N. Security Council resolutions, two passed against it, calling on it to withdraw from East Timor without delay. Why the selective enforcement?

REP. BARNEY FRANK: That’s a very good point, and I’m afraid it is unfortunately, to some extent, because of the importance of Indonesia in the world’s economy. And as I said, that’s one of the reasons why so many of us rebelled at the notion of just voting for Fast Track. We have a serious regime in this world, which this country unfortunately is participating in, in which people believe that the only important public policy to be concerned about is to make sure that capital is fully mobile, that the owners of capital can invest it anywhere, anytime, anyplace, to get the maximum return. And Indonesia is a place where people want to invest their capital. So we’re being told that we should ignore this terrible violation of human rights and this blatant refusal to follow the Security Council, as you’ve pointed out, because Indonesia is a nice place to invest. And as I said, that’s just one of the examples to us of an international economic policy that looks only at the maximization of the mobility of capital and totally disregards everything else.

AMY GOODMAN: All reports show that when money is sent into Indonesia, the Suharto family skims off a huge amount of it, that you can’t send money into Indonesia without supporting the repressive military.

REP. BARNEY FRANK: Right, in fact, “skimming” is probably the wrong word. I think they’re creaming. I think they get much too deep for skimming.

AMY GOODMAN: I think Suharto’s late wife, Madame Tien, was known as “Madame Tien Percent” in Indonesia.

REP. BARNEY FRANK: Yeah, and his children are involved in this. And by the way, you make a good point about the military, too, because, you know, even on the wrong terms, this refusal to confront the Indonesians’ repression in East Timor is fallacious. They say, “Well, we want them to get their budget deficit down.” You know, the IMF asks for sort of very orthodox conservative fiscal policies. Well, if they would stop spending so much money shooting people in East Timor—it is expensive to be as repressive as they are. The people of East Timor are very much in rebellion against the Indonesians, and they spend enormous amounts of money repressing those people. If they would recognize the rights of the people of East Timor, they could also save some money.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say that this indicates that perhaps dictators are not good for the economy?

REP. BARNEY FRANK: Well, I’d like to. Unfortunately, you know, the Southeast Asian example was that they were, although that’s sort of turning around some. And one of the dilemmas we had was that some of these countries in Asia were doing very well while ignoring democracy. And now that’s not working out quite as well for them. But we are, as you may know, going to be able to confront the administration over this on Thursday. Do you know about that hearing?

AMY GOODMAN: No. What are you doing?

REP. BARNEY FRANK: Fortunately, on Thursday of this week, the full House Banking Committee will have a hearing on the Indonesian situation. And Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers will be testifying, along with some economists. And we, who are critical of this, got a pro-labor economist added on. So on Thursday at the Banking Committee, many of us—Congressman Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Maurice Hinchey and Joe Kennedy and myself—plan to get into this with the administration.


REP. BARNEY FRANK: So we’re going to have a chance on Thursday to confront them with their failure to deal with Indonesia on environmental issues, human rights issues, labor issues and basic democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress Member Barney Frank from Massachusetts, who wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin, objecting to the $3 billion line of credit extended by the United States, by President Clinton, to Indonesia to back up the $30 billion IMF-led loans to Indonesia. The president of IMF, the International Monetary Fund, is in Indonesia right now. Senator Cohen, the Secretary of Defense, is headed to Jakarta to meet with Suharto, and Clinton will be meeting with him next week in Vancouver at the APEC summit. That’s the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

We are going to break away from Barney Frank right now, because we do have breaking news. We are joined on the phone by two activists to wrap up today’s program, the special on East Timor on this sixth anniversary of the massacre in Dili, East Timor, where 250 Timorese were killed by U.S.-armed Indonesian military. We’re joined by Charlie Scheiner, coordinator and founder of the East Timor Action Network, a national grassroots group that grew up after the massacre, and Matthew Jardine, who is with the Los Angeles chapter of the East Timor Action Network and author of two books on East Timor, including East Timor’s Unfinished Struggle: Inside the Timorese Resistance with Constancio Pinto, which is published by South End Press.

Charlie Scheiner, you have just received this news about an American woman in East Timor who has been arrested. What’s up?

CHARLES SCHEINER: Yes, I just learned that Lynn Fredriksson, who is an American and has been in East Timor for about a week, was arrested, I think, this morning—it’s evening now, of November 12—in East Timor and has been questioned extensively by the Indonesian authorities. It’s not clear if she’s been released, if she’s going to be expelled, what’s going to happen to her. And so, we’d like to ask people to call the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, and I’ll give that number in a minute.

AMY GOODMAN: People should get their pens and pencils ready. Also, a phone number for the U.S. State Department. But we all know how serious it is when somebody is picked up, although it’s much more serious for an East Timorese to be picked up. Today is a very significant day. It is November 12th, the anniversary of the massacre. And ever since the day of the massacre six years ago, this anniversary has led to many arrests, people disappeared, people killed. When I returned in 1994 and was able to get into Timor, the torture most commonly used of the people picked up that day was they were being forced to swallow their crucifixes, and of course electroshock to the genitals. Were East Timorese also picked up?

CHARLES SCHEINER: Yeah, the latest that I’ve heard is unfortunately not very clear, but when we heard from Lynn, she said that there were quite a few East Timorese that were picked up, and she was worried about what was going to happen to them. I know that early this morning, about 12 hours ago, there were many hundreds, probably close to a thousand, of East Timorese university students and high school students that were gathering for a peaceful prayer to commemorate the Dili massacre and to show their grief and their solidarity with the victims of that massacre. As far as what I’ve heard directly, other than the very controlled telephone call that Lynn was able to make, there hasn’t been any action taken against them, but that’s because, I think, it’s very hard for news to get out, and I’m pretty sure that there have been many arrests.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you give the phone number, if people are interested in calling Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, to let them know that people here know that people have been arrested in East Timor, both East Timorese as well as the American, Lynn Fredriksson?

CHARLES SCHEINER: Yes. At this point, we’re asking people to call the United States embassy in Jakarta, not the Indonesian government. And we’ll see if diplomatic channels can work. And in a day or so, it may be necessary to call the Indonesian government. The number at the U.S. embassy is 011, for an international call, then 62-21-344-2211. I’ll give that again. It’s 62-21-344-2211.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s 011, if someone is calling from here in the United States, 62-21-344-2211. An American named Lynn Fredriksson has been arrested in East Timor. We will follow, of course, this story up tomorrow on Democracy Now! Huge difference it makes when somebody makes a call, and reports are that at least dozens of other Timorese have been arrested on this anniversary of the massacre. As I said, we’re also joined by Matthew Jardine, a Los Angeles activist, member of the East Timor Action Network. Matthew, all over the country today, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, Chicago and New York, at least in these six major cities, there will be protests. You happen to be in Washington right now. In fact, I hear the hallways of Congress. What are you doing there?

MATTHEW JARDINE: Right, I’m here on Capitol Hill lobbying members of the California delegation regarding East Timor. I met a—I’m here for a few days, and I’ve met with a number of members of Congress, and there are two major issues that I’m discussing with them. Number one is ongoing training, military training, by the United States of Indonesian soldiers. Specifically, the Green Berets are training crack Indonesian counterinsurgency troops, the troops that are responsible for a good amount of the human rights abuses in East Timor. And, of course, another—related to that is ongoing U.S. military maneuvers with the Indonesian military, which also serves as a form of training. So we’re talking about what’s going to happen in the next session, and I’m trying to push members of Congress to support a cutoff of all forms of military training and aid, specifically these two aspects I just mentioned.

The second thing that I’ve been talking with them about is, as you mentioned in the documentary, the underlying issue in East Timor is Indonesia’s illegal occupation. So, while we need to focus on things like cutting off various forms of military assistance, we need to work so that the people of East Timor have the right to vote and decide their own political status. The United Nations resolutions call for East Timorese self-determination, call for Indonesia to allow for the establishment of an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination. We want Congress to pass a resolution calling upon the Clinton administration to actively voice its support for such a referendum and to work in various international fora to realize such a referendum.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s certainly a good time to do that, as President Clinton says U.N. Security Council resolutions must be enforced, as he is doing that against Iraq, so it’s very interesting to bring up Indonesia right now.

MATTHEW JARDINE: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: If people want to get a hold of information about protests in their cities—again, in Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Washington—Charlie Scheiner, where can they call?

CHARLES SCHEINER: They can call the East Timor Action Network national office, which is 914-428-7299. I can give numbers in each city if you want me to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: We don’t have time for that, but let’s just give that number: 914-428-7299. And that is a number where you can also sign up to get a newsletter, that comes out in a periodic fashion, that lets you know about Congress. And also, we will continue to follow up on Lynn Fredriksson, the American who is now in Dili under—who has been taken by Indonesian military authorities. I want to thank you both very much for joining us. I know, Matthew Jardine, you’ll be marching in Washington, though you are from Los Angeles, marching from the White House to the Indonesian embassy. In New York, it’s at the Indonesian consulate. Thanks for being with us.



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