Monday, December 7, 2009

Flawed History - What Goes Un-Noted in the State Department's "Background Notes" on Indonesia

Flawed History

What Goes Un-Noted in the State Department's "Background Notes" on Indonesia

by West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

The U.S. Department of State in October published the latest in its series of "Background Notes" regarding Indonesia. The periodic series provides a useful overview of the history, culture, geography, economy, government and politics of foreign nations used by educators, businesses and others. The October 2009 report on Indonesia in many sections is both comprehensive and accurate.

However, the latest report at several points misrepresents key historical developments. In general, the presentation reflects an historical narrative developed by the Indonesian government of the dictator Suharto and subsequently maintained by successor Indonesian administrations. The "Background Notes" generally fail to address accurately the problematic role of the Indonesian military (TNI) either historically or currently. The "Notes" fail to describe the central role of the military in the killing of hundreds of thousands in the period immediately following the seizure of power by Suharto and the mass killings in East Timor and West Papua. The "Background Notes" contend that civilian control of the military is "strengthening," notwithstanding the continued powerful role in Indonesian politics and the economy. The document also fails to note that the military continues to enjoy impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations, corruption and other criminal activity.

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