Tuesday, November 26, 2013

1) Australian espionage and the history of foreign intervention in Indonesia

1) Australian espionage and the history of foreign intervention in Indonesia 
2) The real diplomatic scandal? Australia helped the US with its dirty work


26 November 2013, 2.31pm AEST
1) Australian espionage and the history of foreign intervention in Indonesia 

Australian troops participated in the post-war occupation of Indonesian territories and is yet to formally apologise. EPA/Abror Riziki

Indonesia’s response to the spying imbroglio last week – when president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recalled his ambassador and suspended security co-operation with Australia – reflects a political history of constant foreign intervention in Indonesian affairs that few Australians are aware of.

Battle for independence
Indonesia emerged as a modern nation in the wake of World War Two, when Japanese troops ousted the Dutch, who had subjugated and exploited the country for centuries. After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Indonesia’s founding president Soekarno (also known as Sukarno) declared independence.
The new republic lay within the American-dominated South West Pacific Area and was soon handed to the British-dominated South East Asian Command. Allied soldiers arrived in Jakarta in September 1945 and began to occupy major Indonesian cities with the aim of returning Indonesia to its pre-war status as a Dutch colony.

Soekarno led Indonesia’s struggle for independence. Government of Indonesia
Click to enlarge

Thousands died in the bombing of Surabaya. Dutch soldiers and administrators returned, led by Hubertus Johannes van Mook, who had run the Dutch East Indies government-in-exile from Brisbane during the war. Dutch POWs, released by Indonesia, were armed and sent back on rampages against Indonesian civilians and police. Australian troops participated in the occupation of the outer islands, including Bali, and were involved in massacres.

The British have since apologised for this cruel attempt to stifle the young nation’s struggle for freedom and sovereignty. Australia has not.
The Soekarno government also clashed with the British when the latter shaped its own former colonies in the region into another modern state. The north of the vast island of Borneo was annexed into the new state of Malaysia despite its cultural and historical ties to Indonesia and contested political status, and amidst protests by the local population.
An undeclared war (the “Confrontation”) began, and Australian troops participated. Covert operations into Indonesian Kalimantan began in 1964 under the code name Operation Claret. Attempts to assassinate Soekarno failed.

The Suharto regime
In 1965, Indonesia witnessed one of the greatest genocides of the 20th century, as army general Suharto led a military coup against the left-leaning but essentially nationalist and non-aligned Soekarno government.
Up to one million innocent Indonesian civilians were butchered over the following year at a rate of 1,500 people per day, to the applause of western powers including Australia.

Suharto became Indonesia’s second president in 1967. Republic of Indonesia
Click to enlarge

The pretext was a fake coup attempt, falsely attributed to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The deep involvement of British and American intelligence in staging this bloody military coup, similar to the Pinochet takeover of Chile, is beyond reasonable doubt.
The victors were soon able to convene in Switzerland to divide the spoils – Indonesia’s enormous wealth in natural resources – thanks to foreign investment legislation introduced by the military dictatorship. Countless blogs in Indonesia ensure this history is more widely known there than it is in Australia.

The relevance to today
The lack of an apology for such consistent unneighbourly behaviour may seem astonishing in the context of the “Asian Century” and needs to be understood as a direct consequence of the ongoing nature of these operations.
In West Papua, for example, the Indonesian military continues to provide the means of violent coercion required to facilitate vast foreign-owned mining and other ventures not set up primarily to benefit Indonesia, but for which Indonesia’s military will one day be asked to take the political blame.
Continuity, as well as profound ambivalence, is evident in the personal histories of members of today’s Indonesian elite. Looking back to the military coup, for example, we discover that on 19 November 1965:
…the Australian Embassy in Jakarta proudly reported on an “action”; a massacre, led by an Australian-trained officer. Colonel Sarwo Edhie was a 1964 graduate from an 18-month course at the Australian Army Staff College at Queenscliff, near Melbourne.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is married to his daughter.
What then is the meaning of the current spying scandal? Why would Australian agencies spy on Sarwo Edhi’s daughter?
Why, for that matter, should Australia spy on Yudhoyono, who has earned himself a bad name in Indonesia precisely for selling out to the interests of western investors and governments? Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party and coalition partner the Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera or PKS) have been devastated recently by the discovery of corruption involving Australian cattle imports.
Yudhoyono may be hoping that the political theatrics might help to restore his nationalist credentials sufficiently to enable him to serve as kingmaker in the next year’s presidential election. But given that Edward Snowden was the source of the leak, it seems more likely to have been an afterthought.
Rather, the ambiguities in the relationships are such that Australian distrust is easy enough to understand. It is not that Indonesia is actually a threat to us. In more than 20 years of research, I have never seen the slightest indication of hostile Indonesian ambitions toward Australia. Instead, the potential threat is that this local elite might turn around, become genuinely nationalistic, and bring the feeding frenzy to an end.

Indonesians increasingly see Australia as a small and recalcitrant neighbour. AAP/Eka Nickmatulhuda

Feelings among the Indonesian elite – even those who have collaborated with Australia in the past – are deeply ambivalent. On his deathbed, Yudhoyono’s father-in-law is said to have repented of his role as a key engineer of the killings. Some of Yudhoyono’s own relatives in the East Javanese city of Blitar suffered in the violence Sarwo Edhi had helped to orchestrate.
Similar patterns emerge when we look at other dynasties, such as the very prominent family of current presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto. Again, we see repeated reversals in Indonesian powerbrokers' relationships with the Dutch and subsequent foreign powers, oscillating between collaboration and strong opposition.

These ambiguities are now becoming explosive for two reasons. First, Indonesia is a rising power and this is slowly dawning on the national psyche. A new assertiveness can be seen occasionally in political posturing, and there is a new sense in Indonesia of Australia as a small and recalcitrant neighbour that does not want to see the writing on the wall.
Some members of the Indonesian elite also realise Australia is itself a victim of colonial history, and is disadvantaged in the Asian Century by a set of traditional alliances that are difficult to re-negotiate.

Second, after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998, Indonesians are increasing becoming aware of their nation’s sad post-colonial history. Even the truth about 1965 – long buried by the Suharto regime – is now being openly discussed and acknowledged.

Considering Australia’s position as a white settler nation in southeast Asia and being newcomers to the neighbourhood, we need to consider urgently whether we should loudly and formally distance ourselves from this imperial legacy.
How long until it is too late to apologise to a country whose economy is now larger than Australia’s? Indonesia’s leaders, whether Australia deserves it or not, are still receptive to a genuine offer of friendship. I cannot think of any action that would give a greater boost to Australian sovereignty, regional security and prosperity.
It is Australia’s great fortune to be part of Asia, and there is nothing to fear in this neighbourhood but our fear itself. It’s time to say “sorry”, and “never again”

2) The real diplomatic scandal? Australia helped the US with its dirty work
We deserve the embarrassment and awkwardness resulting from the ongoing spying row with Indonesia – a public debate over the excessive scope of state surveillance is badly needed

Australia has an identity crisis that has never been resolved. Are we a US client state, happy to host any number of American troops and spying assets, or a fully integrated part of Asia? Do we crave true independence, or are we happy to remain America's 'deputy sheriff' in the Pacific region?
There’s nothing stopping Canberra from having close relations with both worlds, but our regional posture over the last decades has shown a muddled understanding of how to achieve this. We usually arguably prefer to remain tethered to an arrogant Anglosphere whose influence is waning. 
When we do look to Asia, it’s not solely about business ties enriching Australian corporations. We too often back the most autocratic regimes imaginable, such as Indonesia’s Soeharto (fans of former prime minister Paul Keating should recall his fondness for one of the most brutal leaders of the 20th century). Canberra’s complicity in the Indonesian occupations of East Timor and West Papua also signals a willingness to ignore human rights for the sake of political expediency. 
Australia’s love of foreign conflicts are infamous; this is noticed across (particularly Islamic) Asia. We marched in unison with the US in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq – three devastating wars which we comprehensively lost. A decent nation, unlike our own, would offer an apology and compensation for having civilians pay a hefty price for our aggression, or for polluting the ground with deadly chemicals. Our brutishness is not forgotten by the millions of occupied people who experienced it first-hand; terrorism is born this way.
Billions of dollars in annual foreign aid isn’t enough to buy us the forgiveness that’s required.

The current diplomatic storm between Australia and Indonesia highlights the myriad of problems with a country Tony Abbott claims is “our most important relationship.” The ability of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) to disrupt Australian government policies onasylum seekers, the live cattle trade and intelligence sharing shows how vulnerable Canberra is in its relations with our northern neighbour.

We deserve the embarrassment and awkwardness and yet surveillance state backers, such as Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian,claim to be confused over Jakarta’s anger – but just imagine the outrage in Australia if leaks emerged showing SBY snooping on Abbott’s mobile phone (which may well be happening now). Also never forget that Jakarta already operates a brutal network of spies on its own citizens in Papua; nobody’s hands are clean. 

Abbott's response has been predictable; this is a man who sees nobility in the anglosphere, conveniently ignoring the colonial legacies of their rule. As for the Labor party, it has no credibility on the issue because the spying occurred under their watch. A Royal Commissioninto Australia’s out of control intelligence and security services is the least Abbott should be doing. With new revelations appearing almost daily following Snowden’s leaks, only the most loyal propagandist for unlimited state power would claim that his documents haven’t led to a vital public discussion over the excessive scope of state intrusion on privacy and liberty. 

The real scandal of Canberra’s current problems with Indonesia is that we are helping the US with its dirty work. Tapping SBY’s phone and gaining its contents has interest for both the US and Australia, but SBY and his wife aren’t the only targets – in all likelihood, Indonesian civilians with no connection to terrorism or extremism are also being monitored. Snowden documents prove that close allies of the US, such as Britain, allow Washington open access to potentially millions of their own citizens. Australia could be equally supine.
The sheer scale of worldwide snooping, assisted by compliant allies such as Australia, has been exposed by Snowden’s leaks. He should be immediately granted asylum in Australia (his liberty is undeniably threatened in his homeland) for such services to local and international understanding of US behaviour (much of which is illegal, something that doesn’t seem to bother the NSA’s most passionate supporters). An adversarial media should interrogate governments and officials of all stripes and not make life comfortable for those in power.
So where to for Australia’s relationship with Asia? A mature nation treats its neighbours with respect and engagement. Trust takes more than presidential or prime ministerial visits. Speaking out against human rights abuses should also be crucial for Australia. An independent stance means having constant public discussions about the role of a former colony entering the 21st century in a region that likes the idea of declining US hegemony.
And in the meantime, let the leaks continue, and increase – for sunlight always scares the powerful who act in secrecy, too often outside the law. 
Posted at 23:56 on 25 November, 2013 UTC
The West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, says 16 of its members have been arrested for handing out leaflets, but the Indonesian police deny the report.
The group says its members were distributing leaflets on Monday, with details about meetings in Port Moresby and encouraging foreign ministers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group to visit Jakarta and Papua.
A spokesperson for the group says they were taken to the police station at Jayapura and all the leaflets were confiscated.
The Jayapura Police Chief, Alfred Papare, has denied any arrests of the 16 members of the KNPB.
The group, established in 2008, has been campaigning for a referendum on independence for the West Papua province of Indonesia.
It’s leaders Buchtar Tabuni and Victor Yeimo are currently in prison and the former vice-president Mako Tabuni was killed by Indonesian anti-terrorist troops in 2012.

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