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Indonesia lashes at US congressman Patrick Kennedy

Agence France Presse - June 10, 1997

Jakarta – The Indonesian government on Wednesday hit out at comments by US congressman Patrick Kennedy after Jakarta's decision to forego its planned purchase of US fighter planes were absurd and outrageous.

Kennedy's statement of a "major human rights victory" following Jakarta's decision not to buy the F-16s was "simply absurd," a foreign ministry statement said.

The statement also described Kennedy's claim that the Indonesian decision was his personal victory as "ludicrous."

Kennedy, a Democrat for the state of Rhode Island, which has a strong Portuguese-American community, said the Indonesian was "a major victory for all of us who believe in the importance of human rights."

"His statement only reveals his failure in his legislative initiative where he links his accusations against Indonesia with the purchase of the F-16 planes," the Indonesian foreign ministry said.

Indonesia on Friday announced that it would not buy nine F-16 fighter planes citing "wholly unjustified criticisms in the US Congress against Indonesia."

Foreign Minsiter Ali Alatas, when announcing the decision which also included a withdrawl from the US Expanded International Military Education and Training (IMET) program , cited Kennedy as one of the critics.

Jakarta labeled as "outrageous" Kennedy's accusation that Indonesia was responsible for the recent killings in the troubled territory of East Timor, the statement said.

Indonesian authorities have said that separatist rebels in East Timor have killed 17 civilians. Rebels have also killed 21 policemen and soldiers in attacks in East Timor between May 27 and May 31.

"His statement only reflects his lack of understanding and knowledge of the issues at hand and merely echoes the views of those parties who do not wish to find a solution to the East Timor question," the foreign ministry said.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year although the United Nations still views Lisbon as the administrator of the territory. The East Timorese pro-independence movement Fretilin has since maintained armed resistance to the Indonesian presence in East Timor.

Congress in 1992 ended IMET, which cost about 600,000 dollars a year to train roughly 20 Indonesian military officers, following the 1991 massacre of unarmed civilians in the East Timor capital, Dili.

The program was resumed in 1996. But legislators have recently threatened to stop funding for IMET again, citing Jakarta's heavy-handed treatment in East Timor.