MINISTER OF DEFENSE: Good afternoon. I am happy to welcome Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to Jakarta. We had a brief discussion about US-Indonesian relationships over the past three years, and we look forward to improving our military-to-military relations over the next couple of years. I have also indicated to Secretary Wolfowitz and to Admiral Fargo the appreciation of the Indonesian Government, and the Indonesian Defense Department for the assistance provided to personnel in the relief and rehabilitation efforts in Aceh. The U.S. Military there has been the backbone of the logistical operations providing assistance to all afflicted after the disaster. We’d like to pay tribute to the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen of the U.S. Forces deployed in Aceh throughout the relief effort.
And we would like to emphasize that March 26th is not a deadline for involvement of foreign military personnel in the relief effort; it is a benchmark for the Indonesian Government to improve and accelerate its relief efforts so that by March the 26th, the large part of the burden of the relief effort will be carried by the Indonesian Government and the Indonesian authorities on the ground. Foreign military assistance, foreign military operations providing relief and rehabilitation will be allowed to continue albeit on a reduced scale. So I would like to emphasize that the emphasis is on the increased and improvement of Indonesian efforts, so that the large burden of the efforts in the emergency response period would be carried by the Indonesians themselves. Finally, I would like to emphasize that the Indonesian Government is focusing on the emphasis that the Acehnese people themselves must ultimately help themselves to rebuild their lives and to believe in their future, that Aceh will rise. Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Thank you, Mr. Minister. I’m always happy to be back in Indonesia, but this time it’s with a considerable sadness because the occasion for this visit was a calamity of indescribable proportions, and as much as I thought I was prepared from reading the newspapers and seeing on television, nothing can really prepare you for what you see when you go up to Aceh, even two weeks or more after the calamity. And I was in Aceh in better times and it’s a beautiful place and they’re remarkable people, and it’s tragic to think of what a setback it’s been. I want to pay enormous tribute to the men and women of the United State military, who stepped in with enormous goodwill, we had the experience of visiting with young men and women on the aircraft carrier Lincoln, and on helicopters and on shore, pitching in and volunteering, pilots helping to unload helicopters and if you don’t know what a remarkable thing that is, you don’t know what fighter pilots are like, they usually don’t do that kind of work, but everyone is stepping in and helping. I’d like to say a special tribute to Admiral Fargo, who’s with us on this visit. He’s the Commander of U.S. Forces in the Pacific, and he realized the minute that the word came about the tsunami that we needed to start moving ships into place, even before we had any idea of the magnitude of the disaster.
The men and women of the Abraham Lincoln were enjoying shore leave in Hong Kong and expecting to be on their way home when they were called back to the ship, and the ship was sent down here. Talked to quite a few of them yesterday and they’d all like to be home on schedule, they all understand whey they’re going to be late and they’re not complaining at all. They really believe in the importance of what they’re doing. And I believe that we all need to keep an eye on what we’re trying to accomplish here together, which is to bring relief to the survivors, to help keep them alive and healthy, help them to recover from what is an unimaginable psychological blow and help the reconstruction of a province that has been just devastated physically, and the reconstruction, it’s clear, is an even bigger task than I had imagined before I saw it. I think if we all keep our eyes on that goal, we’ll find that there’s more than enough work for everybody and I think we will, we all agree that the most important thing is for the Indonesian Government to deliver for its people, and particularly for the people of Aceh.
A happy part of coming back here is coming back after the second democratic presidential election in Indonesia’s history. Political scientists say one democratic election doesn’t prove much, but two does. Those of us who love this country have watched from a distance, seeing the progress of democracy. I think Indonesians have proven that they can make democracy work from a political point of view, I think the challenge now is for the government to demonstrate that a democratically government can be effective and can deliver. And they’ve been presented with an even bigger challenge than anyone could have imagined with this tsunami catastrophe, and the one good thing is that the whole world has come forward and is ready to help and Mr. Minister, my country, not only my government but the American people are stepping forward in every way we can to assist you. It’s good to see an old friend back at government work, I guess they figured you had served one sentence but you needed to do another term. And I must say that knowing you for a long time, I’m delighted to see you back at the Defense Ministry. I look forward to working with you in building I think a new era in U.S.-Indonesian defense relations. Be happy to take some questions.
Let me get... who, am I moderator, or are you going to moderate?
JOURNALIST: Rafael Epstein from the ABC, Australia. There are reports, and I don’t know if you agree with them or not, that the TNI haven’t changed in the way that they are dealing with GAM in Aceh. If they continue to deal with the conflict as they have in the past, which a lot of people have been unhappy with, is that going to affect America’s aid on the ground in Aceh, both government and through private organizations?
DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: I think if…I understand where that question comes from. I’m not criticizing the question. But I think if you realize that like everyone else up there, the TNI is faced with a situation that they couldn’t have conceived of, and they are trying to rethink how do you approach a disaster of this magnitude, what is your role, and particularly what is their role now that there is a clearly civilian government in charge, and I must say I was impressed in our conversations yesterday with General Sutarto and their conscious that they work for the government, they’re not the government. And I believe that while these are very important questions, and as your question makes clear, this natural calamity happened in a place that has been beset with human problems for the last many years. I think if we can all approach it from the point of view of how to deal with an immediate human problem and deal with the relief effort, deal with the reconstruction effort, every one of these issues will start to be seen in a different light, at least that’s my hope. I think both the GAM and the Indonesian Government and the Achenese people most importantly will relook at this whole issue if we can be successful in meeting immediate needs. And if we fail at meeting the immediate needs then I think that all of those old issues will be exacerbated.
JOURNALIST: Eric Schmitt with the New York Times. Mr. Secretary, and Mr. Minister, if you could also address this question, can you address to the extent that military-to-military relations will be improved and what steps will be taken, and Mr. Secretary, will you recommend to Congress that the existing, remaining existing sanctions against Indonesia be lifted in order to enhance the full, restore the full military-to-military relations.
MINISTER OF DEFENSE: The difficulty with the U.S. Congress is that you have to persuade them that our military has been trying to reform and made into an accountable defense force in accordance with the principles of democracy. The overhang of the military’s role of the past has been too overwhelming, and too negative, particularly in the press, both international as well as domestic. I had to pay advertising space in the Indonesian newspapers to thank the TNI in their efforts in Aceh, within the past two weeks. I had to pay advertising space in Jakarta Post to thank all foreign military personnel assisting in the operations in Aceh. This just shows it is difficult for the TNI, particularly the army, to win with the media and to win with the NGOs.
But my job now is to try and reconfigure the Indonesian defense force, particularly the army, so that it will be more accountable to democracy, democratic principles, more accountable to parliament, and most importantly, more accountable to the Finance Ministry where we get our budget from. But with a budget of scarcely 1.1 billion dollars [U.S.] a year for 350,000 defense force, you don’t make much headway in that regard. Our current budget is just over 1 billion dollars a year for the 350,000 defense force. Now, that’s no excuse for some of their alleged human rights abuses that have been taking place for the past 25 years, but it is a measure of our challenge, that part of the problem in developing and building a more accountable defense force is to improve its budget, to improve its training, to improve its ability to manage its budget in a more professional manner.
This is why even five years ago when I visited Washington, during my first term as Defense Minister, I called on friends in Congress and NGOs in Washington, that it will take more than ten years training of all our officers, captains, majors, junior level officers, particularly in defense planning and defense management, this is a very important part of consolidating our democracy and a more accountable military. Please provide us with assistance for more of our junior officers for management training in the technical aspects of defense. Probably more important than lethal and combat training and education is the management of our defense force.
DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Let me say first of all, we are doing everything we can within current legal framework to strengthen the ability of the Indonesian military to respond to this disaster. Most importantly, we have found ways to provide spare parts to begin repairing Indonesian C-130s so that the larger proportion of that Indonesian airlift can be applied to moving supplies up to Banda Aceh, which is an important task that the Indonesian military could assist with. Beyond that, in terms of changes to the current legal framework, it’s obviously a question that has got to be approached by the administration as a whole, and its got to be approached in consultation with Congress. The reasons for those restrictions we understand. It’s not inconsiderable concern about human rights abuses in the past, and about the conduct of the Indonesian military in the past.
But I would say two things: I would say first of all, and I’ve believed this for a long time, that while that may be a real problem, it is a real problem, cutting off contact with Indonesian officers only makes the problem much worse and that we have benefited over many years, and I believe we’ve mitigated some of the problems by the fact that many Indonesian officers, including the current President of Indonesia, democratically-elected President of Indonesia, have been to the Untied States, have been trained in the United States, understand what it means to have civilian control over the military, and have relationships with our officers, and I think it’s a resource that we need to rebuild, I believe that those kinds of relationships also make it possible to respond much more quickly and effectively in a crisis like this one.
But secondly, I also believe we need to recognize that Indonesia is making some extraordinary strides on the path toward building a strong and functioning democracy, which is something that I think we all applaud, both the Executive Branch and the Congress, it’s a goal that I believe is strongly shared by precisely those people who are concerned about the record of the Indonesian military in the past. And I think we need to think about how we can strengthen this newly elected democratic government, strengthen this civilian defense minister who’s with me today, to help build the kinds of defense institutions that will ensure in the future that the Indonesian military, like our military, is loyal, function of a democratic government. So it’s in that context that we will be addressing these issues, and obviously we need to work closely with the Congress, these are issues that people feel deeply about, but I hope they will perhaps see them in a new light, not only because of what we need to do in Aceh, but equally importantly because of what’s happening here on the political front.
JOURNALIST: (ERIC SCHMITT) But Mr. Secretary, do you personally believe there’s been enough progress made and that you do recommend lifting the sanctions.
DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: I’m going to save my recommendations until I get home.
JOURNALIST: (Through interpreter): The Indonesian people really appreciate the U.S. assistance to the victims in Aceh, however, the Indonesian people would like to know if there is any hidden agreement or agenda behind the U.S. assistance to Indonesia, such as is this related to former President Gus Dur’s statement that there is a possibility of the U.S. government would like to build its military base in Sabang.
DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: There is absolutely no secret agenda, there is no secret agreement, and there is no desire to have military bases here in Indonesia. Simply not. But I appreciate the chance to clear that up. I know that every time some little ripple happens this story starts in some form or another. Quite honestly, as I implied when I talked about the Lincoln, we are eager to get our people home as soon as we can do that responsibly, we are not looking to stay any longer than we’re needed.
US EMBASSY JAKARTA: Thank you, we are going to give the last question to Sue Pleming.
JOURNALIST: Is there a rush to pull U.S. forces out of the tsunami hit areas because of pressure for more troops in Iraq, and do you think there are enough U.S. troops in Iraq to secure the election?
DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: On the last part we have been in almost daily contact with our commanders in Iraq as to what the military needs are there and they, there has been some level of reinforcement I believe that they feel that they have what they need. I am afraid that there is nothing that can provide anything like absolute security against the extraordinary intimidation that the enemy is undertaking, and I would underscore that there was intimidation in Afghanistan. The Taliban threatened all kinds of violence against people who registered or people who voted, but I don’t believe that they ever got around to shooting election workers in the streets or kidnapping the children of political candidates. And what is phenomenal to me is that in the face of this brutality you still have 7,000 Iraqis, I believe, who’ve put their names on lists to run in these elections, and the last number I saw was 80,000 Iraqis volunteering to be election workers. The desire in that country to have elections and to vote is passionate and the fact that in some parts of the country the vote may be suppressed is, I think, attributable to that intimidation, and we will provide as much as we can with troops in terms of countering that, but I am afraid that there’s no way to prevent all of it.
With respect to the first part of your question, we intend to do everything we can to fill the need as long as there is need for our people, but there are a lot of other things for them to do including in the case of most, the ones doing the mission right now, they need to get home. So the sooner that this burden can be passed off to other people and most of all to the Indonesians themselves we’ll be happier. But as long as, for example, large numbers of helicopters are required, at least for the moment we are the only country that can provide large numbers of helicopters. We are looking at things like fixing roads so that we don’t depend on helicopters so much longer. But I repeat that I think we all need to look at this in terms of how to fill a need that is just indescribable from a humanitarian point of view, and which happens to have come in a country that’s of enormous importance to the whole world and in a province of that country that has a special political importance. So we need to get that job done. Thank you very much.
MINISTER OF DEFENSE: Terima Kasih [Thank you.]