Potential Hawk deal signals step change in UK- Indonesia military ties

9 Feb 2007
Paul Barber, TAPOL

The revelation this week by Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono that Indonesia is considering the procurement of BAE Systems Hawk aircraft from the UK [1] confirms that the two countries are intent on securing a substantial upgrade in their military relations.

“It is disturbing that the UK government and BAE Systems, are seeking fresh deals when the UK has still not accounted for its past role as a major supplier of arms used in Timor-Leste and other areas of conflict,” said Paul Barber, a spokesperson for TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign.

“It is furthermore a matter of serious concern that a country that has immense problems with corruption is contemplating a multi-million pound contract with a company that until recently was being investigated for corruption by the Serious Fraud Office in London,” he added.

“The move is dangerously precipitate given the fragile state of Indonesia’s transition to democracy and a disincentive for urgently-needed military reform.”

Serious questions should be asked about the impact of the possible deal on Indonesia’s poor, says TAPOL. Half the population is living in poverty and the government is still paying hundreds of millions of pounds for previous arms deals.

The controversial plans for stronger military ties were first announced during Prime Minster’s Tony Blair’s visit to Indonesia in March 2006 [2]. In November, BAE Systems attended the second Indonesia arms fair in Jakarta [3]. Last week, Defence Minister Sudarsono held talks with BAE Systems during a visit to London for the inaugural meeting of the UK-Indonesia Partnership Forum set up during Mr Blair’s visit to Indonesia [4].

Despite embarking on a process of reform, the Indonesian armed forces (known as TNI) continue to be implicated in human rights violations and to resist accountability for past abuses. The TNI has been notorious for its use of imported military equipment in conflicts in Timor-Leste, Aceh and West Papua.

TAPOL is particularly concerned about the possible use of Hawk aircraft in the conflict area of West Papua where Indonesian rule is strongly contested, human rights violations are routine, and military expansion is under way.

In September/October 2000, previously-exported Hawk jets were used to overfly the population of Wamena in Papua’s central highlands, in a clear act of intimidation. In 2005, British-made Tactica armoured personnel carriers fitted with water cannons were sent to West Papua to control protests against Jakarta.

Timor-Leste’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) recently recommended that business corporations which profited from the sale of weapons to Indonesia during the occupation of Timor-Leste should contribute to a reparations programme irrespective of whether the equipment they supplied was used in specific violations. The British company that derived the most profit – mainly through the sale of Hawk aircraft - was BAE Systems (then known as British Aerospace) [5], but it has made no attempt to act on the CAVR recommendation.

The CAVR also recommended that military support for Indonesia should be ‘totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination.’ The British government has failed to respond to the recommendation and already appears to be ignoring it.

Allegations of systematic corruption in deals with Saudi Arabia arranged by BAE Systems were being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office until they were controversially halted for reasons of UK national security. Claims that a deal in the mid-1990s for the sale of light tanks and armoured vehicles to Indonesia by the British company Alvis - now owned by BAE Systems - was made possible by the payment of a massive bribe have not been addressed [6].

Last November, in a Country Briefing on Indonesia, Jane’s Defence Weekly concluded that effective implementation of military reform remains a problem and highlighted concerns about the business interests of the TNI, including illegal activities such as illegal logging, brothels, entertainment venues and gambling. It said that uncontrolled access to funds from military businesses has undermined civilian oversight of the armed forces and provides opportunity for corruption [7].

In a 2005 report, Human Rights Watch found that military businesses undermined civilian control, contributed to abuses of power by the armed forces and impeded reform [8].

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Contact: Paul Barber on 01420 80153 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 01420 80153 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 0774 730 1739 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 0774 730 1739 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Notes for editors:

1. ‘RI may procure Hawk aircraft from UK’, Jakarta Post, 9 February 2007.

2. See TAPOL press release 'Closer UK defence ties threaten fight against military terror in Indonesia' , 31 March 2006.

3. See TAPOL press release 'Under-siege arms company targets Indonesia', 21 November 2006.

4. ‘Britain, Indonesia launch partnership’, Jakarta Post, 2 February 2007.

5. Eight British Aerospace Hawk fighter jets were sold to Indonesia in 1978. More orders for a total of 40 aircraft followed in the 1990s. See TAPOL Bulletin n. 181 - 2005.

6. See TAPOL Bulletin n. 178 - 2005.

7. ‘Reforming Forces’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 15 November 2006.

8. ‘Too High a Price: The Human Rights Cost of the Indonesian Military’s Economic Activities’ Human Rights Watch, June 2006.