Friday, August 14, 2009

Bowing down to junta pressure a setback for Indonesia

By Lilian Budianto , The Jakarta Post

Civil groups, legislators and experts expressed regret over Indonesia's decision to cancel a meeting held by members of the Burmese government in exile in Jakarta, saying it has hurt the country's democracy credentials by bowing to the junta's pressure. (JEG's: the junta can do their way without nuclears what it would be once the reactor is ready to shoot?)

"Indonesia has bowed to Myanmar's military regime at the expense of its democracy and sovereignty," Indonesia's Solidarity for Burma said Thursday in a statement.

"The ban was in contradiction to the government's calls for Myanmar to release Aung San Suu Kyi and to restore democracy... Indonesia has fallen back on its commitment to push for reforms in Myanmar."

The solidarity comprised nine groups: Human Rights Watch, Kontras, Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, Imparsial, Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation, Padma Indonesia, Hikmahbudhi, Arus Pelangi and INFID.

On Wednesday, Indonesian police ordered Burmese government members in exile to cancel a meeting to seek international support for reforms in the junta-led Myanmar. The junta has refused to acknowledge the victory of Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the 1990 elections.

Members of parliament elected in 1990 and Burmese ethnic groups living in exile had planned to launch a proposal for a national reconciliation during the Jakarta meeting. The meeting itself had been attended by dozens of diplomats from Western countries.

The proposal features requests for a review and/or an amendment to the 2008 Constitution, the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and reforms in security and social security affairs.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Wednesday the ban was due to Indonesia's recognition of only one Myanmar government, and could not allow any political activities by members of its government in exile.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences senior researcher Dewi Fortuna Anwar said although it was understandable Jakarta could not recognize the government in exile, it should have not banned the meeting, aimed at wooing support for the release of Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi was sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest after being found guilty of allowing a US citizen to stay at her home.

"The government could have issued a statement saying it has nothing to do with the activity or the conference they convened," she said.

"They shouldn't have banned it as it will only have an adverse impact on our democracy credentials and backfire on the government."

Eva K. Sundari, a legislator and member of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), said the police had claimed the government in exile was an illegal group that might pose a threat to Indonesian-Myanmar diplomatic ties.

"We reported the meeting in May and there was no objection from the police," she said.

"Two days ago, they suddenly informed us about the cancellation in response to objections from the Myanmar Embassy to the meeting."

Legislator Marzuki Darusman, also from the AIPMC, said the ban was a big Indonesian failure at the international stage, considering Jakarta had always thrown its weight behind democracy in Myanmar at regional and multilateral forums.

"We do understand the sensitivity of the Myanmar issue, the objection from the Myanmar Embassy and the position taken by the Foreign Ministry," he said.

"However, as a democracy, the government's ban should not take place. They could have helped by finding solutions to have the meeting go on without having to insult the Myanmar government."

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