Calls to reject Indonesia ambassador to US | Connect Asia

Calls to reject Indonesia ambassador to US

Calls to reject Indonesia ambassador to US

Updated 18 January 2012, 17:35 AEDT

Human rights advocacy groups for East Timor are calling on the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to reject the appointment of Indonesia's ambassador-designate to Washington.

The East Timor and Indonesia Advocacy Group and the West Papua Advocacy Team say Dino Patti Djalal played a key role in defending violence against the East Timorese by Indonesian militia and security forces around the 1999 referendum on independence and they want the United States to bring him to justice.

Presenter: Helene Hofman

David Merrill, president, United States Indonesia Society (USINDO); John Miller, national coordinator, East Timor Indonesia Action Network; Professor David Cohen, director, War Crimes Studies Centre, University of California, Berkley; Kit Bond, US senator for Missouri

MERRILL: Dino is the perfect choice for Indonesia to send to Washington. He understands the American mindset, which benefits Indonesian interests and makes it easier for our countries to find areas of common ground. Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome Ambassador Dino Djalal [...]

HOFMAN: He has a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science, has written five books, including a bestseller and, until recently, was president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's spokesman.

It's not surprising then that the president of the United States Indonesia Society, David Merrill, was so keen to welcome Dino Patti Djalal as Indonesia's latest ambassador to the United States with a special gala dinner.

But after all the praise of his work as a diplomat, academic and activist, there was one issue that no one mentioned.

John Miller is the national coordinator of the East Timor Indonesia Action Network.

MILLER: He was the spokesperson for the Indonesian taskforce for the referendum in East Timor in 1999 and he consistently tried to portray any violence as between the East Timorese when it was violence perpetuated by the militia, by the Indonesian security forces.

HOFMAN: About 1,500 East Timorese died in the lead up to East Timor's vote on independence from Indonesia in August 1999.

Two years ago, a report by the Commission of Truth and Friendship concluded that Indonesian soldiers, police and civilian officers were involved.

And among those who had denied it - say the East Timor Indonesia Action Network and the West Papua Advocacy Team - was Dino Djalal.

Based on that, they want the US president, Barack Obama, to reject his appointment as Indonesia's ambassador to Washington.

But Professor David Cohen, director of the War Crimes Studies Centre at the University of California, Berkley, says that's not enough to justify removing him from the post.

COHEN: The issue for me would be whether or not, when Djalal was in East Timor, he was directly linked to the criminal activities of the militia and Indonesian security forces there. But if the charges against him are simply that he denied the Indonesian military was involved in the violence then one would probably have to reject every other member of the Indonesian foreign ministry from that period.

HOFMAN TO COHEN: Do any international governments, say Australia, for example, have a responsibility to weigh in on this and raise their own concerns about his appointment?

COHEN: Well, the Australian government has a great deal of information in its possession about who was involved in the 1999 violence and in what capacity and they would be well placed to determine whether or not Djalal appears anywhere in their documentation and if so, what his role was.

HOFMAN: Dino Djalal declined Radio Australia's request for an interview.

However, Kit Bond, US Senator for the state of Missouri, who first met with ambassador Djalal on an official visit to Indonesia, was quick to back his appointment.

BOND: We believe that certainly there were some really bad problems in the past, but under president Yudhoyono's enlightened leadership, I believe these things are going to be in the past and we'll work very hard to make sure they understand how important it is to make sure they don't continue to occur.

Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.