When Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill announced last week that
Australia would renew training links with Indonesia’s notorious army
special forces group Kopassus, it was not a surprise. Senator Hill had
been trying to renew links with Kopassus for the past three years, and
Kopassus officers had already visited Australia’s Special Air Service
Regiment headquarters in Western Australia.
Kopassus was behind the 1999 carnage in East Timor, as well as a host
of human rights abuses throughout Indonesia. Training links were cut in
1999, but Senator Hill says they are now necessary to help combat
Interestingly, however, it has been Indonesia’s police, especially its
anti-terror group, Detachment 88, that has struck all the blows against
Indonesian terrorism since the 2002 Bali bombing, including the recent
killing of master bomb maker Azahari Husin.
But Kopassus is at the sharp end of Indonesia’s military, and
Australia’s foreign policy “realists” have always seen the military as
the key entry point in bilateral relations.
Such “realists,” though, might note comments by members of the
Foreign Affairs and Defence Commission of Indonesia’s House of
Representatives (DPR). According to one member visiting a Kopassus base
on Wednesday: “We need to be cautious as we are aware that Australia
really needs collaboration with us so they can counter their greatest
fear, which is terrorism.” Another said Kopassus should “think twice”
before working with Australia.
That is, Kopassus is doing Australia a favour by training with the SAS.
As noted by Indonesian human rights workers critical of the
arrangement, with friends like these…