UK funded training for Indonesian forces

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN has spent almost pounds 300,000 on military aid to Indonesia since Labour came to power, new figures reveal.

The money - spent by the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and, to a lesser extent, the Department for International Development - does not include the budget for promoting arms sales to the regime, which remains secret.

Since May 1997, British taxpayers have funded a range of training courses for the Indonesian military despite widespread condemnation of its human- rights abuses.

Soldiers and seamen from Indonesia have received aid from United Kingdom experts in their own country, as well as attending colleges in Britain.

Services on offer include courses on map-making, surveying and weather patterns, as well as English-language tuition and a sub-lieutenant's course for officers seeking promotion.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said its pounds 42,800 share of the money promoted co-operative working. "If you finish up working together in response to a crisis it can help. Exposure to the professional ethos in our military programme can generate considerable goodwill," he said.

The Foreign Office said half the pounds 225,000 it spent in 1997-98 was a "carry- over" from the previous year, though a spokesman could not say why. Much of it was spent on English-language training agreed under the previous government.

The Foreign Office programme will be replaced this year with a new scheme targeted at promoting human rights, the spokesman said. "We look at these things case by case and consider them against human rights objectives," he said.

Since 1990, the Ministry of Defence has spent pounds 3.4m on military aid to Indonesia, according to figures released to Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon Valley.

That does not include spending by the Defence Export Services Organisation in support of arms deals, including the controversial sale of Hawk jets by British Aerospace. An MoD spokesman confirmed that such support had been given but was unable to give figures on its cost.

The Department for International Development has stopped giving aid to the Indonesian police, although a spokeswoman said it had met the residual costs of training for one officer in the past year.

Ms Clwyd questioned whether the Indonesian officers would really learn liberal values from Britain. "I just cannot believe the Indonesian government would have chosen people with independent minds. This is another argument for parliament to have the opportunity to debate arms sales to countries that are dodgy," she said.

The Foreign Office budget was disclosed in a parliamentary answer to Jenny Tonge, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park. "We haven't seen any evidence yet of the peaceful skills that these people are supposed to be being taught. All we get is trouble," she said.

The Campaign Against The Arms Trade said in a statement that despite the change of regime, the Indonesian military might still thwart the cause of democracy.

"The support that successive UK governments, including the present one, have given to the military is indefensible, as is the spending of taxpayers' money on the marketing of weapons to forces responsible for genocide in East Timor," it said.