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Letter: Training Indonesia's army

Sir: The principled opposition of Peter Carey (letter, 26 May) to the brutality of the Indonesian army and its frequent violations of human rights has, over the years, been much admired by those of us who know Indonesia well. On this occasion, however, when he condemns the Centre for Security Studies at Hull University for providing courses for senior Indonesian military officers, one cannot help feeling that his desire to draw attention to past atrocities has clouded his judgement in relation to the potential merits of what Hull is doing.

Dr Carey and I both agree that it is important to exert pressure and influence to persuade the military in Indonesia to adopt a different approach to what they regard as civil unrest and what we see as the legitimate expression of political dissent. Surely one good way to try to exert such influence is through dialogue of the kind which is created through the opportunity of having senior officers attending courses in this country, where they will almost certainly be exposed to arguments and debates about human rights, civil liberties and democratic freedoms. Does the teaching staff in Hull not have this in mind?

It is my experience that senior Indonesian military figures at this level, however much they may disagree with the opinions of others, are quite happy to listen and debate.


Department of Anthropology

Eliot College

University of Kent at Canterbury