Letter: Training oppressors

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The Independent Online
Sir: The fundamental objection to the training of Indonesian officers by universities, such as Hull (letter, 29 May), and the British government ("UK funded training for Indonesian forces", 1 June) relates to failure by the institutions concerned to take account of the context in which the military routinely violates human rights.

The armed forces have dominated everyday life and intervened in everything from land disputes to labour disputes for the last 32 years.

The special forces, Kopassus, some of whose officers are studying at Hull University, are trained in interrogation techniques including the use of torture, and their role in the illegally occupied territory of East Timor is one of unprecedented brutality.

The necessary reform of the role of the military will not be brought about by exposing a few officers to lessons in human rights and democracy. On the contrary, the Government and universities such as Hull are legitimising the existing role of the military. A senior lecturer at Hull has stated that we should "engage with and hopefully influence people likely to be in positions of authority and power there," while the Ministry of Defence talks about generating goodwill with the military.

While there has been change at the top in Indonesia, the armed forces remain as powerful as ever. They were responsible for the recent killing of six student demonstrators and they continue to resist change in East Timor. The British government and British universities should support democratic reform in Indonesia by refusing to train or teach any more military personnel.

PAUL BARBER

TAPOL, The Indonesia Human Rights Campaign

London WC2

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