Bush to ask Congress for $16m in Indonesian military funding
U.S. President George W. Bush is poised to deliver his annual budget request Monday, proposing US$186 million in bilateral assistance to Indonesia in 2009, including some $16 million for military funding.
The total amount is, as reported by the Associated Press, down $4 million from 2008, but the military aid level remains roughly the same.
For 2008, Bush asked for and received $15.7 million for foreign military financing to help Indonesia "promote defense reform and improve maritime security, counterterrorism, mobility and disaster relief capabilities".
Military analyst Ikrar Nusabakti of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said Sunday the figure was not unusual and would simply maintain Washington's military cooperation with Jakarta.
"Regardless of some haunting human rights issues and still overshadowed by Bush's terrorism policy, the requested amount is a peanut," Ikrar told The Jakarta Post.
Besides, he added, Washington had to have learned that it could not afford to forgo military relations with Indonesia as it did between 1999 and 2005.
Military relations between the two countries were strained in 1999 following the referendum in breakaway province East Timor (now Timor Leste), with human rights groups accusing Indonesia of mass killings by the militia groups with the support of the army.
Bush revived all cooperation in 2005 after declaring Jakarta had made progress on some of Washington's earlier demands, including the prosecution of military officials in several human rights cases.
"There was sort of a generation loss during the embargo when the U.S. military had no Indonesian counterpart," said Ikrar.
The Bush administration sees Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, as crucial to fighting terrorism in Southeast Asia.
New York-based rights group East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) has opposed increasing military assistance to Indonesia because it believes change in the Indonesian military's conduct over the past few years has yet to warrant such a generous increase.
On Monday, Bush will also request nearly $16 million in military aid for Myanmar.
Jacked up from around $5 million for 2008, the amount is seen as support to spark change in the country after its military junta crushed pro-democracy protests led by students and Buddhist priests last year.
Monday's request will be the start of a long process. The Senate and the House of Representatives must make recommendations on funding, and negotiators from each side will then hammer out a compromised bill before sending it to the president for enactment.
With Bush entering his last year in office, he faces strong opposition from the Democratic party that controls Congress, meaning there's no guarantee the budget will be funded at the levels he has requested.
The Jakarta Post - Bush to ask Congress for $16m in Indonesian military funding