For the convenience of USINDO Corporate Members and Friends, below is an informal USINDO summary report on the question and answer session that took place at the hearing. All questions were posed by Senator Dick Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. For the Senator’s opening statement as well as Ambassador-designate Lynn Pascoe’s statement, please visit our website at www.usindo.org.
Question: Are there any indications of substantial reform in the military?
Answer: It is an evolving situation. Since 1998 there have been changes to decrease the military’s power in politics, for example, moving away from its dual function role and withdrawing from membership in the parliament. There is a general feeling now that it is more appropriate for the military to have a greater professional military role instead of what it has been doing in the past in politics. A bill has been proposed on the functions of the armed forces, and it may not be acted upon until the next legislature is convened after the presidential election. The situation is evolving especially because there has been and will be changes of personnel over time. I believe it is important for the United States to cooperate with the military and to increase our relationship with them. Programs such as IMET will be able to help in this regard.
Question: What is the current relationship between the armed forces and the civilian government? Are there concerns regarding the control of the outlying areas of Indonesia, such as Aceh and Papua, where the military has more power than the government on the basis that they are doing it to safeguard the integrity of the country?
Answer: It is definitely a localization process. Over time there needs to be more accountability by the local governments to take responsibility and have more control of their regions; hopefully local elections will be able to do this. I believe that there is an opportunity for the U.S. to help in strengthening local governments for this particular role.
Question: I recently met with a delegation of young Indian parliamentarians and I was impressed that most of them have been educated in the U.S. The delegation members said that their educational background is related to the economic growth and dynamism that India is currently experiencing. I noticed there has been a lot of trade impact between India and the U.S. and also with China, but not much going on with Indonesia. What are the Indonesians going to do about economic dynamism in their own country, especially in relation to India and China?
Answer: In the past, the Indonesian economic miracle was attributed to the group known as the Berkeley Mafia. These people understood how the world works and they wanted Indonesia to be a part of that world. The U.S. had a fairly robust higher education program for Indonesia in the 1980’s but for some reason has backed off from that program. Malaysia has helped their citizens who want to study in the U.S. with government sponsorships, but Indonesia does not have a similar program. I think it is important to have more Indonesians coming to the U.S. to study and that the president’s initiative of $157 million in funds for education is a good start. It is something we can work with. We need to put some quality time in long-term planning for education, not only in the short-term like counter-terrorism.
Senator Lugar agreed enthusiastically with this statement. He also mentioned that Secretary Powell, in his testimony given a day earlier to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the genocide in Sudan, gave a plea for more emphasis on “soft diplomacy” to increase assistance in this area, also in the Millennium Challenge Account and the exchange of scholars. He agreed that the education initiative in the 80s that has disappeared needs to be restored.
Ambassador-designate Pascoe then mentioned the need to improve the visa process and to re-establish the idea that the U.S. does indeed want students from abroad and they will be welcomed. Senator Lugar commented that the Committee has had several hearings on this issue and that it is recognized as a critical challenge. Universities in the U.S. are suffering because of this, but it is not easy especially with the need to focus on the security implications, people overstaying their visa limits, etc.