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November 6, 2012

DPA: Indonesia Dismisses Human Rights Concerns over German Tank Deal

Deutsche Presse Agentur

Jakarta – Indonesia on Tuesday dismissed concerns voiced by human
rights groups over its purchase of more than 150 tanks from Germany.

The Defence Ministry confirmed that it has purchased 100 Leopard
battle tanks, 50 lighter Marder tanks and several supporting vehicles
from German defence company Rheinmetall AG.

Deputy Defence Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said delivery was expected
to start this year.

The deal was opposed by human rights groups in Indonesia and the
German Green party, who argued that the military was still committing
human rights violations in the Papua region, the scene of a low-level
separatist conflict.

"Who says it‘s one of the conditions?" Defence Ministry spokesman
Colonel Bambang Hartawan, when asked if Indonesia had assured the
German government that the tanks would not be used against its own
people.

"Indonesia is a sovereign and civilized nation," he said.

Hartawan said the tank purchase was part of the government drive to
modernize its under-equipped military.

"We need to upgrade our defence capabilities like other countries have
done, in terms of human resources and equipment," he said.

Hartawan cast doubt on a planned signing of a memorandum of
understanding between the Defence Ministry and Rheinmetall on
Wednesday.

"It‘s not fixed yet," he said. "It‘s still being deliberated and
let‘s hope it will go smoothly."

The ministry said earlier that the deal had been completed and that
the subsequent agreement would only be related to future maintenance
and a transfer of technology.

Hartawan said an MBT Revolution, which is an upgraded Leopard A24, and
a Marder had arrived in Indonesia to be displayed at the exhibition.

The Indonesian Coalition of Civil Society has urged the government to
cancel the tank purchase.

"The coalition has a reason to be concerned that, given the
government‘s poor track record on human rights in Papua, that the
MBT Leopard could be used as a tool of repression," it said.

Poengky Indarti, executive director of the human rights group
Imparsial, said there were also questions on whether battle tanks like
the Leopard were needed or even suited to Indonesia‘s geography as
an archipelago.

"The government said it would place tanks in border areas. The
question is does the Leopard answer the need for border security?" she
said.

"Biggest threat in borders areas like Kalimantan and Papua are people,
goods and weapons smuggling," she said.

The military was accused of gross human rights violations under the
rule of autocratic president Suharto.

Activists said that despite a series of reforms following Suharto‘s
downfall in 1998, there has been little accountability for past and
recent abuses committed in Papua.

The government has allocated a defence budget of 156 trillion rupiah
(16.4 billion dollars) for the 2011-14 period, allowing it buy
hardware such as modern fighter aircraft, submarines and tanks.

Unlike neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesia does not have
main battle tanks. The Indonesian military has for years relied on
ageing French-made AMX-13 and British-made Scorpions light tanks.

The country‘s main weapons company, PT Pindad has developed and
produced the Anoa armoured personnel carrier and the government hopes
it would eventually be capable of making tanks similar to the Leopard
in cooperation with Germany.

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