After months of evasion and deceit, it is now confirmed that British Aerospace has effectively concluded a deal to sell 24 Hawk aircraft to Indonesia. A second deal for 20 more Hawks will be signed before the end of this month.
Indonesia announced earlier this month that it intends to purchase no fewer than 144 Hawk aircraft to equip six squadrons of 24 aircraft each. At an average price of $11 million each, 144 Hawk aircraft will cost Indonesia well over $1.5 billion.
Shrouded in secrecy
Despite categorical denials from British Aerospace today, TAPOL is convinced that the deal has already been finalised. The secrecy shrouding this deal is proof that both the company and the British Government know how sensitive it is and have deliberately sought to mislead the public and avoid protest. This deal will make the UK Indonesia's leading arms supplier, bolstering the war machine of a regime that has illegally occupied East Timor since 1975 in defiance of ten UN resolutions adopted by both the General Assembly and Security Council. The Indonesian armed forces are also waging operations against armed resistance in West Papua and in Aceh, North Sumatra. In the latter region, several thousand people have been killed in operations since 1990.
A minister at the Defence Ministry claimed in Parliament this week that „The point of selling Hawk aircraft to Indonesia is to give jobs to people in this country. There is no doubt in my mind that a Hawk aircraft can do nothing to suppress the people of East Timor“. This amounts to a monstrous deception. According to Jane's Defence Weekly, [9.1.1993], each squadron will be supplied with two-scat trainers and single-scat Hawks to provide reconnaissance and close cover for troops. With military operations under way in so many parts of the country, the role of acrial reconnaissance is clearly crucial.
Speculation that a deal was concluded began last September when Indonesia's air force chief-of-staff, Air Marshal Siboen, said he signed the deal at the time of the Farnborough Air Show last September. British Aerospace told TAPOL that this was a Memorandum of Understanding only about training facilities. On 27 October, Minister for Defence Procurement Jonathan Aitken said the training facilities would „only become valid if a contract for the sale is concluded“. Siboen said on 30 December that „12 Indonesian pilots and mechanics to crew the aircraft have undergone intensive training in Britain“. It has also been confirmed by industry sources in the UK that Indonesian technicians have been training here for the new Hawks for some time. If training is underway, the contract is clearly in operation.
Siboen and the air force
Air Marshal Siboen, the AURI (air force) chief-of-staff is known as a high-flier. The former personal pilot of the president, he has a close relationship with the top executive which has made all the difference for the poorly-equipped air force. Before 1965, AURI was known for its strong ties with President Sukarno. After the military take-over the AURI was heavily purged. Suspicions about the loyalty of the air force persisted and Suharto deliberately kept it small and under-funded. It is Siboen himself, not Habibie, supremo of the country's military industrial complex, who has made all the public pronouncements about the Hawks deal. The sudden emergence of Marshal Siboen and the revitalisation of AURI has led to speculations among political analysts in Jakarta. Suharto, an army man himself, is increasingly at odds with army generals and is garnering loyalty from the other forces, AURI, POLRI (the police) and ALRI (the navy). It is the navy and the air force that are now shopping around and making huge arms deals. According to The Independent [6.XII.1992], the Indonesian regime was secretly negotiating with a private British arms dealer for the purchase of five large scrap combat vessels from the former Soviet Union and seeking to purchase two submarines. The regime has also just taken delivery of 39 naval vessels from the former East German navy.
The link between human rights violations and development aid is gaining acceptance worldwide. This is also the case with arms purchases. It is an outrage that a country like Indonesia with tens of millions living far below the poverty line, indulges in the luxury of purchasing Hawks. It would take an industrial worker in Jakarta, earning the minimum wage of Rp. 3,000 a day, 25,177 years to be able to buy one Hawk aircraft.
While the 1993/94 state budget announced by Suharto in January was considered cautious, defence expenditure rose by a dramatic 18.8%.
A Thatcher affair
A special aspect of Britain's relationship with Indonesia was highlighted recently when Margaret Thatcher received the 1992 honorary fellowship award from the Association of Indonesian Engineers. The first foreigner to receive the annual award, Thatcher was chosen because of her contribution to enhancing UK-Indonesian cooperation in technology, said the Association's chairman, B.J. Habibie. He is also President-Director of Indonesia's aerospace industry, IPTN, and of all the country's other weapons companies.
Aerospace technology was one area where cooperation flourished during
Thatcher's period of office. Mrs Thatcher told Tempo that she has worked
closely with Habibie for many years. During this period, British Aerospace
business with Indonesia has grown by leaps and hounds, including the sale
of Hawks, Rapier missiles and BAe's funding of a college of technology
in East Java. Indonesia's thirst for British Hawk jets continues apace.
Who ever said Mrs Thatcher has retired? <>
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