Friday, December 17, 2004

Arms And The Woman

There are a number of important political developments emerging in Southeast Asia. Perhaps the most disturbing comes from Indonesia.

A week ago The Guardian reported here that
Indonesia's independent anti-corruption commission (KPK) is investigating claims that a British company, Alvis, paid $16.5 million to the eldest daughter of the former dictator Suharto - Siti "Tutut" Hardiyanti Rukmana - to secure an arms deal. The Observer followed up with a piece by Oliver Morgan that asks simply: "Should British taxpayers support companies that bribe their way to foreign contracts?". The answer to that question surely offers us a sense of the actual - as opposed to the rhetorical - conduct of British foreign policy in this era. And it has been more than a year since the Labour government promise to stop arms brokers dealing "wherever they are located" was dropped.

It is worth recalling how the entrenchment of the highly centralised, ruthless and predatory regime of Suharto was aided and abetted by successive British governments. The old dictator may have gone - and never to be prosecuted because of his alleged ill health - but the shadow of his party, Golkar, and his criminal children still lies like a nightmare on the brain of the living. As reported here, Golkar
is still the largest party in parliament and as such wields significant influence over the fractured Indonesian polity. Earlier in the year it nominated an alleged war criminal, General Wiranto, as its presidential candidate. And as the arms dealing case makes clear the system of predatory power relations and the ascendacy of politico-business families remains firmly in place. Those responsible for British foreign policy have to ask themselves honestly whether this is the kind of agenda they want to support.


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