/** ips.english: 432.0 **/

** Topic: JAPAN-EAST TIMOR: As Top Donor, Tokyo Asked to Lean on Jakarta **
** Written 9:06 PM Sep 7, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

*** 07-Sep-99 ***

Title: JAPAN-EAST TIMOR: As Top Donor, Tokyo Asked to Lean on Jakarta

//ATT EDS: Please relate the following to the item 'EAST TIMOR: Territory Put Under Martial Law, As Xanana Freed' moved earlier from Jakarta.//

By Suvendrini Kakuchi

TOKYO, Sep 7 (IPS) - Traditionally reticent Japan should be using its clout as Indonesia's top donor to force Jakarta to crack down on the bloodbath in East Timor, frustrated activists here say.

They say the anarchy in East Timor, where hundreds of deaths have been reported in the past week and tens of thousands are fleeing violence, is no occasion for Tokyo to issue the usual diplomatic niceties.

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has condemned the violence in East Timor, and called on all parties to respect the outcome of the UN-sponsored referendum on Aug 30, where 78.5 percent of voters chose independence.

But analysts and human rights advocates say they want Japan to take a leading role in pressuring Indonesia -- a role that in the Asia-Pacific appears is being played by Australia and New Zealand so far.

''Japan, even more than the United States, can do much more for bringing peace to East Timor because of its close economic relations with Indonesia,'' argued Kiyokazu Yoshioka of the Pacific Asia Resources Centre, a non-governmental organisation that monitors Japanese aid in Asia.

''Japan must put aside its economic interests and work much harder for peace by taking definite steps toward pressurising Jakarta to observe human rights in East Timor,'' Yoshioka added.

So far, Australia and New Zealand have been the most vocal in the Asia-Pacific in criticising Indonesia's inability, or unwillingness, to stop pro-Jakarta militias from terrorising the East Timorese.

They have expressed support for quick intervention in the form of peacekeeping troops if needed, and back the use by countries of foreign aid money and the international bail-out package for Indonesia as pressure to get Jakarta to act soonest.

Martial law was declared in the territory on Tuesday.

Supporters of East Timor want Tokyo to officially single out the Indonesian military's role in arming anti-independence militia, restrict Japan's aid contributions, and force the government of President Bacharuddin Jusus Habibie to do much more than give verbal promises.

After China, Indonesia is the second biggest recipient of Japanese aid. Japan is also the largest investor in Japan, making up 15 percent of total investments, and has large exposure in Indonesian banks.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said: ''Our nation is watching the situation with great interest and as the need arises, we will urge the Indonesian government to take responsibility for safety (in East Timor).''

Officials also told the Japanese press that Tokyo is considering the option of sending civilian police to the United Nations Mission in East Timor.

Japan is also preparing financial and material assistance as the need arises, they added. The Asahi newspaper, a leading daily, reported that Japan is expected to play a major role in the UN peacekeeping activity in East Timor if a force in dispatched there.

Professor Kei Nemoto at Tokyo Gaiko university and an expert on Burma and human rights in Asia, explains that East Timor represents a complex diplomatic situation for Japan -- which has maintained close ties with Indonesia during the past decades.

''Extremely close economic links with Indonesia, based on the nation's huge supply of natural gas, petroleum and other natural resources that are exported to Japan, make it very difficult for Japanese politicians to take a stance on the issue,'' he explained.

Indeed, experts contend Japan is now in a quandary about how it should react to the volatile situation in East Timor.

''The challenge presented by East Timor is all the more obvious when you consider how Japan reacted to the Asian financial crisis by providing huge amounts of aid,'' argued Nemoto. ''But when it comes to protecting human rights, Japan's leadership is hardly to be seen.''

On Tuesday, the Japanese chapter of the NGO Free East Timor presented a statement to the Foreign Ministry asking Habibie to agree to Japanese peacekeeping forces being sent to East Timor, and to increase humanitarian aid to beleaguered civilians.

''We also want the Indonesian military and police to completely move out of East Timor and prosecute the militia, a move that will pave the way to democracy,'' said a member who asked not to be named.

Professor Kenichi Goto, an expert on Indonesia at Waseda University, explains that Tokyo must follow other countries' call for stopping financial aid to the Habibie government.

Usually silent on countries' political affairs, the International Monetary Fund indirectly indicated it would withold future funds if Indonesia does not act to reverse the situation in East Timor. The Fund is ''closely watching the situation'' in the territory, an official in Jakarta said Monday.

The IMF led a 43-billion U.S. dollar bail-out programme for Indonesia, and Japan is the biggest bilateral contributor to the package.

The World Bank has sent similar signals, saying its member countries were concerned about East Timor's fate.

So far, Japan, traditionally reluctant to use official development assistance for overtly political causes, has not yet indicated a step toward this direction.

But critics point out that Japan is actually not respecting its own, much-proclaimed aid principles, which promise not to extend aid to countries with huge military budgets.

Nemoto says the logic is simple: ''The Japanese public want their tax money to be used to uphold human rights and encourage prosperity in the world. By refusing to stop aid to Indonesia, the Japanese government is not respecting the will of its people.''

Experts add that Japan's diplomatic dithering this time reflects its weakness in maintaining ties with opposition political leaders and civic movements in other nations.

Said Goto: ''The tendency has always been to rely only on official governments when it comes to conducting Japan's diplomacy. This narrow definition is different from countries such as the United States, which maintains a more mature approach.'' (END/IPS/ap-hd-ip/sk/js/99)

Origin: Manila/JAPAN-EAST TIMOR/