The Jakarta Post, New York/Jakarta
The U.S. has provided tsunami-hit Indonesia with spare parts for five of its 24 U.S.-made C-130 cargo planes without lifting its long-standing ban on weapons sales to its military, the Dow Jones Newswires reported on Tuesday quoting an U.S. official as saying.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in New York on Monday (Tuesday in Jakarta) that the spare parts were sent to Indonesia under existing provisions of the law that allowed for certain kinds of sales to the country.
Indonesia has pressed the U.S. to lift the ban on weapon sales to its military, and said a lack of spare parts left 17 of its C-130 cargo planes grounded when the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami hit Sumatra island, preventing it from reaching many remote areas cut off when roads and bridges were destroyed.
Without the U.S. ban, the planes may have been fit to fly, its government said.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a visit to Indonesia's disaster zone in early January that the U.S. government would begin allowing spare parts for C-130s into Indonesia.
Supporters of the ban say Indonesia is lying about its C-130s parts to get concessions out of the U.S. They say Indonesia has been allowed to buy the C-130 spare parts under U.S. law since 2002 and before that bought them on the black market.
""We told the Indonesians we would sell them these parts four years ago, but they chose to buy them elsewhere,"" the Associated Press quoted Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as saying earlier this month.
""Yet they have continued to falsely blame our law for denying them this equipment. It is a myth, used to push for a relaxation of our human rights conditions, so they can use these aircraft for combat purposes,"" said Leahy of Vermont.
But Indonesia's Ministry of Defense's director general of defense strategy Maj. Gen. (ret) Sudrajat said Indonesia had not been allowed to purchase C-130 spare parts directly from the U.S. eventually the ban was partially lifted in 2002.
Jakarta was forced to procure the spare parts from third countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Europe, Sudrajat said.
All the purchases, however, had to be with the consent of U.S. authorities, he added.
""This forced us to shop for double prices, while there was no guarantee that other countries wanted to merchandise their U.S. spare parts,"" Sudrajat told The Jakarta Post last month.
The ban was first imposed in 1991 when Indonesian troops gunned down unarmed protesters in East Timor, killing more than 250 people. Eight years later, the ban was tightened after Indonesian troops and their proxy militias killed 1,500 East Timorese when the half island territory voted for independence in a UN-sponsored independence referendum.
President George W. Bush's administration has campaigned hard for lifting the ban, but Congress has resisted, in part because Indonesia has failed to jail any military leaders allegedly responsible for the 1999 Timor violence.