Embassy Row

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INDONESIA ANGRY

Secret U.S. Embassy cables that implicated the president of Indonesia in widespread corruption sparked angry demonstrations this week in the capital, Jakarta, and reports of a billion-dollar lawsuit against the embassy.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono denounced the diplomatic cables as “character assassination” and denied any involvement in the schemes the embassy outlined in reports to Washington.

“Believe me, I am accountable for what I do,” he said Monday night. “I, God willing, will continue to maintain the integrity because that is my duty as leader of this country.”

U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel expressed regret that the cables were leaked but declined to comment on the contents.

The cables, released to the Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers in Australia by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, claimed Mr. Yudhoyono protected corrupt cronies from prosecution and used the Indonesian intelligence service to spy on political opponents.

The diplomatic reports also said the president’s wife, Kristiani Herawati, and her relatives enriched themselves through their political connections.

A December 2004 cable described how Mr. Yudhoyono intervened to stop an investigation of Taufik Kiemas, the husband of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri. The cable referred to the “legendary corruption of his wife’s tenure.”

It revealed that a senior adviser to Mr. Yudhoyono served as a political informant for the embassy and told U.S. diplomats that prosecutors had “sufficient evidence … to warrant Taufik’s arrest.”

A December 2006 cable said Mr. Yudhoyono’s wife “is increasingly seeking to profit personally by acting as a broker or facilitator for business ventures.”

In Indonesia, the Jakarta Globe reported the Federation of National United Workers filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the Australian newspapers, although the newspaper was not clear about the grounds for the suit.

The Herald-Sun in Australia reported that the group also named the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta as a defendant.

About a dozen angry protesters picketed the embassy on Tuesday.

“The U.S. government must apologize over the leaked diplomatic cables, which have … hurt the feelings of the Indonesian people,” said organizer Ahmad Suhaimi.

WARNING THE PHILIPPINES

The U.S. ambassador in Manila is urging the Philippines to increase prosecutions in human-trafficking cases to prevent losing U.S. aid and falling further on a blacklist of nations that condone illegal child labor and sexual slavery.

“Clearly, the most important thing is how many convictions you have. So we’ll see,” Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. told reporters at a human-trafficking seminar Tuesday.

The State Department this year put the Philippines in a category called Tier 2, essentially a watch list of nations suspected of lax enforcement of human-trafficking laws.

Mr. Thomas said the Philippines risks falling to the Tier 3-level of nations cut off from U.S. aid because they have failed to uphold international standards against human trafficking.

“If Category 3 happens … that will be the end of humanitarian assistance,” he said.

The State Department cited the Philippines as a “source country” for smugglers who sell men, women and children into forced labor or prostitution in other nations.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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