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Call for closure of Namru-2 in Indonesia increasing

06/28/08 06:05

By Eliswan Azly

Solo, Central Java (ANTARA News) - Amidst strong calls from the House of Representatives for an early decision on the fate of the US Naval Medical Research Unit 2 (Namru-2), a minister preferred the termination of the Namru-2 contract with Indonesia.

Speaking in a talk show on Awakening Indonesia at the Muhammadiyah University in Surakarta (Solo) on Friday, Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari expressed her preference to the closure of the US Naval Medical Research Unit-2.

She even saw the presence of Namru-2 as a manifestation of neoliberalism which could treathen Indonesian sovereignty. Namru-2 became like a symbol of a foreign power gripping in Indonesia with its claws.

"This laboratory has been in Indonesia without a permit for over 40 years for research of diseases. Various types of viruses from Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Indonesia had been studied in this laboratory," she said.

The minister suspected that the results of the research work may be used for a certain dangerous and mysterious target and she was also very concerned about the government for being unable to prevent the country from threats of foreign powers already inside the country.

Especially that Namru-2 was headed by a colonel of the US Navy, she said during a hearing with the House Commission I.

Sharing her views, Mutammimul Ula, a law maker of Commission I which deals with foreign affairs, also urged the government to stop and take over the operation of the Namru-2 laboratory.

In the 30 years of operation in Indonesia, Namru-2 was considered to have failed in providing the country concrete results for the defense and health sectors.

Other legislators, according to the law maker, agreed to the cancellation of a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be released by the Foreign Ministry.

Indonesia has established cooperation with various institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO) on research and data transfer. It is for those reasons that an extension of the cooperation with Namru-2 is no longer necessary.

Furthermore, he said the government should conduct an investigation on an allegation that Namru-2 staffers had been involved in intelligence operations. "In addition, the US embassy in Jakarta should provide evidence that Namru-2 is not an institution engaged in espionage."

The legislator however believed that the cooperation needs to be based on transparency and equality as well as respect for Indonesia`s sovereignty and mutual benefit.

Not only the legislator, Joserizal Junalis of the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C) and Munarman of An Nashr Institute also called on the government not to extend the cooperation with the US Naval Medical Research Institute.

They said in their statements that the presence of Namru-2 in Indonesia for over 30 years now have failed to benefit the people. An agreement between the Indonesian and US governments on Namru-2 operations reached on January 16, 1970, was believed to have caused a loss to Indonesia because of the diplomatic immunity enjoyed by the Namru-2 staff members, their tax exemption and free accommodation.

Namru-2 was also believed to have violated the cooperation, because they had been continuing their research work although their contract had expired.

More saddening, Namru-2 was also reported to be lacking in transparency in their information for the Indonesian government and that their operations were allegedly linked to US intelligence operations in Indonesia.

In the meantime, the US embassy in Jakarta said that Namru-2 was a transparent organization merely engaged in medical and scientific research work focusing on tropical diseases.

The biomedical research laboratory of Namru-2, according to the US embassy, conducted a series of research work on infectious diseases to serve the interest of the US and Indonesian health ministry as well as the health of the international community.

Commenting on the diplomatic immunity of all NAMRU-2 staff members which has developed into a controversial issue, Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said that the Indonesian government persisted in granting diplomatic immunity to only two US Namru-2 staff members.

"We are sticking to our stance that not all of Namru-2 personnel deserved diplomatic immunity, but only two of the 20 US naval officers with Namru-2," he said.