Friday, October 1, 1999

Sec. Cohen’s rebuke of
Indonesian military

Bullet The issue: Defense Secretary William Cohen accused the Indonesian armed forces of aiding violence by anti-independence militias in East Timor.

Bullet Our view: Cohen's remarks were necessary but it's not clear how Jakarta will respond.

DEFENSE Secretary William Cohen's public rebuke of the Indonesian military for "aiding and abetting" militia violence against civilians in East Timor was fully justified. Whether it will have the desired effect, however, is an open question.

There is a chance that it could boomerang and further strain Indonesia's relations with the United States. The army had resisted efforts to gain independence for East Timor and the entry of United Nations peacekeepers but was forced to back off. The generals may still be planning to obstruct the peacekeepers, perhaps by encouraging raids by the anti-independence militias from West Timor, the part of the island still under Indonesian control. Indonesia has warned the peacekeepers against entering West Timor in pursuit of the militias.

Cohen said the United States is eager to restore normal ties to Indonesia, which Washington views as the key to long-term political and economic stability in Southeast Asia. As the largest and potentially the richest country in the region, Indonesia certainly merits Washington's attention. But the East Timor crisis has severely strained relations, and Cohen's strong language, although appropriate, may further strain them.

As the longtime provider of assistance and training to the Indonesian armed forces, the United States bears a share of responsibility for the army's murderous behavior in East Timor. The Pentagon's cancelation of aid programs for Indonesia was an attempt to stop the carnage, but could not erase the previous record of support.

Cohen declared that the United States "will not be able to restore normal relations until we see successful efforts to promote safety for the people of East Timor and allow the peace process to proceed." He added that Jakarta must act quickly to investigate the military's role in the violence in East Timor and to punish those responsible. He called the military's behavior in East Timor "inexcusable and shameful."

Indonesia has been in turmoil for more than a year since the rioting that forced the resignation of President Suharto. Although free elections for a new parliament have been held, the country is still nominally led by Suharto's former protege, B.J. Habibie, who seems to have no control over the military. The human disaster in East Timor and a backlash against the U.N. intervention could further destabilize the country.

The goal for the United States must be to ensure that East Timor gains its independence in accordance with the results of a plebiscite while encouraging the emergence of a stronger but democratic government in Jakarta. It won't be easy.

University of Hawaii

Rainbows’ mascot

Bullet The issue: The University of Hawaii football team's mascot is in hiding because of an anonymous threat.

Bullet Our view: The university should try to come up with a better mascot.

MASCOTS of sports teams have become controversial in recent years with the growth of sensitivity to the offensiveness of some ethnic references.

The Utah Redskins became the Utes and the Stanford Indians became the Cardinal (the color, not the bird, out of deference to avian concerns). The Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians brave it out with not only their insensitive names but comic depictions of Native Americans.

The University of Hawaii football team's nickname is the Rainbow Warriors, derived from the less masculine tag of simply the Rainbows, which has been retained by the baseball, basketball and other male teams.

The name Rainbow Warriors is absolutely inoffensive, but the devil is in the mascot. The UH Athletic Department, which tried menehunes and doughboys, finally settled some years ago on a cape-clad, helmeted fellow with comic-book-scale muscular enhancement via a body suit.

HOWEVER, some contend that the costume is degrading to Hawaiians. An anonymous letter threatening harm to the mascot has sent the Rainbow Warrior into retreat. The football team has found new success on the playing field, but UH Athletic Director Hugh Yoshida said the Rainbow Warrior mascot's future is "on hold" -- meaning sidelined -- while officials seek "some understanding as what the expectations are."

Kumu John Lake commented, "To me, the buff young man is a symbolism of today's spirit of a warrior. I find nothing offensive about it. It has nothing to do with sacred Hawaii because football has nothing to do with sacred Hawaii."

Kanalu Young, a professor of Hawaiian studies, doesn't object to the costumed mascot but said he can understand why some Hawaiians would find it degrading. "It may offend some because you're turning an entire tradition into a caricature," he explained.

Don't look for the Warrior mascot at tomorrow night's game at Aloha Stadium against Texas-El Paso. The only funny-looking costumed character running up and down the sidelines is likely to be a miner, cheering on the visiting team.

UH fans will be deprived of an answer, unfortunately. The warrior figure was a mistake, and not just because it might offend Hawaiians. The bigger problem is that it's grotesque.

UH should try to come up with a better mascot.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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