Sunday, January 30, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ Anti-Corruption Activist Beaten Up

Following is coverage on human rights violation to anti-corruption activist, Farid Faqih, in Indonesia. As much as we want to believe in the goodwill of the military in Aceh, they are still playing the same old rules of taking the law into their own hands with intimidation and physical abuses. Farid is now in Jakarta to undergo health examination after he experienced harsh treatment during interogation in Aceh. In chronologicar order. The highligths are mine.


Date: 27 Jan 2005

Anti-Corruption Activist Arrested in Aceh

Laksamana.Net - The leader of an anti-corruption watchdog devoted to exposing crimes by state officials has been arrested in Aceh province for improper handling of aid intended for tsunami victims, reports said Thursday (27/1/05).

Farid Faqih, chairman of Government Watch (GOWA), and three members of the radical Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) were arrested on Wednesday evening on suspicion of violating procedures in the storage and use of aid, detikcom online news portal reported.

The four were reportedly arrested by Air Force officers at the Sultan Iskandar Muda Airbase and handed over to police for further investigation.

Detikcom quoted an unnamed source as saying the events started at 5pm when two trucks arrived at one of the airbase’s hangars, which functions as a storehouse for disaster relief supplies.

"The three FPI members at that time were in the middle of loading items into the two trucks to be distributed to the people. Suddenly a health official from the Iskandar Muda Regional Military Command arrived to take a consignment of items that had come from the Indonesian Defense Forces [TNI] headquarters,” said the source.

He said the official inspected the trucks and found the first contained various food items, while the second contained medical equipment belonging to the Iskandar Muda Regional Military Command. The FPI members were then asked to explain why they were loading aid that belonged to TNI.

"According to the health official, they [the FPI members] gave unclear answers that went around in circles. The three people were then interrogated by an Air Force security official,” said the source.

After the interrogation, they led the Air Force officers to a warehouse in the Kroeng Lingga area of Aceh Besar district. The warehouse contained supplies of food, drinking water, clothing and medicine, but the officers also found rice cookers that had been donated by the wife of TNI commander General Endriartono Sutarto on behalf of the Association of Army Wives (Persit).

The FPI members reportedly told the officers the warehouse was run by Faqih. "They were then charged with taking TNI assistance without following administrative procedures and were brought to Aceh Police headquarters,” said the source.

Major General Bambang Darmono, commander of Natural Disaster Relief Operations in Aceh, was quoted by state news agency Antara as saying Faqih and his three assistants had been detained on suspicion of improper storage and distribution of aid.

He said the aid in question had been donated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and was flown to Jakarta by a Hercules military transport aircraft.

The suspects had brought the aid to “suspicious locations” and violated procedures for removing items from aid warehouses, he added.

Darmono said his team is responsible for the distribution of aid and therefore demands an investigation into the case because TNI has often been accused of pilfering relief supplies.

He said the law must be upheld regardless of the status of the suspects.

One Gateway
The president has requested that relief aid for the tsunami victims in Aceh and North Sumatra be channeled through a single gateway for easier control, a minister said Wednesday.

"The president called for the distribution of relief aid through one gate," Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Alwi Shihab was quoted as saying by Antara.

He was speaking after a meeting with Yudhoyono to report on how donations were being spent to provide aid to the two provinces.

Shihab said he and two other ministers – Finance Minister Jusuf Anwar and National Development Planning Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati – were responsible for the distribution of the assistance funds. "The government will transparently report its income and spending.”

He said that as of January 25, the government had received aid donations amounting to Rp914.97 billion ($100.16 million), of which Rp114.67 billion had been distributed.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 28 Jan 2005

Antigraft activist named suspect over aid 'theft'
The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh/Jakarta

The Indonesian police named anticorruption activist Farid Faqih a suspect on Thursday for allegedly stealing donated items destined for tsunami victims in Aceh.

The police have also confiscated two trucks from him loaded with the donated food, medicine and computer equipment.

If convicted, Farid could be imprisoned up to seven years, said Brig. Gen. Soeharto, the chief of the special crimes division at the National Police headquarters.

Farid, the coordinator of Government Watch (GOWA) a non-governmental organization that acts as an anticorruption watchdog, was questioned by Banda Aceh police investigators after he was earlier detained and questioned by the Indonesian Air Force's military police officers on Wednesday.

"After the police investigation, he has officially been named a suspect," Soeharto told reporters in Banda Aceh.

According to military police sources, the relief materials arrived by plane at the Iskandar Muda air base in the Blang Bintang area just outside of Banda Aceh city at 1 p.m on Wednesday. The donations came from the military officers' wives association (Dharma Pertiwi) and were logged in and received by Capt. Suaib, a military medical officer, currently in Aceh.

After checking the aid containers on the tarmac of the air base, the military officer reported its arrival to the TNI's operational command on the base. After handing over the manifest, Suaib went back to the tarmac, but the containers were gone.

Suaib eventually discovered that the supplies had been loaded on to two trucks and taken to a warehouse.

Suaib and the soldiers with him became enraged after they realized that Farid, who is in Aceh along with other NGO activists, working in partnership with the UN's World Food Program, was responsible for taking the aid away. After an argument, Farid was beaten black and blue by the soldiers and detained at the Air Force's military police post. Farid was later sent to the Banda Aceh police headquarters for interrogation.

"The beating was unavoidable because the officers had been waiting to distribute the aid for two days," said Lt. Col. Sazili, the air base commander, as quoted by AFP.

In addition to Farid, Aceh police officers also questioned six volunteers from the Islamic Defender's Front (FPI), who helped Farid load the goods on to the trucks.

During the investigation, Farid maintained that he was innocent. He told the investigators that he intended to keep the goods at the warehouse just outside Banda Aceh to prevent damage from the rain, Indopos daily quoted the investigators as saying.

The arrest and beating of Farid has sparked an uproar among activists and non-governmental organizations in Jakarta.

Gowa Secretary General Andi Syahputra claimed that the arrest was politically motivated. He said that "certain parties" were upset that Farid had criticized the distribution of relief aid by the Indonesian military and the government, and that was what led to the violence and charges against him.

Student Movement Exponent 1997/1978, a group of former student activists, said that Farid had become a scapegoat to deflect the blame over the chaotic distribution of aid.

Separately, the Coordinating Minister of People's Welfare, Alwi Shihab, said that he was not convinced that the activist was guilty of misappropriating aid for tsunami victims.

"Farid may have violated certain procedures, believing that he could bypass them given the emergency situation in Aceh, but the security authorities might have considered that a serious crime," Alwi said in Jakarta.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 28 Jan 2005

President Susilo regrets activist's beating
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he regretted the assault against antigraft activist Farid Faqih (photo above), who soldiers alleged had stolen relief aid in Aceh.

"The President does not want to see people take the law into their own hands. If Farid was caught red-handed for a crime, he should have been taken to the police," Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi told reporters at the State Palace. The president also said he wanted Farid's case to be settled in accordance with the law, said Sudi.

Separately, chief of the National Police Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said that the investigators were still looking into the case.

"We are still probing whether the donated items were to be distributed to tsunami victims or were going to be taken by Farid for his own gain," said the four-star police general.

Farid, the coordinator of the Government Watch (GOWA), was beaten by soldiers on Wednesday after he was accused of stealing two truckloads of aid from the Iskandar Muda air base in Banda Aceh.


Source: The Age - Australia
Date: 28 Jan 2005

Indonesia says aid chief stole
By Mark Forbes and Matthew Moore - Banda Aceh

The arrest of an anti-corruption watchdog and UN contractor threatens to undermine the aid effort.

The head of an anti-corruption watchdog, who last week accused Indonesian officials of inflating refugee numbers to boost aid payments, has been arrested for allegedly diverting large quantities of aid intended for tsunami victims.

In a furore that threatens to undermine faith in the $10 billion relief effort, Farid Faqih, chairman of Government Watch and a leading United Nations contractor in Aceh, was under arrest yesterday after being apprehended by Indonesian air force officers.

Last night the United Nations said it was conducting its own investigation into the claims.

But at a press conference in Jakarta, Government Watch representatives insisted Mr Faqih would never have stolen aid relief, saying he had removed the aid for safekeeping.

A spokesman for the Indonesian military, Colonel D. J. Nachrowi, told The Age Mr Faqih had improperly removed medical supplies, hundreds of cooking stoves and other aid from the central depot at Banda Aceh airport. Some items were donated by the wife of the head of the military, he said.

Mr Faqih was arrested with three members of the Islamic group, the Islamic Defenders Front, who allegedly assisted in the removal.

The military then found large quantities of international aid in three warehouses operated by Mr Faqih.

"Mr Faqih took goods that were clearly not his," Colonel Nachrowi said. "I don't know if Mr Faqih took the goods for his own benefit, for his own people or even for GAM (militant Acehnese separatists) - there are three possibilities."

Mr Faqih appeared to have been badly beaten, but Colonel Nachrowi said it was unclear who was responsible.

Local police would determine what action would be taken, he said. Aceh police were still interrogating Mr Faqih last night.

Last week Mr Faqih claimed the number of refugees in some Aceh camps has been significantly inflated by local officials seeking to get more aid, suggesting graft might compromise tsunami relief work.

As a contractor to the UN and the World Food Program, the trucks of Mr Faqih's Aceh Logistic Support organisation had access to the large stockpiles of aid in Banda Aceh.

Major-General Bambang Darmono, commander of Natural Disaster Relief Operations in Aceh, said Mr Faqih and three assistants had been detained on suspicion of improper storage and distribution of aid.

Government Watch said Mr Faqih had permission to store the goods he was accused of stealing and said he had been given permission by the army to move them from the airport.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 29 Jan 2005

Black and Blue - Opinion and Editorial

Outrageous is one word to describe a beating Indonesian soldiers meted out to anticorruption activist Farid Faqih in Banda Aceh, an outspoken critic of the military, who now faces charges of stealing donated goods from the Iskandar Muda Airport. Another might be insolence, yet another sheer stupidity. A preliminary investigation into the coordinator of Government Watch should have immediately revealed his true intentions when taking two truckloads of aid from the airbase, to be sent, he said, to a warehouse and out of the rain.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono rightly slammed Wednesday's beating, which directly contradicted what he has said about the importance of law enforcement; that people, including soldiers, should not take the law into their own hands.

These "people" included elements of security forces, which we rely on so much these days to help with the emergency relief work in the tsunami-hit provinces and the reconstruction that follows.

Their work has led to much praise, a luxury for the Indonesian Military (TNI), which has yet to shed its image of a national asset that views itself as soimportant that it has often seemed beyond the law.

So far we have reports of investigations into the activist beginning almost instantly after Farid was beaten and declared a suspect. We have yet to hear about any investigations into the soldiers.

The actions of the soldiers who had waited for two days to distribute the aid was "unavoidable", the air base commander was quoted as saying. Stealing aid from refugees who have lost everything may indeed be an unpardoned crime but the "unavoidable" beating only reflected the one language understood most by our supposedly reformed soldiers: Violence. To them, the language of the law is still likely an alien tongue.

Such old habits of the past are the last thing needed in this time of distress for hundreds of thousands of survivors, while we have not even solved adequate coordination in the distribution of aid to different areas.

"Chaotic" was the blunt verdict of the United Nations report issued Thursday about how aid was being distributed on the west coast of Aceh. The UN report by an inter-agency team including the Indonesian government, the U.S. militaryand UN agencies, cited "the continued absence of a systematic response to the multiple needs of the population". Lack of coordination of health services and fragmented information were also cited.

Thankfully, among the good news, the report also said that food was reaching "most large population groups".

Coordination is just one worry. Monitoring of the aid including all that donated cash is another. Already the Coordinating Minister for People's WelfareAlwi Shihab is baffled about the balance sheet of public donations drawn up by his own office. The balance sheet, he told lawmakers on Thursday, "shows that a large amount of money was paid out to help organize the recent Infrastructure Summit. I am baffled as to what this summit had to do with the tsunami."

Although not often voiced amid the global empathy following the Dec. 26 disaster, the international spotlight is now on whether Indonesia can overcome its track record of corruption in managing the distribution of at least US$3 billion in aid.

It means one question: With so much lost, can Indonesians turn over a newleaf, at least for the sake of those who survived? Can we not steal their money? Can we not revert to old tricks and engage in "marking up" needs, as Farid reportedly accused officials of? And can we investigate and prosecute alleged thieves and not beat them up before any trial? The early signs are that many among us cannot give up our very old habits -- as is evident from the pictures of Farid Faqih's bloated face.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 29 Jan 2005

Army officer detained for assaulting activist
National News - Jakarta

The Aceh military authorities have detained an army officer for questioning after he allegedly assaulted an anticorruption activist accused of stealing relief aid from the air force base in Banda Aceh.

"As soon as we (the TNI) were informed that one of our officers had assaulted the activist, we ordered the provost to arrest him and put him into Aceh Military Police detention.

"The investigation against him will proceed," Col. Yani Basuki, spokesman for the Indonesian Military (TNI)'s Aceh disaster management task force, told The Jakarta Post by phone on Friday.

But he quickly added that Captain Suaib had yet to be named a suspect.

The move by the TNI came after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed his regrets on Thursday over the attack on Farid Faqih, the director of Government Watch (GOWA), a non-governmental organization that had previously vociferously criticized the government's poor coordination of relief aid in Aceh.

According to Yani, Suaib had been assigned to monitor the movement of all military supplies and relief aid arriving in Banda Aceh.

Farid is alleged to have been caught red-handed taking away various relief items, such as medical equipment, medicines, cigarettes, and kitchen utensils, donated by the wives of military officers stationed at the Banda Aceh air force base. Before handing the activist over to the local police, the army captain allegedly assaulted Farid, who sustained a black eye, bruising and swelling to his face.

Farid denied the charge of theft, saying that he was moving the goods to a warehouse outside Banda Aceh to prevent them from being soaked by the rain. He also said that he was assaulted by more than one soldier.

But in an interview aired by Metro TV, the commander of the TNI's Aceh disaster management task force, Maj. Gen. Bambang Darmono, said that Suaib was the "sole perpetrator."

Meanwhile, United Nations officers in Aceh said Farid was a partner in the world body's relief operation in the province.

Bo Asplund, the United Nations representative in Indonesia, was quoted by AP on Friday as saying that he believed that Farid had been wrongly accused and would be released soon.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who also chairs the National Disaster Management and Refugee Coordination Board (Bakornas PBP), said that the assault on Farid was the result of a misunderstanding and had nothing to do with poor coordination on the ground.

"So much aid has been flooding into to Aceh. It would be very easy to take it just like that. They are supposed to get permits. This is not about coordination. In fact, if there was no coordination, Aceh would be even more messed up. But it's not," he said.

Meanwhile, National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said on Friday that Farid would be transferred to police headquarters in Jakarta for further questioning on the grounds that the law enforcement institutions in devastated Aceh had yet to return to normal.


Source: Suara Merdeka
Date: 30 Jan 2005

Kesehatan Farid Faqih Diperiksa
Sejumlah Saksi Mendapat Teror

JAKARTA- Farid Faqih tersangka kasus pencurian barang-barang milik TNI, Sabtu (29/1) sekitar pukul 09.00 diperiksa kesehatannya di Rumah Sakit Fakinah, Aceh. ''Dia diperiksa empat orang dokter, yaitu dr Faisal, dr Heri, dr Mardi Sudirman, dan dr Mintarja,'' kata Daniel Panjaitan dari Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia (YLBHI) dalam siaran persnya, kemarin.

Menurut dia, para dokter tersebut menanyakan obat apa yang diminum, Farid menyatakan beberapa obat yang diminum, misalnya eramicetin, amoxilin, flavic. Farid juga mengatakan baru memasang balon di jantungnya.

Daniel mengatakan pemeriksaan juga dilakukan terhadap luka-luka di tubuh Farid. ''Dari hasil pemeriksaan diketahui mata kiri lebam seluas 7x11 cm. Mulut bagian kiri lebam 4x11 cm. Di dada kiri terdapat memar seluas 6x4 cm, juga terdapat lebam di dekat pantat.''

Farid juga sempat dirontgen, tetapi hasilnya hingga kini belum keluar. Sementara itu, sekitar pukul 12.00 istri Farid Faqih, Kristina Ratih, dan kakak kandung Farid, Firdaus Rasyid datang dari Jakarta mengunjungi Farid.

Sekretaris Jenderal Government Watch (Gowa) Andi Syahputra mengatakan, pihaknya kini berusaha mendapatkan visum tentang penganiayaan yang dilakukan aparat keamanan terhadap Farid Faqih. ''Sebetulnya sudah ada visum dari kepolisian. Namun kami ingin ada visum pembanding untuk menjelaskan bahwa pemukulan yang dilakukan terhadap pimpinan Gowa tak cuma sekali dan dilakukan lebih dari seorang.''

Kapten CKM
Menurut dia, Syuaeb yang disebut-sebut pelaku tunggal pemukulan Farid, hanya skenario terakhir yang dikeluarkan TNI. Informasi yang dia peroleh menyebutkan, Syuaeb memang memukul kali pertama kepada Farid di pintu posko. Setelah itu Farid digiring ke posko utama. Di sana pimpinan Gowa itu diperiksa hingga tujuh malam.

"Pak Farid tetap mengatakan dia dipukuli oleh sembilan orang, bukan satu orang. Kelihatannya mulai ada upaya-upaya orang yang tak melakukan komunikasi dengan Farid, diajukan sebagai saksi. Kami juga mendapat informasi orang-orang yang sudah diperiksa sebagai saksi itu banyak mendapat teror,'' katanya.

Andi minta kasus Farid tak cuma dipersoalkan penganiayaannya. Tuduhan pencurian barang juga harus mendapat klarifikasi karena menyangkut nama baik. Bila tuduhan pencurian barang tetap dipersoalkan, tidak tertutup kemungkinan Menko Kesra Alwi Shihab yang merupakan Ketua Harian Bakornas penanggulangan bencana di Aceh akan terseret-seret.

''Alwi Shihab mengetahui kok kalau Pak Farid berkali-kali keluar masuk mengambil barang dari posko. Kalau tuduhannya adalah pencurian, berarti Pak Alwi ikut mendiamkan pencurian berlangsung selama itu,'' katanya.

Ketua Majelis Anggota PBHI Hendardi meminta TNI tidak cuci tangan untuk membersihkan kebobrokan di tubuh aparat seperti yang selama ini dilakukan. ''Yang penting, pemukulan itu harus diusut tuntas oleh aparat, apakah dipukul satu orang atau sembilan orang. Ini kan sudah termasuk tindak pidana. Pemukulan untuk kasus apa pun tidak dibenarkan,'' tegasnya.

Meski demikian, dia menegaskan LSM-LSM juga harus membersihkan diri. Mereka perlu intropeksi diri. ''Kasus dugaan pencurian itu juga harus diusut tuntas. Jangan sampai LSM-LSM lain kena getahnya, dituduh sebagai pencuri,'' katanya.

Menurut pendapat dia, TNI dan Farid Faqih harus sama-sama diusut agar tidak merusak citra masing-masing pihak. Sementara itu Polisi Militer Kodam (Pomdam) Iskandar Muda masih memeriksa dan mengamankan Kapten CKM Syuaeb berkait dengan pemukulan Farid. Komandan Polisi Militer Kodam Iskandar Muda Letkol CPM Bakir Purnono menjelaskan hal itu saat jumpa pers di Markas Pomdam Iskandar Muda Jalan Putri Hijau I, Banda Aceh, Sabtu (29/1).

Turut hadir juru bicara Satgas Penanggulangan Bencana Alam Kolonel CAJ Ahmad Yani Basuki. "Setelah terjadinya pemukulan yang dilakukan Kapten CKM Syuaeb kepada Farid Faqih pada 26 Januari 2004, kami selaku penegak hukum langsung memeriksa dan mengamankan pelaku di Pomdam Iskandar Muda untuk pemeriksaan lebih lanjut."

Dari hasil pemeriksaan, Syuaeb mengakui telah memukul Farid. Atas tindakan pemukulan itu, Syuaeb telah melanggar hukum tindak pidana penganiayan pasal 351. Menurut dia, Syuaeb mengaku melakukan pemukulan bersama-sama. ''Namun jumlahnya belum dapat disebutkan," kata Bakir.

Pomdam Iskandar Muda membutuhkan keterangan Farid Faqih berkait dengan insiden itu. "Atas pemukulan ini, kami memerlukan keterangan saksi korban. Namun kami mengalami kendala karena Farid banyak alasannya, mulai sakit hingga capek. Kesaksian Farid sangat penting. Sebab dia saksi kunci. Setelah itu baru saksi lain. Mengenai soal pencurian, itu bukan kewenangan TNI tetapi kepolisian," ujarnya.

Komisi Ombudsman Nasional (KON) mendesak pemerintah, dalam hal ini Panglima TNI dan Kapolri, segera menuntaskan kasus yang mendera tokoh lembaga swadaya masyarakat ini. ''Terlepas dari benar-tidaknya tuduhan Farid, bentuk penganiayaan terhadap orang yang disangka atau diduga melakukan tindakan melawan hukum sangat tidak dibenarkan. Apalagi itu dilakukan oleh aparat keamanan yang seharusnya memberikan rasa aman bagi masyarakat dan penegak hukum yang seharusnya menjunjung tinggi hukum,'' ujar Ketua KON Antonius Sujata. (bu-83i)

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