Thursday, January 13, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ Shambles

Following are recents articles about Crisis in Aceh... from military restrictions on aid delivery, the dangers posed by the arrival of nationalist militia and extremist groups, to the epidemic corruption in the country. Included here is an excellent article by John Roosa, Assistant Professor of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He gives recent first hand account of military roadblocks to delivery of aid as well as the context of current aid operations.

Nancy's source: Report from WALHI (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia - Friends of the Earth Indonesia) network contacts on the ground (two days ago): In Samalanga, North Acheh, there are 30,000 refugees in makeshift shelters, even sleeping in the open. They have received no foreign aid whatsoever. The port of Krueng Geukueh is only 60km away. How can the Indonesian military be entrusted with delivering aid and overseeing hundreds of millions in reconstruction? The international community should insist now on having them out of the picture. While the world still is paying attention.

Alex's source: The situation is actually getting worse; I just got information that military is now taking lead in the emergency relief and the TNI and Police start watching the NGOs and limit the space for the civilian humanitarian agencies.

Robert Jereski: There is a concentrated propaganda campaign by Indonesian authorities to scare Christians and Chinese and others from coming to Aceh, to present Acehnese as monsters who hate other people from different religions and races, even those who are coming to help them. What nonsense! GAM has been accused of bombing churches as far as in Poso! Now it is worse, it is not just GAM, but hungry Acehnese who are alleged to be attacking Christians and Chinese who are coming to help feed them. Pretty outrageous really. But coupled with the recent transportation of islamicist thugs to aceh for "relief work", it seems dangerous. With all the foreign NGOs and soldiers in Aceh, it is important that the real source of insecurity be challenged by the international community as soon as possible, so as not to encourage the GOI and TNI.


Source: Yahoo! News - Asia
Date: 6 Jan 2005

Radical Indonesian Islamic group moving into tsunami-devastated Aceh

A radical Islamic group once headed by the alleged leader of a Southeast Asian terrorist group has set up a relief operation in tsunami-stricken Aceh province, and one expert warned it might try to stir up sentiment against U.S. and Australian troops also distributing aid there.

Separately, the South Korean government issued a warning Thursday that tsunami relief workers in Indonesia could become a target for terror attacks. It was the first terror warning since thousands of agencies and organizations - including the U.S. military - began rushing into the area to help it recover after the Dec. 26 disaster.

"We have acquired intelligence that our relief groups in Indonesia and some other areas are becoming a possible target of terror attacks," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said in a statement.

The statement said that South Korea had sent a "strong request to the related countries" to take security measures for South Korean aid workers. It did say if any threat had been made or offer any other details. Officials in Seoul, where the statement was issued, declined any further comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is predominantly moderate but hosts dozens of radical Islamic groups. It formed the main base for Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group which operated across Southeast Asia and is blamed in a string of bombings in recent years that have killed hundreds of people.

Radical Islamic group Laskar Mujahidin has set up camp close to hundreds of other local and international volunteers at the military airport in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, beneath a sign in English that reads "Islamic Law Enforcement."

The airport, on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, is full of international troops and aid workers helping the province recover from the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami ravaged the coast, killing around 100,000. U.S. Navy and Marine helicopter crews have flown scores of aid delivery into remote villages in Sumatra, sometimes bringing infirm tsunami survivors back to the airport.

A spokesman in Thailand for the U.S. military task force that is taking part in the relief effort refused any immediate comment on the issue.

Laskar Mujahidin group campaigns for an Islamic state in Indonesia and is fiercely anti-American.

About 50 members are in Aceh, collecting corpses still buried beneath debris in Banda Aceh, distributing food and spreading Islamic teachings among refugees in the city, one of its members said Thursday.

They would not interfere with foreign troops - as long as they kept strictly to humanitarian operations.

"We are here to help our Muslim brothers," said Jundi, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name. "As long as they (foreign troops) are here to help, we will have no problem with them. There is no need for any friction."

Laskar Mujahidin forms the security arm of a larger much group, the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia. Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia was once headed by Abu Bakar Bashir, who is currently on trial as the alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiyah.

Bashir faces charges related to the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people and the 2003 attack on the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12. The group is also blamed for last year's bombing outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, though Bashir has not been charged in that case.

Sidney Jones, a Jemaah Islamiyah expert with the International Crisis Group, said Laskar Mujahidin was "raising concerns that the presence of U.S. and Australian troops in Aceh to help the humanitarian aid effort masks a hidden agenda" of converting people to Christianity.

"They appear to see their role not only as helping victims, but as guarding against 'kafir' - infidel - influence," Jones told a regional forum in Singapore.

The group, from Indonesia's main island of Java, is unlikely to attract much support among native Acehnese, who are a fiercely independent people. Three years ago, another radical Islamic group, Laskar Jihad, tried to open branches in the province but locals drove it out.
Jones said she thought any terrorist attack that targeted those involved in the relief effort would backfire.

"If they were so foolish as to try another bombing while the country is in mourning for the tsunami victims, there would be unprecedented outrage," said Jones, who has written extensively about Jemaah Islamiyah and its origins in conservative Islamic groups in Indonesia.
Since the disaster, thousands of volunteers have flooded the province from elsewhere in Indonesia, often in teams sent by political parties, religious organizations or local governments.

The Muslim Justice and Welfare party, a small but growing Islamist party that has campaigned for Islamic law in secular Indonesia, has also pledged to send 800 volunteers to Aceh. Party leaders claim it was among the first organizations to distribute food, water, medicine and hundreds of prayer kits to survivors.


Date: 6 Jan 2005

Bireun, clash between local prison officials & prisoners
By News & Advocacy for Aceh KONTRAS

Volunteer in Bireun, report that after the quake and tsunami waves, many of the prisoners doing time there, request for permission from the official to visit their families in villages. But these requests were denied, resulting building burning by the prisoners. The consequences, that many prisoners escaped from the jail. Because of this, law apparatus (unclear which apparatus) fired a warning shots. Most of prisoners ignored the warning, causing firing aimed at the fleeing prisoners. In result, 2 of the prisoners suffered shot wounds. (January 2nd, volunteer, Bireun)

TNI & GAM, exchange of gunfire In Seunudon, exchange of gunfire between TNI (national military) and GAM (Free Acheh Movement) happened yesterday, in Aceh Utara (District), at Januari 5th, 2005 which caused the death of 2 members Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM). They also found weapon evidences from the incidents site. Before the incident, TNI troup was (sic) doing an operation in Seunudon, North Aceh district, riding a truck. (January 6th 2005, volunteer in North Aceh/Aceh Utara)

Update IDP’s (Internally Displaced Person’s). The NGOs network at the beginning declared at about 50,554 Acehnese internally displaced, allover Aceh and North Sumatera (Kontras, data December 28th 2004). Latest news from 68H radio and national broadcasting radio, RRI, January 4th 2005, the number increased to 387.600 scattered allover IDPs centre or other areas of Aceh. Many of these IDPs suffered from lack of logistic, such as food and basic needs. They also have to faced problems on water facility/sanitation and health. (Detail news see YAPPIKA & WALHI).


Source: FairfaxDigital
Date: 6 Jan 2005

Radicals pitch in to clean up and keep Islamic law
By Matthew Moore, Herald Correspondent in Banda Aceh

Radical Islamic groups best known for smashing bars and violent support of the jailed cleric Abu Bakar Bashir have sent large contingents of their members to Aceh with funding provided by the Indonesian Government.

At Banda Aceh's airport, trucks with supplies to be ferried to disaster-struck areas by US Navy helicopters have been unloaded by members of Bashir's group, the MMI, including one man proudly wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt.

Members of the FPI (Islamic Defenders Front), famous for its attacks on nightspots in Jakarta, are now living in Banda Aceh in tents provided by the army and the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The head of the FPI contingent, Hilmy Bakar Almascaty, said about 250 members had come to Aceh with tickets provided by the Government; 800 more on board an Indonesian warship would help clean up the devastated province.

"FPI is not only an organisation that destroys bars and discos, it has a humanitarian side as well that the media is not happy to expose," Dr Almascaty said.

Early yesterday 50 of his troops wearing FPI shirts went through a series of military drills before heading off to the city to help collect corpses still not recovered from the millions of tonnes of rubble.

Dr Almascaty said his group had held discussions with the head of the army, General Ryamizard Ryacudu, the Defence Minister, Juwono Sudarsono and the Vice-President, Jusuf Kalla, and had come to Aceh with the full backing of the Government.

He said his members were in Aceh to help, although the army in the past has often been accused of using Islamic groups to fight its battles, especially in divided communities like Aceh.

Dr Almascaty agreed that, as well as helping gather corpses and clean up mosques, the FPI had come to play another role.

He said he was determined to ensure the arrival of foreign soldiers and aid workers did not lead to a breakdown in the system of syariah, or Islamic law, which has been in nominal operation in Aceh for several years.

"If anyone who comes here does not respect the syariah law, traditions and constitution, we must give them a warning and then we must attack," he said.

Dr Almascaty said his group was co-ordinating with MMI and with another hardline group banned in many countries, Hizbut Tharir, in a plan to curtail Western influence.

"You cannot build a bar here. If you go to your room to drink that is no problem, but you can't drink in a public area," he said.

He warned foreign soldiers and aid workers: "Don't go with Acehnese women, with Muslim women. If you come here and take women and try to westernise them, this is a problem for me."

Dr Almascaty said he had already met the Indonesian military commander in Aceh, General Endang Suwarya, and urged him to set aside areas "to keep the US separate".

The head of the MMI contingent, Salman al Furizi, said his group of 50 young men from central Java had flown to Banda Aceh on a military aircraft. He was prepared to put aside his vehement opposition to the US because of the help it was providing.

"We have to understand this is a disaster, so we are not talking about other problems," he said.

Dr Almascaty also welcomed the Americans and other traditional enemies of his group. "At the moment they have come as an angel," he said. "We don't know about tomorrow."


Source: Yahoo! News - World Photos (AP)
Date: 6 Jan 2005

An Indonesian Army special force soldier, right, interrogates a returning villagers at a military check point near Lhoknga, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the provincial capital Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005. Rebels on a fishing boat fired Thursday at soldiers and tsunami victims on the devastated western coast of Aceh province, the military alleged. The incident, which left no one injured, occurred near a destroyed bridge in Lhoknga, said Sgt. Muhammad Guntur. Click to view picture. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)


Date: 6 Jan 2005

Aparat Berseragam Palak Relawan Untuk Aceh
By Lis Sumarningsih

detikcom - Jakarta, Komite Relawan Independen (KRI) mengaku mengalami pemalakan yang dilakukan aparat berseragam saat akan masuk Tapak Tuan, Aceh Selatan. Untuk bisa masuk wilayah itu harus membayar Rp 40-50 ribu per orang.

"Saya belum bisa memastikan kalau itu adalah TNI. Tapi yang jelas mereka aparat berseragam yang jumlahnya berkelompok di setiap pos," kata Koordinator KRI, Pilian Panataran, dalam jumpa pers di Cafe O'Spot, Jl. Buncit Raya, Jakarta, Kamis (6/1/2005).

Pilian menuturkan, KRI mengirim 112 orang relawan ke Aceh. Mereka diberangkatkan dari Jakarta 29 Desember 2004 lalu dan tiba di Aceh 30 Desember 2004. Namun mereka tidak bisa masuk Banda Aceh karena terhadang aparat berseragam TNI di Tapak Tuan, Aceh Selatan.

Aparat berseragam itu melakukan tawar menawar besarnya pungutan untuk semua orang yang mau masuk. Setelah negosiasi, akhirnya hanya 14 relawan KRI yang bisa masuk Tapak Tuan. Sedangkan sisanya 98 orang kembali dipulangkan ke Jakarta.

"Relawan yang bergelombang datang dipungut biaya Rp 40-50 ribu per orang oleh aparat berseragam. Warga Thionghoa malah sering jadi korban," kata Pilian.

Selain pemalakan, aparat berseragam itu juga menahan bantuan yang akan dikirim ke Aceh. Aparat itu menahan bantuan dengan alasan untuk mengamankannya dari Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM). "Itu sering dikeluhkan relawan maupun sopir yang mengangkut bantuan ke Aceh," kata Pilian.

KRI juga mencatat adanya pemeriksaan KTP terhadap pengungsi di sejumlah kamp pengungsian. Pemeriksaan yang disebut pemeriksaan KTP Merah Putih itu menanyai pengungsi apakah anggota GAM atau bukan. Jika diketahui anggota GAM, pengungsi itu tidak boleh menerima bantuan.


Source: New York Times
Date: Jan 8, 2005

Editorial: From The Ruins

The Indonesian province of Aceh and the country of Sri Lanka, united today by the ravage of a tsunami, previously had in common histories of man-made destruction. Both places are battlegrounds, the sites of long-running separatist guerrilla wars that have killed tens of thousands of civilians. Conflict is not helpful when there is catastrophe, and early reports from both areas indicate that enmity and suspicion have held up relief efforts.

But catastrophe can be healing for conflict. Working together in times of human disaster can help build confidence between the two sides, and foster a feeling of solidarity among ethnic groups. Just as important, the catastrophe offers politicians the opportunity to make compromises that would otherwise be politically impossible. Politicians and guerrillas in Indonesia and Sri Lanka should take advantage of these side effects of the disastrous situation to help solve their human conflicts.

In Aceh, where at least 100,000 people have died so far from the tsunami, rebels have fought since 1976 to free the province, which was an independent nation for centuries, from Indonesian rule. The Free Aceh guerrillas kill civilians, but 90 percent of the civilian murders in the region are committed by Indonesia's armed forces and paramilitary police. The war continues in no small part because Indonesian military officers are unwilling to give up a lucrative source of corrupt plunder. In May 2003, Indonesia imposed a harsh state of emergency, which blocked almost all outsiders from entering Aceh, including humanitarian groups, diplomats and journalists. Since then, at least 2,000 people have been killed.

Now Aceh is full of foreigners. There are anecdotal reports of cooperation between the sides in small ways, at the individual level. Prison wardens freed guerrilla inmates from a flooded prison, for example, and when a call was made for these fighters to return to help relief efforts, almost all did. Donations for Acehnese relief from the rest of Indonesia - where Aceh is not popular - have run high.

But so far the leaders are missing the opportunity. The rebels announced a unilateral ceasefire, but this was not matched by the military - long indifferent to how its actions turn Acehnese citizens against the government. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has not lifted the state ofemergency. So the army is doling out aid while pursuing guerrillas. (Thursday, not far from where the tsunami hit, the Indonesian military killed seven men that it said were connected with the rebels, but whose relatives say were innocent victims.) And there are already indications that the military is looking at relief efforts as a continuation of the war. Soldiers are trying to heavily control aid to ensure that it does not fall into rebel hands while also skimming off the top. Some local citizens have said that the military does not let them travel to search for or help family members, and that soldiers have withheld aid from people who lack a special ID card given by the police in Aceh, a card many are too afraid to apply for.

Indonesia's politicians and military need international encouragement to pursue different policies. The president must lift the state of emergency, open all of Aceh and keep it open. As much as possible, civilian Acehnese should carry out relief efforts, as part of a necessary long-term demilitarization of the society. Officials of the United States, forbidden by American law to finance Indonesia's military because of its rampant human-rights violations, should not be making noises about resuming financial ties. Instead, outside nations should be encouraging the guerrillas to give up their armed struggle and the government to return to the terms of a peace agreement reached two years ago.

The dead in Sri Lanka lived in areas under government rule and in zones controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a ruthless guerrilla movement that since 1983 has fought for autonomy for the country's Hindu Tamil minority. A ceasefire was reached in 2002, but recently the guerrillas' leader had threatened to resume war.

Not surprising, suspicion is rampant in the tsunami's aftermath, with each side accusing the other of hijacking aid. Sri Lankans would benefit if both worked more closely with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, a Norwegian-led group created after the ceasefire, to reach agreement on the roles each will play.

But cooperation between the two sides in Sri Lanka appears to be deeper than in Aceh, offering the warring parties a glimpse of the human side of their rivals. Both groups seem aware of the public-relations benefits of running efficient relief operations. Because Sri Lanka's victims come from all religions and ethnic groups, the tsunami has also united the nation, however briefly. It is a ripe moment in a malignantly divided country, one that both sides should seize to offer concessions that may quickly become, once again, unimaginable.


Source: The Weekend Australian
Date: 10 Jan 2005

Terror Stalks Our Volunteers
By Tim Lindsey

Australia will soon have hundreds of defence force members and civilian volunteers in Aceh, providing emergency assistance and working to rebuild the shattered Indonesian province that bore the brunt of the Boxing Day tsunami. Their efforts are making a critical contribution to the resurrection of the often troubled relationship between our two countries, and Indonesia has welcomed them.

But how much has really been changed by the disaster that struck Aceh? Are Australians really safe in Indonesia's most Islamic province, which is the first to have implemented a form of sharia (Islamic law) and, until only a few weeks ago, was a no-go war zone effectively under martial law and banned to Westerners?

When the wave hit, Aceh was a war zone contested by TNI (Indonesia's armed forces) and GAM (the Free Aceh Movement, a guerilla organisation) and hostilities continue today in eastern Aceh, where there has been relatively little flooding. The fight is over the question of whether Aceh should remain in the Indonesian republic it helped found in the 1940s or secede, establishing itself again as an independent sultanate. It is the latest in along history of bloody wars fought in Aceh against external rulers, including the Dutch and the Japanese. GAM has long relied on Islamic symbols to garner support for its cause, as the Acehnese see Islam as a central part of the historic identity of their land, traditionally known as "the veranda of Mecca".

Yet the threat to Australians may not come from Acehnese Islam at all. Despite the crescent on its flag, GAM is not an Islamic organisation and is disliked by many Acehnese ulema (Islamic leaders) who see it as a rival for authority. Likewise, Acehnese Islam is extremely conservative and socially regressive but that does not mean it is sympathetic to the militant ideology of terrorist groups such as al-Qai'da or Jemaah Islamiah.

Indeed, as Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group has shown, orientation to Salafism or Islamic conservatism is not necessarily an indicator of support for terrorism. This is because the Wahabi theology that motivates Islamic terrorist groups is, for most Southeast Asian Muslims, "deviationist" rather than mainstream. The wave of terrorism is therefore as much about who will control ideology within the ummah (community of believers) as it is about a war against the West. Which means the real threat to foreigners in Aceh is more likely to come from non-Acehnese sources.

So it is of great concern that militant jihadist Islamic groups are arriving in Aceh, ostensibly to assist with relief efforts, but already issuing warnings that foreign aid is a cover for Christian missionary activity and warning against non-Muslim "meddling" in Aceh. Groups such as Laskar Mujahidin and Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia have a clear commitment to the violent theology of jihad that motivated the Bali, Marriott hotel and Australian embassy bombings. They are linked to the systematic bombing of churches across Indonesia and gruesome religious wars in Ambon and Maluku. MMI, for example, was founded by Abu Bakar Bashir and its executive is linked closely to JI. After Bashir's arrest it became the umbrella for the cluster of extreme jihadist groups linked to his Ngruki Pesantren and descended from Darul Islam, the Islamic guerilla movement that established a pseudo-state in West Java in the 1950s.

There should be no doubt that the agenda of these dangerous groups in Aceh includes trying to provoke inter-religious violence, developing local cells and, if possible, militias, and even carrying out direct acts of terrorism.

This situation is complicated further by the organisational weakness of GAM. It is not a coherent organisation but comprises a small group of professional political and military leaders at the core of a loose web of supporters ranging from guerilla fighters to criminal gangs. The centre often lacks control over its fringes, especially when it comes to field operations.

It is very likely that militant Islamic groups will link up with gangs on the margins of GAM to conduct attacks on foreigners in Aceh, no matter how hard the core of GAM seeks to prevent this. This will then be used by the TNI to justify a renewed military crackdown, doubtless with the support from the Western alliance they have sought for years. Indeed, given the reputation of the Indonesian armed forces for "black ops", it is possible that rogue units of the Indonesian military will make sure that a terrorist attack happens, even if they have to do it themselves. Some units have been selling arms to GAM for years, so they won't find this hard.

If violence against foreigners is therefore inevitable, what should Jakarta and Canberra do? First, Indonesia should immediately take the steps to ban extreme groups such as MMI that it should have taken after the Bali bombs, using its extensive powers under the anti-terror laws. Second, it needs to reverse its policy that the security of foreigners in Aceh will be guaranteed by the notoriously corrupt TNI and allow Australia to provide its own security.

Unfortunately, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono heads a minority government in the powerful Indonesian legislature and this will severely constrain his capacity to move against extremist Islam. His tough talk on security may never amount to much more than that.

Australia faces its own dilemmas. John Howard's commitment of $1 billion is good policy, both in humanitarian terms and as a historic breakthrough in relations with our most important neighbour, Southeast Asia's giant.

But this will be in question when Australians are attacked in Aceh. The resulting crisis will require skilled management in Canberra.

Withdrawal would be damaging for the emerging goodwill towards Australia in the ASEAN countries and for the bilateral relationship. But it would be catastrophic for the Acehnese. Canberra must bring pressure to bear on Jakarta to allow it a greater role in security for its citizens in Aceh before the worst happens.

Tim Lindsey is director of the Asian Law Centre at the University of Melbourne. He has conducted field research on Islamic law in Aceh.


Date: 10 Jan 2005

Rebels Say Militant Groups FPI & MMI in Aceh

Laksamana.Net - The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) says two Java-based militant Islamic groups, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI), have entered Aceh and their presence will only increase the suffering of the province's people.

GAM's exiled leaders based in Sweden on Sunday (9/1/05) issued a statement expressing concern that the presence of FPI and MMI members would squander scarce resources that are desperately needed by the survivors of last month's earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 104,000 people in Aceh.

The statement branded the two groups as "criminal organizations" and said they are not welcome in Aceh. It said the actions and words of FPI and MMI contradict Islamic teachings and "the tolerance and faith of Acehnese Muslims".

FPI was established in August 1998 and soon became notorious for attacking bars, nightclubs, brothels, pool halls and other entertainment venues deemed an affront to Islam.

The organization significantly toned down its violent activities after the October 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, which have been blamed on regional terrorism group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Prior to the Bali blasts, authorities had generally turned a blind eye to FPI's raids on nightspots, lending credence to claims the organization was backed by powerful officials in the security forces.

FPI has long demanded the destruction of nightspots on the grounds that they are hangouts of prostitutes, gamblers and drug abusers.

Critics claim that FPI has at times been in cahoots with police and soldiers, and sometimes in competition with them, to extort protection money from owners of nightspots.

Less than a month after the Bali bombings, FPI pledged to end its violent raids. But the group in February 2003 announced it was making a comeback and threatened to attack Westerners. It also urged Muslims to sign up to fight Americans in Iraq.

In October 2004, FPI members attacked bars in Jakarta and its satellite cities, accusing them of operating during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadhan.

MMI was founded in August 2000 with the ostensible aim of promoting the adoption of strict Islamic law in secular Indonesia.

The group's founder is radical cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir, the suspected leader of Jemaah Islamiyah. He is now on trial at South Jakarta District Court, accused of inciting his followers to carry out the Bali nightclub bombings and the August 2003 bombing at Jakarta's JW Marriott Hotel.

MMI chairman Irfan S. Awwas last week sent scores of the group's members toJakarta, from where he said they would take a plane to Aceh to give "spiritual guidance" to the survivors of the disaster.

MMI recently announced it had established dozens of new branches in 53 regencies across eight provinces across Indonesia to bolster its campaign for Islamic law. Awwas said the group would continue to set up more branches throughout the country to spread its message.


Source: IndonesiaAlert!
Date: 11 Jan 2005

Aceh’s Dual Disasters: The Tsunami and Military Rule
By John Roosa

On December 25, 2004, one day before Aceh was devastated by an earthquake-driven tsunami, the Indonesian military (TNI) announced that it had just killed eighteen guerrillas in the province.[1] Such news had long since become routine. A week earlier, the TNI killed five.[2] TNI chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto stated in early December that his men had killed 3,216 Acehnese since martial law was imposed upon the province in May 2003.[3] In all these reported armed clashes, very few Indonesian soldiers died. The war was lopsided, with Acehnese, especially civilians (posthumously labeled “rebels” by the TNI), bearing nearly all the casualties. Aceh was already a killing field before the Indian Ocean wreaked havoc on the land.

Under martial law, the military became the government. The military stationed nearly 40,000 security personnel in the province (about one soldier or policeman for every 100 civilians), replaced many civilian officials (such as district heads) with military personnel, banned foreigners, issued new identification cards, forced Acehnese to attend public ceremonies at which they pledged loyalty to the Indonesian state, and set up countless checkpoints on the roads. The transition from martial law to ‘civil emergency’ in May 2004 was a cosmetic change; the 40,000 troops remained and the killings continued. The seawater was one of the few things the military did not try to control.

One should not imagine that the severity of the tsunami in Aceh (the latest estimate is more than 100,000 dead) renders this history of military rule irrelevant. The Indonesian government is now using the military as its primary coordinator of relief aid. Worse, the military is still waging war on the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Mother nature inflicted enormous damage on Aceh but did not fundamentally alter the pre-existing social institutions. The TNI remains intact (with claimed losses so far of about 500 personnel), as does GAM, whose guerrillas are mostly in the hills. The war between them has been remarkably perdurable; it has lasted on and off since the late 1970s, through the collapse of President Suharto’s dictatorship, through the tenures of three post-Suharto presidents, foreign mediation, peace talks, and cease-fires.

The Indonesian military has been waging a counterinsurgency war against GAM. As in all such wars, including the one the Dutch fought in Aceh during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, the military’s goal has been to terrorize civilians so that they will not support the guerrillas. The Suharto regime, after very limited hostilities with GAM in the late 1970s, turned Aceh into a free-fire zone in 1990. The terror has been fairly constant since then. The only let-up (and that only partial) was in 1998-99 when the nation’s political system was in crisis after Suharto’s fall. During that brief reformist pause, the government sanctioned a human rights investigation that conservatively estimated that the military had killed about 2,000 to 4,000 people from 1990 to 1998.[4]

As part of the counterinsurgency war, the military indiscriminately rounded up civilians for interrogations that invariably involved torture. Mutilated corpses were left by roadsides in the 1990s as a form of what the military called “shock therapy.” The civilians at whom this ‘therapeutic’ practice was directed did not respond like good patients and retreat into a collective catatonic state. At the start of large-scale military operations in 1990, GAM consisted of several hundred armed guerrillas. It did not have mass support. Most Acehnese were as integrated into Indonesia as any other ethnic group. It was the military’s manner of suppressing the rebels that fueled the revolt. Human rights activist Muhammad Isa noted last year that “when Aceh was declared a military operations zone, there were only a few hundred GAM insurgents in Pidie, North Aceh and East Aceh. Now, there are a lot more throughout Aceh.” [5] Indonesia specialist Edward Aspinall wrote: “Many journalists and others who interviewed new GAM recruits in rural Aceh in 1999 noted that many of them were motivated by a desire to exact revenge for family members who had been killed, tortured or sexually abused by security forces earlier in the decade.” [6]

In a remarkable demonstration of public opinion, nearly a million people (one quarter of the population) attended a rally in 1999 calling for a referendum on independence. After nearly a decade of counterinsurgency warfare, the military had made succession mainstream opinion. Today, it nevertheless stoically persists in its Sisyphus-like labor, creating enemies in the process of killing them.

Not all Acehnese, on coming to hate the military for its atrocities, have turned to GAM as an alternative. GAM has not articulated a coherent political program (its founder wishes to revive a monarchical form of government) and has not always followed the Geneva Conventions (it has, for instance, frequently taken Indonesian civilians as hostages). The military’s repression of all forms of political dissent in Aceh has made it nearly impossible for any resistance to be waged except armed resistance. Acehnese who have tried to resist in civil fashion have been denounced as GAM members in disguise and have either been jailed, killed, or forced into exile. Tens of thousands of Acehnese have fled to other parts of Indonesia or foreign countries.

The refrain one often hears from Acehnese is that the military has never bothered to distinguish GAM members from non-combatants. TNI troops view all Acehnese with suspicion. The main English daily newspaper in Indonesia, The Jakarta Post, in a rare moment of candid reporting, noted last month that a frequent remark by soldiers at the checkpoints was “Are you Acehnese? Then you must be GAM.” Human rights campaigner Munir was not being hyperbolic when he stated last year that “ninety-nine percent of those detained are non-combatants, not GAM but NGO people, local politicians, students.” [7]

For the Acehnese, the tens of thousands of soldiers in the province are not a source of security; they are equivalent to a plague of locusts. The troops are expected to earn their own money, as the government covers only a part of their expenses. Thus, checkpoints have become moneymaking franchises; soldiers shakedown passing truckers, motorists, and motorcyclists. Many journalists have written about this practice since it is carried out so openly. Other fundraising methods are less obvious. It is unknown how much the military receives from the ExxonMobil natural gas plant in Aceh (which was unaffected by the tsunami). ExxonMobil pays the military to guard its enclave and, like all other businesses in Indonesia, must pony up money to meet periodic TNI requests for funds. This plant is a sore point for Acehnese. The Indonesian government earns about $1.2 billion annually from it but the Acehnese people see very little of that money. Most of the profits are pocketed by officials in Jakarta.

Jakarta would like to use the tsunami as a means of wiping the slate of history clean. In the Indonesian media, officials frequently comment that they hope the tragedy will prompt Acehnese to put aside their comparatively petty political concerns and cooperate with the Indonesian government in the common struggle against nature. If the military suddenly abandoned its ingrained, institutional ethos of treating all Acehnese as subversives, ended its corruption, and began to selflessly assist in Aceh’s recovery, then perhaps Jakarta’s hopes will be fulfilled. This tiger, however, is not likely to change its stripes.

Reports by Indonesian volunteers and journalists in Aceh indicate that the military has not changed even in the midst of such staggering devastation. Consider the following account written by a wealthy Indonesian woman who flew to Aceh with her mother to carry some medical supplies. Within her narrative (which she wrote in English and circulated on an email list), she describes an encounter with a military checkpoint on December 31 while driving out of the capital city of Banda Aceh. The city was in ruins, but the soldiers still practiced their customary shakedowns at checkpoints:

“As we reached the outskirts of the city we were stopped by military with rifles in hand. They initially blocked the way and refused to allow us to continue driving along the coast. They checked all of our boxes and asked us to hand over the goods to them. We knew that if we gave them the goods that they would never be distributed so a friend lobbied until we were able to pass in exchange for some women’s underwear that we had brought. We are still puzzled by that one, but it was a small price to pay.”

When she returned to the city she brought with her several starving villagers who approached a colonel at the military headquarters, the center for the distribution of relief aid:

“When one of the villagers explained to him that his village was in desperate need of food aid the colonel started interrogating and giving him a hard time. My mother and I listened on incredulously as he began asking for proof that there were indeed 300 hundred survivors and he said that he had a hard time believing that there were even that many survivors. Again with a friend’s persuasion, the villagers were finally able to convince the colonel to give in and allow them to take 50 boxes of supermie [instant noodles] and a few hundred kilos of rice. We couldn’t believe our eyes that this man was giving these villagers such a hard time as all around us there were hundreds of boxes of aid in the form of food, chainsaws, generators, pipes, buckets, you name it, piled high against the walls. My mother and I were even offered to help ourselves to a buffet of food that was laid out on two big tables. It dawned on us that the military was controlling all of the incoming domestic and foreign aid and that there had been little done to distribute any of it! Apparently they were expecting the villagers to come to the posko [command post] or refugee camps in Banda Aceh, which was unlikely since a lot of these stranded survivors were just too far away, not to mention some severely wounded, with no means of transport to get themselves there. We also discovered that the military was afraid that the aid would come into the hands of GAM rebels, which seemed to us such a minor problem in the face of such a catastrophe.”

The Jakarta government took the very positive step of allowing foreign journalists, relief workers, and military personnel into Aceh. Reports indicate that the military is no longer trying to monopolize aid distribution; though they are selling some aid that should be distributed freely, including food. But with foreigners inside Aceh, the military is worried, that the unaccountability it has enjoyed for 19 months may be coming to an end.

Journalists are reporting that the military still checks Acehnese for their identity cards. Soldiers try to determine a person’s political loyalty before handing out aid. Soldiers are weeding out people at the refugee camps and taking suspected GAM supporters into detention. The military is being stingy with its aid since it wants to ensure that not a grain of rice winds up in the hands of GAM. Any person carrying more than he or she can immediately consume is suspected of carrying goods for GAM. One journalist, reporting on January 7, observed soldiers at a checkpoint 40 kilometers outside of Banda Aceh: “All morning, troops wearing combat kit had been stopping those heading south, accusing them of forming new supply lines for rebels in the hills.” [8]

Most of the some $4 billion that has been raised worldwide for tsunami relief will likely be devoted to Aceh. The only other country that needs a large amount of aid is Sri Lanka. Both Thailand and India have stated they do not need foreign aid. This means that Indonesia’s military in Aceh is now under an international microscope. There is no reason to believe, however, that this will guarantee better behavior.

The last time the whole world was watching, in East Timor in 1999, the military laid a country to waste, accomplishing a level of destruction to rival a tsunami. The TNI worried little about international opinion during that September 1999 scorched earth campaign. It burned down 70% of East Timor’s buildings, looted much of the country’s wealth, killed hundreds, if not thousands, and forcibly deported about 250,000 people -- all while in the international spotlight. The generals responsible for those atrocities have enjoyed impunity; there has been no international tribunal. The general first appointed to head up Indonesia’s Aceh relief effort was Adam Damiri, one of the key commanders responsible for the 1999 destruction of East Timor. The military high command replaced him at the last moment to avoid causing any friction with other governments.

Although foreigners are now in Aceh, one should not believe that they are immune from eviction. Jakarta allowed in international observers in December 2002 after it signed a peace agreement with GAM. It then sent them packing only five months later when martial law was declared. Morever, the military high command, especially under the army chief of staff Gen. Ryacudu, has cultivated a paranoiac attitude towards foreign governments, arguing that they are fomenting internal unrest in a conspiracy to break up Indonesia.[9]

Acehnese attitudes concerning independence will probably not change even with the remarkable outpouring of sympathy from Indonesian civilians, who have volunteered to serve as relief workers and contributed large sums of money. The Acehnese have never had major problems with Indonesian civilians; their problems have been with the military. Only if Indonesian civilians in Java and the rest of the archipelago are able to appreciate what Acehnese suffered prior to the tsunami and work to restrain military operations will there be a possibility for true rapprochement with Acehnese. But substantive military reform appears a distant goal, especially with a former general just voted in as president.

It is obvious that immediate relief work and long-term reconstruction can not proceed if Aceh is a warzone. Foreign governments and international agencies need to pressure Jakarta to resume negotiations with GAM so that a cease-fire can be established. Both sides say they would like a cease-fire and that they are only carrying out defensive actions. But both blame the other for not reciprocating. Without negotiations to iron out the details and relieve the atmosphere of tension the armed clashes will continue.

Jakarta has been quick to blame GAM for any gunfire (such as a shooting near the UN compound on January 8 which some Indonesian officials now say was done by a stressed-out soldier) or accident (such as the crash of a US navy helicopter that cabinet minister Alwi Shihab suggested was the work of GAM). A journalist has noted that Jakarta wishes to make foreign relief workers frightened of GAM as “gun-toting killers who are attacking aid convoys and using survivor camps as hideouts.” [10] GAM, meanwhile, has issued statements assuring relief workers that it will neither attack them nor interfere with the aid distribution.

SIRA, the leading popular organization supporting a referendum on the region’s political future, has called for international mediation in the war: “A political resolution between Indonesia and GAM must be found immediately at the international negotiating tables and the war must end for the sake of humanitarian aid, peaceful development, and the long-term liberty of the Acehnese people. If a peace process is not immediately conducted then the suffering and oppression of the Acehnese people will be compounded in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster.” [11]

  1. Agence France Press (AFP), December 25, 2004.
  2. AFP, December 17, 2004.
  3. Jakarta Post, December 3, 2004.
  4. Laporan Akhir Komisi Independen Pengusutan Tindak Kekerasan di Aceh [Final Report of the Independent Investigation Commission on Violent Actions in Aceh] (Jakarta: Komisi Independen Pengusutan, July 2000). The report estimated 1,000 to 3,000 killed plus another 900 to 1,400 disappeared persons presumed dead. Human rights groups estimate that another two to three thousand Acehnese were killed from 1999 to the declaration of martial law in May 2003. Some 1,300 people were killed in 2002 alone. Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia: Human Rights Key to Lasting Peace in Aceh,” press release, December 11, 2002.
  5. Jakarta Post, December 13, 2004. Gen. Sutarto stated that GAM had 10,000 guerrillas by May 2003. Jakarta Post, January 11, 2005.
  6. Inside Indonesia, Oct-Dec 2003.
  7. AFP, May 18, 2004. Munir was given a lethal dose of arsenic while on a Garuda flight in early September 2004. Many suspect a military hand but no proof of that has emerged yet. The case is still under investigation.
  8. The Australian, January 7, 2004.
  9. December 25, 2003 (“60,000 foreign agents enter Indonesia to weaken TNI – Ryacudu”); Kompas, December 26, 2003 (“Pernyataan KSAD Soal Pemilu dan Agen Asing Perlu Diperhatikan” [The Chief of Staff’s statement on the election and foreign agents needs attention]; and, May 12, 2004 (“Aggressor States Conspiring to Destroy and Control Indonesia: Army Chief”).
  10. Michael Casey, Associated Press (AP), January 10, 2005. Also see the interview with Gen. Sutarto, Jakarta Post, Jakarta Post, January 11, 2005.
  11. Open Letter by Sentral Informasi Referendum Acheh, Banda Acheh, January 6, 2005.

John Roosa, Assistant Professor of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, is co-editor of The Year that Never Ended: Understanding the Experiences of the Victims of 1965: Oral History Essays (Jakarta: Elsam, 2004).


Source: CBC News
Date: 12 Jan 2005

U.S. questions Indonesian crackdown on aid workers

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - Washington is asking the Indonesian government to explain why it's cracking down on aid workers in tsunami-ravaged Aceh province and demanding that all foreign troops leave within three months.

"We'll seek further clarification from Indonesia about what this means," White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said on Wednesday, after the Southeast Asian country re-imposed tough restrictions on foreigners.

"We hope that the government of Indonesia and the military in Indonesia will continue the strong support they have provided to the international relief efforts so far."

A day earlier, the government in Jakarta said all foreign troops helping the tsunami aid effort in Aceh province must leave by the end of March. It also restricted access in the region, where most of the country's 104,000 deaths from the earthquake and tsunami occurred. About 600,000 people lost their homes there and desperately need aid.

The government ordered all foreigners to register their travel plans before leaving the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, threatening to expel them if they don't.

The military said the restrictions were needed to protect aid workers from militants, who have been battling for decades to turn Aceh into an independent state.

Military chief Gen. Endriatono Sutarto said Tuesday that soldiers must accompany and monitor all aid missions outside Banda Aceh and the town of Meulaboh.

"We do not want these foreign aid workers to go to unsafe areas because we are detecting that rebels may try to disturb this humanitarian mission," he said. "I do not want any of their team members to be killed by the rebels."

The military offered no evidence to back its claims that insurgents would try to ambush aid convoys or hide out in refugee camps.

Aid agencies attacked the move, disputing that the militants might want to attack foreigners. The aid organization International Crisis Group accused the army of trying to regain its grip on Aceh, which was off limits to foreigners before the tsunami.

Aid vehicles reach hard-hit town
The International Organization for Migration said 50 small trucks carrying fuel, clothes and tents donated by the Indonesian government arrived in Meulaboh on Tuesday. The tsunami and earthquake killed about 28,000 residents in the coastal town and washed away most major roads, leaving it only reachable by air or sea until this week.

Ships from the Indonesian, U.S. and Singaporean navies have been bringing in some supplies while helicopters have made airdrops.

Also on Tuesday, the United Nations Children's Fund confirmed a case of measles in Indonesia's tsunami-hit province of Aceh as torrential rain across the region raised fears there could be an outbreak of dysentery. UNICEF spokesman John Budd says preventing the spread of dysentery has become a priority in Aceh.


Source: The New York Times
Date: 13 Jan 2005

Corruption In Indonesia Is Worrying Aid Groups
By Raymond Bonner

JAKARTA, Jan. 12 -- As the United States and other world governments prepare to channel hundreds of millions of aid dollars to the tsunami-ravaged regions of Aceh, Indonesia's culture of corruption has emerged as a major concern.

A daylong seminar Wednesday on corruption here, a joint effort by the United Nations, the Indonesian government and a number of private, non governmental groups, reflects the magnitude the problem.

The first speaker, a government minister, spoke about ''Eliminating Corruption Within the Bureaucracy.'' Then came the attorney general, who spoke about ''Eliminating Corruption in the Attorney General's Office,'' then the chief of police, whose topic was ''Eliminating Corruption Within the Police.'' In the afternoon, the head of the Supreme Court, the minister of justice and the minister of finance spoke about ''eliminating corruption'' in their jurisdictions.

The corruption here starts at the top. Last Thursday, Monsanto admitted to paying a bribe of $50,000 to a senior official in the Ministry of the Environment in exchange for dropping a requirement for an environmental impact statement. The company was fined $1million by the United States Department of Justice.

That a public official had been bribed by a foreign company surprises few, if any, here. It is taken for granted that no one does business in Indonesia without paying bribes, routinely disguised as ''consultants' fees,'' to government ministers and heads of agencies, many of whom have retired with hundreds of thousands ofdollars stashed in accounts in Singapore and elsewhere.

Even before the tsunami, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former general who was elected in September, had promised a campaign against corruption, a promise met with hope, but skepticism, given the entrenched nature of the problem, foremost in the military.

Mr. Yudhoyono has a reputation for being indecisive, but the delugeof aid coming in has forced him to take action to assure donors that it will not be wasted. He is not placing any trust in his government agencies.

Rather, he has turned to a nongovernmental agency, Indonesia Corruption Watch, for help, asking the nonprofit group to set up a program for monitoring the aid to Aceh, said Luky Djani, who isheading up the Aceh project.

The problems will not surface immediately, in the emergency relief phase, said Mr. Djani. Maybe some food or other supplies will be siphoned off by a soldier or corrupt official, but that is minor, he said.

The opportunities for serious theft will come in the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase, Mr. Djani said, which the government has said will cost about $3 billion. That will create lots of temptations, in a country where there are no conflict of interest laws and government officials have long seen public office as a vehicle for private gain.

Mr. Djani said there were no mechanisms for ensuring that the needs were not inflated by government agencies, local and national, in order to get more money. The Ministry of Health might overstate the number of hospitals needed, the Ministry of Education might call for more schools than needed, he said.

And what if some official says he needs to rebuild about 20 miles of road, how do we know it is not only 100 yards? he asked.

''We don't even know how many refugees there are,'' he said.

Mr. Djani said that the monitoring project would use volunteers as well as paid staff and that he hoped to have 50 people working in Aceh.

Currently, he said, the project has only about $2,000 on hand and needs about $120,000 to finance its operations for two years. The Asia Foundation and nonprofit groups in the Netherlands and Belgium have offered financial assistance, he said.

Corruption in Indonesia is ingrained and systematic, he said.

For example, to get a driver's license through the normal channels can take five months, which, he said, is how long he has been waiting. But, if you pay $20 or so, you join the express line and get it in one day.

At the land title agency, he said, they have a pricing formula, depending on the size and location of your plot. You can pay in advance or over time, he said.

Civil servants do not earn much, but the opportunities for money under the table are so great that people pay bribes to get the jobs. The most sought-after jobs, in Jakarta's tax office, cost more than $500, he said.

But people consider the money well spent because they earn it back fast, he said, snapping his fingers, usually in less than a year.

Perhaps reflecting the depth of the corruption here, you even have to pay a bribe to get into the police academy, and thousands of dollars to become an officer, Mr. Djani said.


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