163, October 2001

Oct 2001

Bulletin no. 163


1. Massacres and assassinations in Aceh

2. No change for Aceh under Megawati [text unavailable]

3. The key figures in Megawati's kitchen cabinet

4. A Human Rights Agenda for Megawati

5. West keen to enhance military ties [text unavailable]

7. Timorese go to the polls [text unavailable]

8. 1965: What the US and Britain knew but never revealed

9. Indonesia's Transformation and the Stability of Southeast Asia, by Angela Rabasa and Peter Chalk [text unavailable]

10. Special autonomy for Papua provokes controversy [text unavailable]

11. Brimob's 'Sweep-and-Crush' operation

12. Indonesia and the current world crisis


1. Massacres and assassinations in Aceh

There is no sign of an end to the killings in Aceh. On the contrary, they continue to escalate. Aceh is now the worst war zone in Asia. No part of the province is untouched by the tragedy and no family is unscathed by the toll in lives lost, disappearances and the associated trauma. Two massacres occurred in August and the number of public figures assassinated has lengthened with the killing of the rector of Aceh’s leading state university and several members of legislative assemblies.

On 9 August 2001, a massacre that took the lives of at least thirty people occurred on the premises of a palm oil plantation, PT Bumi Flora, in Banda Alam, Julok sub-district, East Aceh. Seven men were severely injured and taken to a local hospital where they were placed under heavy guard by the Indonesian military; three were later transferred to a hospital in Medan. It later emerged that several men were not hit and were able to flee from the site; one of the survivors went into hiding and was subsequently interviewed (see below). This is the worst massacre to have occurred in Aceh since July 1999 when 56 men were slain by troops at the Bantaqiah religious school in North Aceh.

Military cover-up

The massacre occurred at around 8am. At 7.30, a unit of about twenty soldiers pushed their way into the workers’ barracks and without warning or provocation, ordered all the Acehnese men workers to come out of their homes and assemble in a yard. The women were ordered to remain in their homes while the men were ordered to strip to the waist, to squat in rows. They were then summarily shot dead. The killers had made a point of ensuring that the victims were all Acehnese and checked on the ethnic identity of all their victims.

One of the men came out of his home carrying his two-and-a-half-year-old son, thinking that soldiers would not harm someone carrying a child. The man and his child were both killed, while the child’s mother who tried to take the boy from his father’s arms was wounded when the soldiers opened fire.

The moment news of the massacre broke, the security forces alleged that the Free Aceh Movement was responsible, claiming that their men had tried unsuccessfully to collect money from the workers. GAM denied any involvement and said that a few days earlier, they conducted an attack on an army post recently set up near the plantation when they succeeded in killing a number of Indonesian soldiers. (This has not been confirmed by the Indonesian military.) According to GAM, the massacre may have been in retaliation for this action.

Calls for an independent investigation of the massacre from TAPOL and other human rights organisations have gone unheeded.

Witnesses identify military as the killers

Following the massacre, the security forces sealed off the area, making it very difficult for human rights monitors to go and investigate. About a week after the tragedy, a fact-finding team was set up by the district chief of East Aceh. The team was able to enter the area, possibly with a military escort, and interview witnesses but its findings have not yet been made public. TAPOL has seen some of the testimonies given to the Team which make it clear that the killers were Indonesian soldiers. It seems that the local officials who were part of the Team fear the consequences of producing a report which exposes the falsehoods of the Indonesian military.

Two witnesses who went into hiding after the massacre were interviewed by a Japanese activist from Nindja, an organisation with a track record of monitoring the human rights situation in Aceh. The interviews were later reported by CNN’s online service. One of the witnesses was a man who said he was one of four men who survived the massacre. He said that the perpetrators ‘were wearing military fatigues and carrying M-16 rifles (and) entered the plantation area from the back of the workers’ houses’.

The other was the wife of one of the slain men who said: ‘It was the military who did the shooting. It was not possible that GAM did it. They could not speak Acehnese. They asked, "Are these Acehnese or Javanese?" I said, Acehnese. They only nodded their heads and did not speak more.’ [CNN.com, 2 September 2001]

The interviews were also made available separately to TAPOL. According to the woman, the men were ordered to strip to the waist and within two minutes of leaving their homes, she heard a single volley of gunfire. ‘I thought the soldiers had shot into the air, but when I went outside, all the men were lying prostrate on the ground. The whole thing took no longer than three minutes. One man was carrying a child but it was killed as well. His wife tried to grab the child but she was also hit.’

She said that the women did not go out to attend to the bodies because they were afraid that the military might return. At two in the afternoon, an Indonesian Red Cross ambulance arrived and took the bodies away for burial..

SIRA investigations

SIRA, the Information Centre for a Referendum in Aceh, produced two reports, the second of which, dated 29 August, stressed that conditions in the area were very tense because of the heavy presence of security forces and helicopters flying overhead. One witness, a plantation worker from nearby Langsa, said that on his way to work, he passed two military trucks on their way to the plantation. Another witness, probably a young boy, explained that soldiers came looking for his father who was not at home. When they found him, they took him back to his home, ransacked the house and took what money they could find, then ordered him to stand outside the house where they shot him dead.

After shooting their victims, the soldiers examine the bodies one by one, turning them with their boots and rifle tips, and shooting those who were still alive. (We now know that some of the men, probably covered with blood, were able to feign death.)

TAPOL has seen the testimonies of several witnesses who say they saw soldiers scoop up blood and sip it. The SIRA report also identified the perpetrators as non-organic troops sent from outside the province. They were members of Tim Rajawali, a unit composed of specially-trained counter-insurgency troops from the ranks of KOSTRAD, the army’s strategic command, KOPASSUS, the elite commandos and the West Java Siliwangi division. These troops had set up a new military post near the plantation shortly before the Julok Massacre.

Nine killed including five boys

The Julok Massacre was followed, ten days later, by a second massacre in the nearby sub-district of Idi Tunong. Nine males were shot dead in cold blood, including five boys aged between 13 and 16 years. Prior to this second massacre, Tim Rajawali soldiers had been conducting house searches and regular foot-patrols, looking for witnesses of the Julok Massacre.

According to a report by the Coalition of Human Rights NGOs, troops entered the village of Baro, Idi Tunong sub-district at 9pm on 19 August and came upon a group of boys drinking coffee together. The boys were ordered to produce their identity cards which were confiscated and to strip to the waist. The troops then moved on to another coffee shop where they rounded up a number of males. By this time, they had caught altogether twelve men. Three boys managed to escape and fled to the hills chased by soldiers, while the other nine were taken off to an unknown destination.

Two days later, villagers heard that there were several newly-dug mounds of earth in the nearby village of Kayu Tiga. Later that day, Red Cross volunteers and activists from the NGO Coalition went to Kayu Tiga where they found four shallow graves. The bodies were those of the nine men and boys who had been taken away two days earlier. All the bodies were covered with injuries caused by stabbing, slicing with knives, beating with blunt instruments and strangulation. [This report is based on two reports of the massacre, one by SIRA and one by the Human Rights NGO Coalition.]

Subsequent reports in the Indonesian press alleged that the graves had been discovered by the security forces as reported by the army, but local activists called this a distortion of the truth.

SIRA has also reported other incidents just before the Massacre of the Nine. On 18 August, soldiers shot at and wounded a student in the village of Simpang Tomon in Idi Rayeuk sub-district. The troops were identified as coming from Company B, based in nearby Peudawa. Later that day, these troops, travelling in two trucks escorted by an armoured assault vehicle, alighted from their trucks to harass people on the road, in shops and fishing in the river. People panicked and started to flee, whereupon the troops opened fire, killing three men who were fishing. Another fisherman was caught as he tried to flee the scene. He was badly beaten up and left on the roadside in a critical condition.

Intelligence operation

How to explain this mindless spate of killings inflicted on groups of civilians, concentrated in one part of East Aceh? SIRA says there are indications that this is the work of military intelligence based in Medan, where the North Sumatra regional military command, Bukit Barisan has its headquarters. Compare this perhaps to the intelligence operation based at the Udayana military command in Bali during the weeks and months before and after the ballot in East Timor on 30 August 1999, when militias ran riot throughout East Timor. The motive for such an operation is not difficult deduct: to accuse GAM of killing civilians and to terrorise villagers who have deep-felt anger towards the Indonesian security forces and perhaps see GAM as an acceptable alternative. Intelligence operations are, by definition, extremely difficult to pin down. Hence the need for an independent investigation into the events surrounding the Julok Massacre.

On 10 September, Ann Clwyd MP, chairperson of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, called on the National Human Rights Commission to set up a special commission of investigation into the Julok Massacre and related killings. She said the investigation team would need the participation of experts trained in the exhumation of bodies and said that the investigation team should ensure the full protection of witnesses and provide necessary safeguards to witnesses once the commission has completed its work.

University rector assassinated

On 6 September, the people of Aceh were once again shocked by the assassination of a well-known public figure, the rector of Syiah Kuala University, who was killed while being driven home from work. Professor Dayan Dawood was shot in the head and chest by unidentified gunmen who were able to escape. His driver, who was unhurt, immediately drove to a nearby hospital but Professor Dawood was dead on arrival.

The assassination occurred in broad daylight on one of Banda Aceh’s main highways which was swarming with troops in preparation for the visit to Aceh two days later of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Two days before he was killed, Professor had gone on record with an offer to mediate in the stalled talks between GAM and the Indonesian government.

In a statement on 7 September, calling for ‘a thorough and impartial investigation into the killing’, Human Rights Watch said the assassination which occurred within half a kilometre from the governor’s office could not have happened ‘without the complicity of military elements’. A local human rights NGO shows this to have been quite an under-statement. USADHA, the Union of Activists for Democracy and Human Rights in Aceh, said that the rector was shot just a hundred metres from a military post guarding the governor’s office. The killers struck as the traffic slowed before going up a slope onto a bridge, near a set of traffic lights. A jeep just in front was moving slowly, and the gunman, on a motorbike, took aim and was able to get away easily by turning left along a side street, despite the presence of large numbers of soldiers patrolling the area.

The assassination came a year almost to the day after another senior academic was killed. Professor Syafwan Idris, rector of the Islamic University, ar-Raniry, was killed in his home on 16 September 2000.

Three days before Prof Dawood’s murder, the head of the Teachers’ Association in Aceh, announced that 135 elementary, junior high and high school teachers had been victims of violence over the past two years.

Legislators assassinated

There has also been a spate of killings of Acehnese members of local and national legislative assemblies. Five days before the murder of Professor Dawood, Zaini Sulaiman, a member of the Aceh provincial (first-level) legislative assembly representing the United Development Party, the PPP, was shot in the head by gunmen at his home on 1 September following evening prayers.

The other legislators killed since June last year are:

* Harun Aldi, a member of the second-level South Aceh legislative assembly - DPRD-II - representing the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P). His badly-injured body was found on 11 June 2000 by villagers in the village of Ruak, North Kluet sub-district. South Aceh.

* Tgk Ibrahim Ilyas, a respected religious teacher, was a member of the second-level North Aceh legislative assembly - DPRD-II - representing the Development Party, PPP, was shot dead on 12 September 2000 at 8.30pm. A month before he was murdered, the victim received threats from a young man who said his group was not happy with the DRPD member’s activities in regard to their group. He told a friend that he had also received a death threat.

T. Djohan, a regional representative for Central Aceh in the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), was shot dead on 10 May 2001 as he was walking home after prayers at the Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh. He was shot in the chest and died instantly. Shortly after the murder, there was a power cut, plunging the area into darkness. People nearby left his body untouched for nearly half an hour after hearing shots. Before his death, he had been pressing for negotiations between GAM and the Indonesian government as the best way to solve the conflict in Aceh.

There has not been a single conviction or reported arrests of suspects for any of these murders, nor for the murder in January 2000 of Nashiruddin Daud, member of the Indonesian parliament and of the investigation commission on Aceh set up during the Habibie administration. This can only mean that the police are either utterly incompetent or are being prevented from conducting criminal investigations to conceal the role of the military.

Problems with the political elite

A likely explanation for the atrocities against Acehnese public figures is that many, who shrink from the idea of Aceh seceding from Indonesia, are voicing strong opinions about the continuation of the military operations. Several well-known figures who have given their full support to special autonomy for Aceh, the Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) province, are equally supportive of a peaceful solution for Aceh.

When MPR member, Ghazali Abbas Adan, who already describes himself as a representative of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD), called on both sides in the conflict to lay down their arms immediately under the supervision of a third party, he was vehemently attacked by the security forces. Ghazali also said: 'Whichever side refuses to do so, for whatever reason, will expose themselves as being the ones who want to prolong the sufferings of the people of NAD.' Furthermore, he said, ‘increasing the number of troops in Aceh only makes the situation even worse and adds to the number of civilian casualties’. He criticised state officials and members of parliament who are pressing the military to resolve the conflict. Such people, he said, 'have lost all reason and are ignoring history'. [Analisa Online, 5 September 2001]

These remarks called forth a blistering attack by police commissioner, Sad Harun, spokesman for Opslihkan, the Operation for the Restoration of Order, by which the current military operations are known. Sad Harun said that Ghazali’s statement ‘raises serious questions about his position in the MPR...The protracted conflict in Aceh requires clear thinking. The innocent and ill-informed people of Aceh should not be turned into willing dupes of GAM strategy.' [Analisa Online, 6 September]

3. The key figures in Megawati’s kitchen cabinet

Indonesian analysts have rightly warned that ending the Orde Baru (New Order) in a structural sense means more than replacing Suharto as president. In August, the MPR, the People’s Consultative Assembly, elected the third Indonesian president since Suharto’s downfall in 1998. Many thought that the political demise of the man who embodied the Orde Baru would lead to its collapse but far from being dismantled the Orde Baru structures are more solid than ever.

Officially, the dominant political structure during the three decades of the Suharto dictatorship centred around Golkar, the ruling party, also known as ‘the party of the ruler’. The Golkar structure consisted of three components, the Golkar party structure, the vast bureaucracy and the military. Suharto ran the party structure through a body called Setneg (Sekretariat Negara, State Secretariat), whose head is known as Sesneg (Sekretaris Negara, State Secretary). This post is comparable to the chief of staff of the White House in Washington. The Setneg performed a critically important role; more often than not key decisions regarding the economy or politics were taken here rather than in the cabinet. The State Secretary himself was always a key figure in Golkar, more often than not concurrently the chairman of the ruling party.

In addition, the highly corporatist Orde Baru, meant that all civil servants were obliged to join Golkar which was the embodiment of a patron-client structure; the three million strong bureaucracy became the backbone of this structure. In the early sixties some anti-Communist officers created Sekber Golkar to counter the rapid growth of organisations aligned to the PKI, the Indonesian Communist Party. In 1967 Suharto and his inner core of officers turned this into their political vehicle, called simply Golkar. Until the downfall of Suharto in 1998, the TNI played a dominant role in Golkar.

With the collapse of the Suharto dictatorship, Golkar lost its monopoly as the dominant party when the general elections were held in 1999. Its stage-managed majority of more than 70 per cent under Suharto fell to 26 per cent of the vote, placing it second after the PDI-P. Even so, it garnered more votes than many had predicted. Today, Golkar leaders no longer hold top-ranking positions in the state; civil servants are free to chose their own political affiliations while the military have loosened their ties to Golkar which is now just like any other party. In reality however, things are somewhat more complex.

The Orde Baru

But there is another, more crucial way of analysing Orde Baru’s structures. The two dominant power structures during the Suharto dictatorship were military involvement in every aspect of life, known as Dwifungsi, the dual function, and a patron-client system that functioned through the bureaucracy. In those days, most decision making went through Golkar channels, but nowadays the old structures remain in place, though without Golkar being in control.

During the 21-month Wahid interregnum, the military and the bureaucracy resisted any meaningful change, sabotaging and obstructing the presidency to such an extent as to make Wahid incapable of governing. His successor, Megawati, will be more cautious. Her cabinet appointments show that she has gone a long way to accommodate the military and the bureaucracy.

Keys posts for military

Some key cabinet posts have gone to the military, among them the very influential interior ministry now headed by Lt. General Hari Sabarno, a military hardliner who was for years the spokesperson and then chairperson of the TNI in parliament. While most of today’s military leaders seem to lack any skills as politicians, Hari Sabarno is a good example of a military man who has been used to wielding power ever since the heyday of the Suharto era. His appointment as interior minister is very significant. Alongside military and police headquarters, this department is geared to monitoring, controlling and curbing activities in the regions. It has always been the most heavily militarised department, running in parallel with the army’s territorial structure of Indonesia. One of his first moves as minister was to announce that he would revise the regional autonomy laws that came into force in January this year, in order to protect the unitary state against disintegration. Hari Sabarno is still on the active payroll of the armed forces.

The top cabinet figures filled by retired military are Lt. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Lt. General Agum Gumelar both of whom were reinstated in the posts they occupied under Wahid. Susilo is once again co-ordinating minister of political and security affairs while Agum Gumelar is back as minister of transport. These are both very strategic positions. Agum was able to use his control of the transportation system to prevent pro-Wahid crowds from going to Jakarta to support the former president when he was under heavy pressure from his political enemies.

Important as these posts are, our intention here is to highlight two members of Megawati’s cabinet who will play a key role in the decision making-process at the highest level. The first is Lt. General (retired) Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, the newly appointed head of BIN (Badan Intelijens Negara, State Intelligence Agency) and Bambang Kesowo, who has been appointed as Sesneg (Sekretaris Negara, State Secretary). They both epitomise the re-emergence of the military and the bureaucracy, the two pillars of the Orde Baru.

Lt. General (retired) Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono

For the first time ever, the head of the key state intelligence body is a member of the cabinet. BIN (previously called BAKIN) was formerly directly under the president. In the Suharto days BAKIN functioned as a private intelligence agency for Suharto, run for almost twenty years by Lt. General Yoga Sugama, his close confidante. Under Wahid BAKIN was renamed BIN, and under Megawati it has assumed far greater importance than ever.

Quite justifiably, Wahid had a deep distrust of BAIS, the military intelligence body which was like a state within a state over which he had no grip. Everyone knows that BAIS is where sinister military operations and ploys are concocted. The revamped BIN will function as the umbrella for all intelligence bodies, including the army’s BAIS, and the intelligence arms of the police, the navy, the airforce and home affairs. The powers of the head of BIN, (known as KABIN), are comparable to those of the national security chief in Washington. It is a position of policy-making and decision-making, on a par with the ministers of foreign affairs and defence, which explains why Kabin Hendropriyono has become a member of the cabinet.

Hendropriyono pushed hard to get this job and his success is a mark of his political importance and his closeness to President Megawati. Unlike most of today’s top-ranking TNI officers who prefer to take a backseat in politics, Hendropriyono enjoys the limelight. He epitomises the image of a ranking TNI officer with a Kopassus (the army red beret elite troops) background plus all the skills and experiences of a territorial commander of the army.

Hendropriyono was born in Yogyakarta on 7 May 1945 and graduated from the Military Academy in 1967. He spent twenty years in Kopassus and was a second-year cadet in 1965 when Suharto seized power and was clearly impressed by the exploits of Kopassus (then called RPKAD) in its brutal witchhunt against the so called Communist threat. By 1986, when he left Kopassus, he was a top counter-insurgency and intelligence officer. His stint as a Kopassus intelligence officer from 1967 till 1986 covered events like the crackdowns against the student movement in 1974 and 1978 with strong military intelligence backing. In December 1975 East Timor was invaded, after a period of incursions across the border from West Timor. The September 1984 massacre of peaceful Muslim demonstrators in Tanjung Priok was the start of prolonged persecution of Muslim activists.

His official biodata reveals almost nothing about the twenty years he served as an intelligence officer at Kopassus but it can be assumed that, as he rose to become its head of intelligence by 1986, he must have been involved in all these tragedies.

In 1986, his territorial career was launched when he was assigned head of intelligence at Kodam Jaya, the Jakarta Military Command, shortly after the dozens of trials of Muslim activists that followed in the wake of the Tanjung Priok Massacre. The following year he became the Danrem Korem 043/Garuda Hitam, the district military commander in Lampung, South Sumatra. On 7 February 1989, Hendropriyono, then a colonel, led an attack against a local community of about 550 people in Talangsari, Lampung. His heavily-armed men literally butchered the defenceless villagers. At least 200 villagers were killed and many were imprisoned for years. The official version was that the local community belonged to an extreme Muslim sect but in fact the villagers were involved in a land dispute. From this time on, the human rights community began to call him the ‘butcher of Lampung’.

While other atrocities from the Suharto era have been investigated under pressure from the victims, the Lampung Massacre has quietly disappeared, thanks to efforts by Hendropriyono to bribe the victims into dropping any idea of pressing for an investigation.

There was a brief interlude in his territorial career when he became a director of BAIS, but soon afterwards, he was appointed commander of the Jakarta military command. Usually, Jakarta military commanders are destined for high office but after serving here for 18 months he was ditched by Suharto. Although Hendropriyono had all the necessary military skills, Suharto had doubts about Hendropriyono’s loyalty. Hendropriyono was replaced by Wiranto, the officer who later, as armed forces commander, oversaw the destruction of East Timor in September 1999 and the burning, looting and mass-rape in Jakarta in May 1998.

After his removal from the top post in Jakarta, Hendropriyono became director of Pusdiklat (Pusat Pendidikan dan Latihan, Centre for Education and Training) a marginal post for such a senior officer. The precise nature of the conflict between Suharto and Hendropriyono is not clear but the latter had made no secret of his political ambition. As Jakarta commander, he always maintained a high profile and kept himself in the public eye with weekly meet-the-people sessions every Wednesday morning and by attending parties and weddings. He became popular with the affluent middle class by making tough statements on eradicating petty criminals and dealing with social activists. This must have worried Suharto who had an aversion to popular officers who he saw as a threat to his own power base.

Originator of the armed militia concept

However, in 1996 Suharto, no doubt in recognition of his capabilities, brought Hendropriyono back into the fold by appointing him Sesdalobang (Sekretaris Pengendalian Operasionil Pembangunan, Secretary for Operational Guidance of Development). This made him in effect the president’s assistant to deal with regional security matters. He became a kind of roving operator, observing and monitoring likely places of unrest in remote parts of the country. His concept of arming civilians emerged during this period.

It is no accident that Hendopriyono’s skills were utilised again by Suharto. Hendropriyono is largely responsible for designing and promoting the concept of an armed civilian militia. As the largest archipelago in the world, many military strategists acknowledge on-going security problems across the 13,000 islands. With both Suharto and Hendropriyono being obsessed by security problems, it was Hendropriyono who thought up the idea of creating armed civilian militia, in particular in so-called trouble spots. In December 1998, while serving as transmigration minister in the Habibie cabinet, he launched this idea of his. ‘Security is important’, he told the press, ‘Security can only be guaranteed if people protect their own property and uphold democracy.’ The civilian militia would be a multipurpose organisation, he said, because it could be used to handle anarchic situations and unrest. It was also his idea to give the militia uniforms and ranks while keeping them under the supervision of armed forces headquarters. The East Timorese militia and the militia units in Aceh grew out of Hendropriyono’s concept.

In between holding these jobs, Hendropriyono acquired degrees in law and economics. After the 1999 elections he set up a law office called HELO (Hendropriyono Law Office) which he used extensively for self-promotion. He became close to Megawati during this period and was soon regarded as one of her closest military advisors.

During his long career as a territorial officer he created extensive business interests, in particular with Indonesian Chinese businessmen in Jakarta. Hendropriyono is now very wealthy and it remains to be seen how much of this wealth he will declare under new regulations requiring office holders to reveal the extent of their personal fortunes.

Another of Hendropriyono’s contributions was the drafting of the constitutional amendment establishing the principle of non-retroactivity for crimes against humanity which was adopted by the MPR at its session in 2000. With no one noticing what was happening, it was the armed forces/police group in the assembly, headed by Hari Sabarno, who pushed the amendment through. This amendment could frustrate all efforts to try the perpetrators of past crimes, despite recent moves to set up ad hoc human rights courts.

Hendropriyono’s appointment as head of BIN and member of the cabinet is bad news for democracy in Indonesia. Military intelligence officers have always played a key role in determining the course of Indonesian politics. Hendropriyono is a continuation of the disastrous role of predecessors like General Ali Murtopo and General Benny Murdani. His track record shows him to be a ruthless man with a strong preference for the ‘security approach’. Sooner rather than later the pro-democracy forces are likely to feel the effects of Hendropriyono’s policies.

Bambang Kesowo

Bambang Kesowo is the new Sesneg (Sekretaris Negara, State Secretary) and was previously the secretary of Vice-President Megawati. He was born in Sragen, East Java on 27 March 1945. He got a law degree at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta and did a PhD in business law at the Harvard Law School. While still a young man in 1968, he joined the staff of Setneg, where he remained throughout the Suharto era, eventually becoming Megawati’s secretary on her assumption of the vice-presidency.

While the military apparatus is often described as ‘a state within a state’, Setneg is the actual state in a nutshell. At its peak in the eighties, all important political and economic decisions were taken in Setneg. Gradually Setneg powers spread in all directions, like an octopus. As Suharto’s rule became increasingly personal, he used the state secretary as his main tool of power. All projects above 500 million rupiahs needed his approval. All projects outside the official budget also went through him while all presidential aid projects were handled within the Setneg pipeline. The many yayasan (foundations) set up by Suharto which he used to acquire funds in order to buy loyalty, were also controlled by Setneg.

Setneg also played a key political role as the politburo of the bureaucracy. Large chunks of the money acquired by Setneg were used for political purposes, such as buying loyalties, strengthening patron-client relations within Golkar, keeping an eye on mass organisations, supplying money for intelligence operations. By the time Suharto was forced to step down, Setneg had a staff of 4000, all working one way or another for the president.

As head of this super-ministry, Bambang Kesowo has become Indonesia’s most powerful bureaucrat, indeed much more powerful than other cabinet ministers whose powers are confined to single ministries. Bambang Kesowo fits the cliché: ‘Ministers come and go but civil servants go on for ever.’

He has already served under three presidents, moving upwards all the time. When Suharto was ditched in 1998 his career was nearing the top as deputy cabinet secretary. When Megawati became vice-president one year later, he was asked to become her private secretary, using Setneg as his office. He created a large structure of five divisions around her vice-presidency, much to her satisfaction. With his boss now president, his promotion to the highest rung on the ladder of the power structure was inevitable. People whisper that Bambang has become the second closest man to Megawati after her husband, Taufik Kiemas.

During his many years in Setneg, Bambang Kesowo became familiar with all the ins and outs of the power game. He became an integral part of the nepotistic culture that blossomed round the Suharto clique and built contacts with all the important players in business and politics. He was involved in drafting government regulations and designing many national projects, including the highly controversial Timor national car project which was the pet project of Suharto’s youngest son, Tommy Suharto, now a fugitive from justice. The significance of this carryover of the top figure in the bureaucracy from the Orde Baru to the Megawati presidency cannot be over-estimated.

Most assessments of Megawati’s cabinet have praised the professionalism and even-handedness of its composition. What they ignore is the key placement of two people who are the very embodiment of the military-bureaucracy alignment that served Suharto so well.

4. A Human Rights Agenda for Megawati

In August, TAPOL wrote to the newly-elected President Megawati to draw her attention to a number of issues that must be addressed to ensure that Indonesia’s transition to democracy is based on respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law. This is the text of our letter:

Priority areas: Aceh, West Papua, and West Timor

We are gravely concerned that former President Wahid's conciliatory approach to solving conflict in areas, such as Aceh and West Papua, has given way to the military solution. Apart from being counter-productive, this invariably involves widespread violations of fundamental rights. We urge you to negotiate solutions to the problems in these areas and to ensure that human rights are observed and actively promoted at all times. In particular, we call upon you to:

  • Halt the current military operations in Aceh under Presidential Instruction IV/2001 and the security operations in the Wasior region of West Papua.

  • Withdraw all non-organic troops from both territories.

  • Ensure that the peoples of Aceh and West Papua are able to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression - including their right to express their support for independence - freedom of association, freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights and that they are protected from extra-judicial executions, torture, and arbitrary detention.

  • Ensure that members of the police and armed forces strictly observe international human rights and humanitarian laws, especially insofar as they relate to civilians and other non-combatants.

  • Guarantee the security and freedom from arrest, intimidation and violence of human rights defenders and humanitarian workers so that they can carry out their work effectively and without fear of reprisals.

  • Guarantee the security and freedom from arrest of those involved in negotiations with government representatives so that there is no repeat of the recent arrest of negotiators of the Free Aceh Movement in Banda Aceh.

  • Allow independent investigations into recent massacres, especially the Julok massacre in East Aceh, and invite to Indonesia the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial Executions to investigate recent atrocities and to report on issues associated with her mandate.

  • Respond to the request made in November 2000 by the UN experts on torture, extra-judicial executions, violence against women, human rights defenders and arbitrary detentions for the Indonesian Government to investigate allegations of, and provide information on, abuses committed in Aceh within the experts' mandates.

  • Implement the recommendations of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women following her visit to Indonesia in 1998, invite the Special Rapporteur for a follow-up visit, and invite the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders to visit Indonesia and report on the human rights situation in relation to their fields of expertise.

  • Lift all restrictions on foreign-based journalists visiting Aceh and West Papua.

  • Continue the process of creating a civilian police force, which functions to protect citizens and not to restrict, by repressive means, legitimate social or political protest.

We remain concerned that there is no apparent end to the refugee crisis in West Timor nearly two years after the refugees were forcibly expelled from East Timor. The registration process in June 2001 did nothing to contribute to the safe repatriation or re-settlement of the refugees. The power and influence of the militias operating in the territory remains largely unchallenged. We, therefore, urge you to:

  • Fulfil Indonesia's responsibility to disarm and disband the militias.

  • Provide secure conditions for the return of humanitarian agencies to West Timor and for refugees to make a free and informed choice about whether they wish to stay in Indonesia or return to East Timor.

  • Protect the security of those refugees who decide to return to East Timor and take proper measures to ensure their safe repatriation.

Ending Impunity

Human rights violations will not end while those responsible for past violations are protected from due process and punishment. We urge you to end impunity by:

  • Revising the Indonesian Constitution to ensure that the non-retroactivity principle does not apply to acts or omissions which were crimes under international criminal law at the time they were committed (see Article 15(2) ICCPR).

  • Revising the Law on Human Rights Courts so that it complies fully with international standards (see recommendations in: Amnesty International - Indonesia: Comments on the Law on Human Rights Courts (Law no. 26/2000)).

  • Ending the practice of using koneksitas courts, or any other form of military tribunal, for human rights cases and any other cases which are not strictly concerned with military discipline.

  • Conducting investigations, establishing human rights courts or ad hoc courts, and bringing to justice those responsible for gross violations of human rights, including those in positions of political or military command responsibility, in particular in relation to:
    * the massacres perpetrated in the months following the seizure of power by former President Suharto in 1965;
    * the numerous atrocities and human rights abuses committed in Aceh and West Papua since the 1960s;
    * other grave incidents such as the Tanjung Priok massacre in 1984 for which an ad hoc court has already been established, the Lampung killings in 1987, the attack on the offices of the PDI party in July 1996, the disappearance of pro-democracy activists in 1998, the Trisakti/Semanggi student killings in 1998/99, and the killings, torture and arbitrary detentions revealed by the Commission of Inquiry into events in Abepura, West Papua in December 2000.

Justice for East Timor

It is our view that those responsible for serious crimes committed in East Timor must be made to account before an ad hoc international criminal tribunal. We have long felt that there are too many political and legal obstacles in the way of credible trials in Indonesia. This has meant that, more than two years since some of the crimes were committed, there have been no indictments, let alone trials in Indonesia.

The decree issued by former President Wahid establishing an ad hoc court for East Timor restricted the court's jurisdiction to crimes committed after the ballot in August 1999. This meant that many serious crimes, the planning of the violence, and the organisation of the militia forces in preparation for the ballot, would not be covered. The decree fell far short of a commitment made by Indonesia at the UN Commission on Human Rights in April 2001 "...to ensure that the violators of human rights and humanitarian law committed during the violence in 1999 are accounted for..."

With respect, we would argue that your amendment of the Wahid decree did not improve matters. You have revised the temporal jurisdiction of the court so that it covers April and September (but not October) 1999, and you have restricted the territorial jurisdiction to crimes committed in Dili, Liquica and Suai only. Again this means that many crimes are not covered.

We remain concerned that there are no plans to prosecute those in the highest positions of command responsibility for the East Timor violence, such as General Wiranto and Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim, both of whom were named in the report of Indonesia's Commission for Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP-HAM).

We also regret that the Indonesia has failed to co-operate with the authorities in East Timor in accordance with the memorandum of understanding on legal co-operation signed with UNTAET in April 2000.

We believe that an international tribunal will remain the only option unless the above points and others mentioned in this letter are properly addressed. The temporal jurisdiction of the ad hoc court should, at the very least, coincide with the mandate of KPP-HAM - which covered violations of human rights between January and October 1999 - and all those named in the KPP-HAM report should be brought to justice. Measures should also be taken to instigate a process of accountability for serious crimes committed in East Timor since 1975.

Political crimes and political prisoners

We are extremely concerned by the recent tendency of the authorities to criminalise peaceful political activities. This has given rise to a new generation of political prisoners. The suppression of political activity and expression in this way has no place in a country based on democratic principles and we urge your administration to:

  • Release all political prisoners and all those awaiting trial on political charges (whether in prison or under any other form of detention) immediately and unconditionally, in particular:
    * Muhammad Nazar, Faisal Saifuddin and Kautsar of Aceh;
    * the five Papuan Presidium leaders and 17 others convicted in relation to events in Wamena, West Papua in October 2000;
    * eight political activists arrested in Bondowoso, East Java in August 2001 for distributing anti-government lealets;
    * 12 activists currently in detention in Bandung following their arrests for demonstrating against new labour laws and fuel price increases;
    * Purwadi, the head of the People's Democratic Party in East Java.

  • Drop criminal charges against all those facing charges in relation to their peaceful political activities, including the five Papuan Presidium leaders on trial in Jayapura.

  • Repeal all articles in the Penal Code and other penal provisions which make the expression of political opinions or political activities a criminal offence, especially Article 106 (rebellion), Articles 134 and 137 (insulting the President and Vice-President) Articles 154, 155 and 160 (the "hate-sowing" Articles) and Articles 107a to 107f (articles incorporated into the Penal Code when the anti-subversion law was repealed in 1999).

  • Lift all restrictions on journalists and international trial observers attending trials and ensure that all trials are fully open to the public and conducted in accordance with international fair trial standards.

Other legal and judicial reforms

Whatever improvements are made to Indonesia's laws and legal procedures, the rule of law cannot prevail unless professional, independent and impartial legal personnel are available to carry out investigations, prosecutions and trials. You are aware of the serious problems of corruption within the judiciary and the prosecution service and we urge you to give the highest priority to institutional reform. In particular, we recommend that:

  • Judges should be appointed on the recommendation of an independent judicial commission comprising members of the judiciary, representatives of the private legal profession and representatives of civil society.

  • Judges should be given security of tenure for lengthy terms and should be dismissed only if they are no longer worthy of judicial office.

  • Judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers should undergo intensive training in international human rights law and practice.

  • All laws, regulations and practices relating to the function and conduct of the legal profession should be consistent with the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors and the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

To protect the rights of defendants, victims and witnesses, we recommend:

  • The early review and revision of the Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP) so that it complies with international standards, particularly those relating to detention and fair trial set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.

  • The implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions following its visit to Indonesia in 1999.

  • An invitation to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions to make a follow-up visit to Indonesia.

  • The provision of an effective protection programme for victims and witnesses, operated independently of the police and security forces, with special attention being given to the needs of children and the victims of gender-related violence.

National Plan of Action

We urge you to implement the Indonesian National Plan of Action on Human Rights, 1998-2003, launched by former President Habibie in June 1998. In particular, we call upon your administration to:

  • Accede to the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights ('ICCPR') and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Genocide Convention and other instruments referred to in the Plan of Action.

  • Promote and protect the human rights set out in the above instruments before the ratification process is completed.

  • Implement all international human rights instruments already ratified by Indonesia, in particular the Convention Against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  • Ensure that Indonesian domestic law and practice fully comply with Indonesia's obligations under the above instruments and with its other obligations under international human rights law.

We thank you for your kind attention to these matters and hope that you find our recommendations helpful. We would value your response to our suggestions and we look forward to a dialogue with you and your ministers on these critical issues.

11. 1965: What the US and Britain knew but never revealed

The recent (inadvertent) release of more cables between the US embassy in Jakarta and Washington in late 1965 has supplied more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle mapping Washington’s enthusiastic support for the Indonesian army’s bloodthirsty crackdown against the Indonesian Communist Party when up to a million people were slaughtered. Also, a new book published in July shows how the British embassy helped to spread misinformation about what was happening in Jakarta.

Both Washington and London were of the opinion years before these events that President Sukarno should be removed. The communist party was growing fast in a country of strategic and economic importance to both Britain and the US. Sukarno had gone too far in his advocacy of a policy of non-alignment and his friendly links with the Soviet Union and China.

After the CIA’s disastrous involvement in the regional rebellions of the late 1950s, Washington changed tack and now saw that its interests lay in building close ties with the Indonesian armed forces under its commander, General A.H. Nasution. In mid 1960, Nasution proved his worth by using special martial law powers to ban the communist party in three provinces, South Sumatra, South Sulawesi and South Kalimantan. (The bans were later rescinded on the president’s orders.)

Liquidating Sukarno

While on a visit to Washington in September 1960 for talks with the State and Defence Departments, General Nasution was given an assurance of US support in the event of a showdown between him and Sukarno over the communist issue. Assistant Secretary of State Graham Parsons was given the authority to tell Nasution that ‘we are aware of and heartened by recent actions which the Army has taken to curb Communist power... If American help is wanted in the form of military and economic assistance, the United States in such circumstances does its best to be helpful and quickly...We would like General Nasution to feel that the United States would wish to be helpful to Indonesia too in such circumstances.’(1) Five years later, the US had the chance to honour that pledge.

Britain was also in on the act. A CIA memorandum of June 1962 stated that President Kennedy and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had agreed at a meeting in April that year that it was desirable to ‘liquidate’ Sukarno, ‘depending on the situation and available circumstances’.(2) Britain’s hostility towards Sukarno went back many years and intensified after he launched his konfrontasi policy against the establishment of Malaysia in 1963. There were even British and Australian plans to spread the war being waged along the border between Indonesia’s Kalimantan and the northern territories of Borneo to other parts of Indonesia.(3) The animosity towards Sukarno continued after Labour took over from the Tories in 1964.

Supporting the massacre

The action taken by a group of army officers in Jakarta on 1 October 1965, when six generals were kidnapped and killed ostensibly in a move to pre-empt a coup against Sukarno, led within hours to a counter-attack and to a counter-coup by General Suharto. A massacre of unprecedented proportions against the PKI and its millions of supporters was soon underway and Suharto slowly but surely undermined and eventually ousted Sukarno, installing himself as president.

On 5 October 1965, in what was probably his first comment on the events of 1 October, the British ambassador, Andrew Gilchrist said in a letter to the Foreign Office: ‘I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change in Indonesia, but it makes me sad to think that they have begun with the wrong people.’(4) Soon his hopes for ‘a littler shooting’ against the ‘right’ people were to be fulfilled, beyond his wildest dreams.

Within days of the murders on 1 October, both the British and US ambassadors were directing their attention to blackening the PKI and destroying the credibility of Sukarno. On 6 October, without waiting for any evidence of the PKI’s involvement in the murder of the generals, the British embassy in Jakarta advised British intelligence headquarters in Singapore about the line to be taken regarding events in Jakarta: ‘...we certainly do not exclude any unattributable propaganda or psywar activities which would contribute to weakening the PKI permanently. Suitable propaganda themes might be: PKI brutality in murdering Generals and Nasution’s daughter... PKI subverting Indonesia as agents of foreign Communists... But treatment will need to be subtle, e.g (a) all activities should be strictly unattributable, (b) British participation or co-operation should be carefully concealed... (d) material should preferably appear to originate from Pakistan or Philippines.’(5)

Although Britain and Indonesia were still in a state of war, it was in Britain’s interests to ensure that the Indonesian army should now concentrate its forces on destroying the PKI. A cable from the Political Adviser (POLAD) to the Commander-in-Chief Far East in Singapore to the Foreign Office in London on 8 October referred to a suggestion of Ambassador Gilchrist in Jakarta ‘that we should get word to the generals that we will not attack them whilst they are chasing the PKI. The C-in-C thinks this has some merit and might ensure that the Army is not detracted from what we consider to be a necessary task.’

On 5 October, the US ambassador, Marshall Green, said in a cable to Washington that events in Jakarta ‘may embolden army at long last to act effectively against Communists’. Weighing up what the US could do to ‘shape developments to our advantage’, Green set out a number of guidelines, Point B of which was: ‘Covertly indicate clearly to key people in army such as Nasution and Suharto our desire to be of assistance where we can’, while Point E was: ‘Spread the story of PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality (this priority effort is perhaps the most needed immediate assistance we can give army if we can find way to do it without identifying it solely or largely as US effort.’(6)

On 20 October 1965, Ambassador Green reported to Washington that ‘the (communist) party has received... blow to its image... and some damage to its organisational strength through arrest, harassment and, in some cases, execution of PKI cadres... Some thousands of PKI cadres have reportedly been arrested in Djakarta area alone and several hundred of them have been executed.’ While admitting that the PKI organisation may still be largely intact, Green concluded by saying: ‘Army has nevertheless been working hard at destroying PKI and I, for one, have increasing respect for its determination and organisation in carrying out this crucial assignment.’(7)

A memorandum on the Indonesian army circulated within the State Department early in November said the army’s relations with the Pentagon ere based on associations developed during training in the US and were ‘founded on trust, respect and a network of deep personal friendships’. Going on to consider how the US government might support the army, it said: ‘In the life and death struggle which has finally been joined with the PKI, the Army deserves our support.(8)

The chances of providing that support were soon to present themselves. A senior intelligence officer, Sukendro got in touch with the US embassy in Bangkok in late October to ask Washington for assistance. This included ‘small arms to arm Moslem and nationalist youths in Central Java for use against the PKI’. According to the Bangkok embassy, ‘Sukendro was obviously pleased with the favourable response to his request on behalf of the Indonesian Army leadership.’ Covert arrangements would take the form of the ‘Army’s ostensible purchase of medicines and a review of the medical list by Sukendro’s doctor’.(9) Nothing is yet known about quantity of arms supplied as ‘medicines’ but they had been requested to arm non-military killers and make the anti-PKI slaughter appear to be a ‘popular’ reaction to the events of 1 October.

A cable from Marshall Green the previous day said: ‘In Central Java army (RPKAD) is training Moslem youth and supplying them with weapons and will keep them out in front against the PKI. Army will try to avoid as much as it can safely do so direct confrontation with PKI.’ He added: ‘Smaller fry are being systematically arrested and jailed or executed.’

Britain’s black propaganda campaign

The points made in the British embassy’s note of 6 October led to the opening in Singapore two weeks later of an office of the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD). It was headed by Norman Reddaway, one of the Foreign Office’s most experienced propaganda specialists, and chosen by Gilchrist as the best man for the job.

Reddaway’s prime target was the BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent, Roland Challis whose book, published earlier this year exposes the methods used by Reddaway and Gilchrist to spread black propaganda about what was happening in Indonesia.(10)

The brief of IRD (set up in 1948 and disbanded in 1977) was to ‘collect information about communist policy, tactics and propaganda and to promote anti-communist policy via missions and information services abroad’. But IRD in Singapore had an extra brief, explained in a note from Reddaway to Challis: ‘...do anything you can think of to get rid of Sukarno’. IRD’s strategy was threefold, to target the PKI, to tar Sukarno with the communist brush and to provide documentary support for Suharto’s interpretation of the events of 1 October 1965. Foreign journalists relied almost exclusively on information from this single source, since they were not able till mid 1966 to visit Indonesia though, as Challis writes, ‘MI6 agents came and went at will’.

Reddaway’s main source of information was top secret telegrams, about four a week, by diplomat pouch from Gilchrist in Jakarta. Besides this of course, information was flowing into the IRD office from other sources, through intercepts, and from US and Australian intelligence sources all of whom knew exactly what was going on but, writes Challis, ‘control of information was rigorous. No word of the slaughter came my way.’ Other British media on the receiving end of the IRD’s doctored reports were The Times, Daily Telegraph, Observer and the Daily Mail. A quick perusal of the distortions that appeared in the British press, ‘civil war,’ ‘armed communist gangs’, and so on, as the massacres progressed show how successful this black propaganda was. No wonder there was not a murmur of protest in the UK to stay the hand of Suharto’s killers.

When Reddaway was asked by Gilchrist many years later to summarise some of the stories re-cycled from the embassy through the IRD, his list included the following: ‘Various sitreps from yourself which were put almost instantly back to Indonesia via the BBC. You may remember complaining that the versions put back were uncomfortably close to those put out by yourself.’(11)

What the embassy really knew

Documents released by the Public Records Office in the mid-1990s, in accordance with the 30-year rule, include many cables from the embassy to the Foreign Office in London which show how closely British diplomats were following the slaughter. And they were liaising closely with the Americans and the Australians in a joint effort to ‘try to keep a score’.

In a cable dated 13 January 1966, James Murray, British Chargé d’Affaires wrote: ‘It is a matter for constant speculation here how many Indonesians have been killed ... since 30 September... The Americans, with their considerable intelligence resource, try to keep a score and I understood their latest estimate was about 150,000. A report that the Australians have from a police source puts the deaths in Bali alone at 28,000.’

On 23 February 1966, Gilchrist wrote a three-page report containing the findings of the Swedish ambassador who had been able to make a tour of Central and East Java in the company of a Swedish engineer who was inspecting telephone exchanges installed by Ericsson. Travelling with his Indonesian wife, the ambassador was able to speak to lower-ranking officials out of earshot of government officials. Here are extracts from his letter:

‘The Ambassador and I had discussed the killings before he left and he had found my suggested figure of 400,000 quite incredible. His enquiries have led him to consider it a very serious under-estimate.’

‘A bank manager in Surabaya with 20 employees said that four had been removed one night and (to his certain knowledge) beheaded. A British expert employed in setting up a spinning factory near Surabaya said that about a third of the factory technicians, being members of a Communist union, had been killed. ... The killings in Bali, according to what the Ambassador could pick up, had been particularly monstrous. In certain areas, it was felt that not enough people (emphasis in the original) had been killed.’

The man who had spoken of the need for ‘a little shooting’ four months earlier now appeared to be horrified himself at what was happening. Needless to say, none of this was allowed to leak out to the public.

It was clearly with Western connivance that the true horror of the killings unleashed as Suharto took control of Indonesia were kept secret. No wonder that even today, few commentators or journalists have any notion of Suharto being a genocidal killer and his name is never mentioned when people call for the world’s worst criminals against humanity to be called to account.


  1. US National Archives, RG 59 Records of DOS, Decimal File 1960-63.The document was cited in Roland Challis, Shadow of a Revolution, 2001, Sutton Publishing Ltd, p 48.

  2. James Oliver and Paul Lashmar, Britain’s Secret Propaganda War, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1998, p 4.

  3. Ibid, p. 5.

  4. Letter from Andrew Gilchrist to E.H. Peck, head of the Southeast Asia Division at the FO, 5 October 1965.

  5. British embassy cable to POLAD (Political Adviser) Singapore, No 1835, 6 October 1965.

  6. Cable No 868. Ref: Embtel 852, 5 October 1965.

  7. Cable No 1090, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 12 INDON.

  8. Memorandum from Office of Southwest Pacific Affairs to Assistant Secretary of State for Fear Eastern Affairs, 3 November.

  9. RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL, 23-9 INDON, 5 November 1965.

  10. Roland Challis, Shadow of a Revolution: Indonesia and the Generals, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2001.

  11. Challis, p 102.

11. Brimob’s ‘Sweep-and-Crush Operation’

During the past few months, West Papuans have been subjected to an increasingly brutal series of abuses, particularly in the region of Wasior. There have been killings, disappearances and torture inflicted on civilians who have fallen victim to a special operation mounted by Brimob, the special forces of the Indonesian police.

The code name of the operation, ‘Sweep and Crush’, means that this is intended to be a military operation against the armed resistance movement, the OPM, but the entire operation has been directed against villagers living in or near the sub-district of Wasior, in the district of Manokwari, For several months now, the region that has been sealed off to prevent church leaders and human rights activists from entering.

Brimob, the police force Mobile Brigade, is invariably the force identified as the ones responsible for the frequent abuses. Although the police force was separated from the armed forces near three years ago, in a move to civilianise the force, Brimob has earned itself a reputation, particularly in West Papua and Aceh, of being the most brutal security force in the country.

Local dispute has fatal consequences

According to a report released in August by ELS-HAM, the leading human rights NGO in Jayapura, the operation has resulted in ten summary executions, a number of disappearances and the burning of many homes.

Villagers in Wondama had been in dispute for years with a local logging firm over the amount of compensation for trees felled in their forest land. On 31 March this year, at a point when the dispute was reaching a climax, three employees of the company were shot dead during an attack by an unidentified armed gang. The murders led to the arrival in the region of Brimob units to hunt down the OPM, thought to be responsible for the attack. In an atmosphere of fear, many villagers fled their homes. Additional Brimob forces were detailed to guard all the logging companies in the area. On 3 May, Brimob seized a 22 men on their way home from Wasior to Puncak Jaya district, after attending a traditional ceremony. Six of the men were shot dead, two were seriously wounded and the others were arrested.

On 13 June, two and a half months after the first logging company was attacked, an armed gang attacked another logging company, CV Vatika Papuana Perkasa (VPP), in the village of Wondiboi, killing five members of Brimob who were on guard, and a civilian employee and seizing several guns and ammunition. Following this attack, the police force/Brimob, with the backing of the regional military command, launched Operasi Penyisiran dan Penumpasan (Sweep and Crush Operation) and sealed off Wasior. Many more Brimob troops were flown to the area; they appear to be the ones primarily responsible for the sweeps against the local population in their search for the OPM.

The Brimob sweeps were extended to the district of Ransiki where nine people were arrested and tortured, including a 15-year old schoolboy, Sefnat Kawey, who was beaten so badly he fell unconscious. He was later dragged along an asphalt road to Brimob headquarters.

Husband murdered, wife harassed

Among the many dozens of people taken into custody, was a 51-year-old primary school teacher, Daniel Yairus Ramar who died in police custody in Manokwari, two hours after he had been interrogated for the umpteenth time. The police later alleged that he had died ‘of natural causes’. Daniel Yairus Ramar, was the head of the Council of the Tribal Wondama Community and had been severely tortured because he denied that he took part in the armed attacks in Wasior Sub-district, Manokwari District earlier in the year.

When relatives went to the hospital where his body had been taken, the police said the body could only be released for burial if they undertook not to press for accountability for the death. But relatives later said that they would not be intimidated into keeping silent.

The victim had been arrested in South Yapen, along with his wife, Amelia, and their five daughters and taken from there to Manokwari.

After his death, his wife, Amelia Woisiri, was subjected to heavy pressure by the security forces to confess that her husband had been involved in the armed attacks on two logging companies and to locate a gun he was alleged to own. She vehemently denied their allegations but was taken against her wishes to Nabire and warned that Brimob would be called in to interrogate her if she did not comply with what the police wanted her to do. She was also told that if she did not cooperate, she would end up dead like her husband. She was taken into police custody on 15 August and was the subject of an urgent action entitled ‘Fear of torture’ by Amnesty International.

Brimob also shot dead a peasant woman, Ester Matipoi, 28, from Yopanggar, after accusing her of giving food to the family of the teacher, Daniel Yairus Ramar. A boy, aged 11, Michael Numayom was also shot dead in the same village.

Economic activity halted

Dozens of homes have been torched during sweeps and tight controls have been imposed on the daily activities of the inhabitants. Implements that they use in their daily work, such as fishing tackle and axes, have been destroyed, leading to food shortages. Villagers now need travel passes if they want to go anywhere, and anyone who is unable to produce an identity card is held and beaten. Local markets have virtually come to a standstill since the operation began. Even so they are required to supply food several times a week for Brimob troops.

Confronted by calls for the operation to be halted, the the security forces have said that the operation will not end until the seven weapons that were seized when five members of Brimob were killed on 13 June have been recovered.

Local church leaders and human rights defenders have called for the withdrawal of Brimob from Wasior, for a halt to the atrocities perpetrated against the civilian population, for people to be compensated for the loss of homes and personal belongings, and for all those responsible for the atrocities to be called to account in a court of law.

Source: ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ The truth about the Sweep and Crush Operation in Wasior, district of Manokwari. A preliminary report by ELS-HAM, 22 August 2001

12. Indonesia and the current world crisis

On 19 September, President Megawati Sukarnoputri went to Washington to meet President Bush for a state visit that had been agreed before the horrendous events in New York and Washington on 11 September when more than six thousand people of many nations met their deaths as the result of a heinous, terrorist attack. TAPOL joins in mourning those who were killed, while continuing to mourn the one million or more Indonesians who met their deaths as Suharto took power in 1965/1966. On that occasion, Washington gave unstinting support to Suharto and the Indonesian army to continue with this massacre and made no calls on the world community to fight terrorism - state terrorism - which might well have halted the massacre in its tracks.

By deciding to go ahead with the meeting with the Indonesian president at a time when he is building an international coalition for his ‘war against terrorism’, Bush evidently expected Indonesia, with the world’s largest Muslim population, to stand ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with Washington as it whips up international support for his warmongering project. In the event, Megawati went no farther than to pledge ‘to cooperate with the international community in combating terrorism’.

Megawati’s measured response shows that she knows full well that support for Washington in Indonesia is less than enthusiastic. Many Indonesians will not forget that during the three decades of the Suharto dictatorship, all administrations in Washington kept silent about the massive, ongoing repression and grotesque human rights abuses and did nothing to halt arms supplies until undeniable facts emerged about the death and destruction in East Timor in 1999. Megawati also knows that she could face a serious backlash from Indonesian Muslims should she sign up for a war on countries with huge Muslim populations.

Cooperation on counter terrorism

The two presidents agreed to ‘strengthen bilateral cooperation on counter-terrorism’. Indonesia has been plagued for more than a year by many bombings which have killed and maimed hundreds and destroyed property. The Indonesian police have shown themselves to be virtually incapable of tracking down and bringing to justice the perpetrators of these terrible crimes. She would have done better to pledge reform of the police and improve their ability to fight crime. Undoubtedly many of those responsible for these crimes have links with groups in other countries, but reports currently circulating in Indonesia that Osama bin Laden may be behind the spate of bombings stretches credulity. Still worse, they may be part of a strategy to enhance the role of Lt.General Hendropriyono who Megawati appointed to head the new State Intelligence Agency (see 'The key figures in Megawati's kitchen cabinet', this bulletin). No doubt, some of the $5billion now allocated to Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’ will find its way into this Agency’s coffers and Megawati’s intelligence supremo will enjoy the new prominence bestowed on his network of spies and ‘intel’ operatives.

It should not be forgotten that the army connived in inflaming the religious strife that has held Maluku in its grip since early 1999. Laskar Jihad gangs were not prevented from going to Maluku and funds from top army commands were used to support these gangs. The credentials of the Indonesian armed forces in fighting these self-confessed Muslim extremists is less than salubrious.

Accountability for human rights abuses

Megawati made a pledge, in her statement with Bush, ‘to resolve outstanding issues relating to past human rights violations, especially in conflict zones’. She asserted that ‘as a state based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and freedom of religion, Indonesia recognises the importance of accountability for human rights abuses’.

TAPOL warmly welcomes this pledge. However, we know that, if she stands by this pledge, she will find herself on a collision course with numerous military officers, retired or still on active service, who must be held accountable for crimes against humanity in East Timor, in Aceh, in West Papua and in Indonesia during the Suharto regime of terror. The man she chose as Attorney General, A.M. Rahman, has a deplorable reputation for the job he now holds; he has stood in the way of accountability for the crimes in East Timor and is hardly likely to help her in standing by the pledge she made in Washington.

While Bush agreed to lift the executive’s embargo on commercial sales of non-lethal defense articles for Indonesia, he gave no undertaking to end arms sales, knowing full well that this is a matter for the US Congress where support for the Leahy amendments is still strong (see 'West keen to enhance military ties', this bulletin.). If Megawati fails to deliver on her accountability pledge, the Leahy amendments will prove an impregnable barrier to the resumption of arms sales.