176, August 2004

Aug 2004

Bulletin no. 176


1. Army officers cleared of graves crimes in East Timor

2. Pressure for East Timor justice intensifies [text unavailable]

3. May 1998 atrocity still unresolved [text unavailable]

4. Human rights NGOs under threat [text unavailable]

5. New politicians take centre stage

6. MPs accuse Government

7. Papuans face uncertain future

8. Freeport indictment [text unavailable]

9. Military operations in Aceh fail

10. Subandrio, a Sukarno man to the core (Obituary) [text unavailable]


1. Army officers cleared of grave crimes in East Timor

The announcement in August that the High Court in Jakarta had quashed the sentences of top-ranking Indonesian army officers who were found guilty of grave crimes in East Timor after the East Timorese had voted overwhelmingly for independence has infuriated all those hoping that those who caused such widespread havoc and killings would be duly punished for their crimes.The jubilant response in Jakarta to this travesty highlights the utter lack of a sense of responsibility in the political elite for the crimes perpetrated in East Timor.

The mayhem which followed the referendum on East Timor's future in August 1999 led to a quarter of a million people being forcibly moved to West Timor and the death of around 1,500 Timorese. Almost the entire infractructure of East Timor was destroyed in the process. This was the Indonesian army's parting gift to a people whose country they had brutally occupied for nearly 25 years.

Three top-ranking military officers and a police officer who were found guilty of these acts of destruction had been tried by a special court in Jakarta set up in 2001 to deflect international criticism.

Foremost among the officers found guilty was Major-General Adam Damiri who was responsible for overall control of East Timor in the closing years of the occupation. Another found guilty was Colonel Noer Muis. Damiri has since been involved in offensive operations in Aceh, while Muis is now teaching ethics at the army's staff college.

The acquittal of Damiri, Muis and two others means that not a single Indonesian officer will be punished, while the only ones to have their convictions upheld are two East Timorese, the former governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares, and militia leader Eurico Guterres, whose sentence was halved.

Although the prosecutors could challenge the decision in Indonesia's Supreme Court, there are no signs that they intend to do so. A UN-appointed prosecutor for serious crimes in East Timor, Nicholas Koumjian, said the acquittals showed that Indonesia had failed to demonstrate its commitment to uphold human rights and the rule of law. 'The international community should now act to make sure impunity is not allowed to continue.'

Amnesty International said in a statement: 'The trials and appeals in Indonesia have been flawed from the very start. The UN must ensure that its commitment to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice is fulfilled.' [The Guardian, 7 August 2004]

Usman Hamid of Kontras, Indonesia's Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence, called this 'a terible decision,' saying: 'We should be ashamed.' [Financial Times, 7 August 2004].

The acquittals are seen as a victory for the Indonesian army and the political elite whose sense of deep humiliation at the 'loss' of East Timor continues to rankle.

International tribunal needed

Following the acquittals, TAPOL has renewed its call for an International Tribunal for East Timor to be set up, stressing that alternative judicial mechanisms are the only way forward.

5. New politicians take centre stage

2004 has been an eventful year for Indonesia, with elections being held for the national and regional parliaments and for the president. The presidential election in July failed to give any of the five candidates an absolute majority so a second round will be held on 20 September. Retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) who came first with 33.57 per cent of the vote will confront President Megawati Sukarnoputeri who received 26.6 per cent. In April, there were elections for the national and regional parliaments.

It is widely acknowledged that conducting free elections is the easy part of the transition to democracy, so 2004 was a test of how Indonesia's fragile democracy, only six years old, would cope. Overall, with the exception of Aceh and West Papua, the elections were successful.

The presidential election

The first ever direct presidential election in July went relatively smoothly with more than 121 million of the 153 million registered voters turning up to vote. Post-Suharto Indonesia is generally mentioned as being the world's third largest democracy, in terms of the size of the population, after India and the US, but if the electoral turnout were the benchmark, Indonesia could even be called the second largest, ahead of the US.

After elections in April, July and September, the newly-elected parliament, the regional parliaments and the DPD, the Regional Representative Council (a kind of first chamber), will be installed, and the new president and his or her cabinet will be installed, which means that government will effectively start functioning in November.

On 26 July, the General Elections Commission (KPU) announced the (almost final) result of the first round of the presidential election. (The five teams below consist of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.).Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono/Yusuf Kalla 39,838,184 votes (33.574 per cent).Megawati Sukarnoputeri/Hasyim Muzadi 31,569,104 votes (26.605 per cent). Wiranto/Solahuddin Wahid 26,286,788 votes (22.154 per cent). Amien Rais/Siswono Yudhohusodo 17,392,931 votes (14.658 per cent) Hamzah Haz/Agum Gumelar 3,569,861 votes (3.009 per cent).Twenty-one per cent of eligible, registered voters boycotted the elections. Of the 121 million votes, 2,635,976 votes were declared invalid.

The April and July elections

Months before the presidential election, opinion polls indicated that the so-called outsider SBY (as Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is commonly known), was the front-runner. Although he lacks an effective campaigning organ, his new party, Partai Demokrat (PD), won almost 9 million votes in the April elections, garnering 57 seats in parliament. [See results of general elections below].

The way voters voted in July indicated that party loyalties did not play a significant role. It was Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose party machinery was the weakest, who scored well in April and in July, though in the final weeks before the first presidential election, his popularity fell slightly.

Wiranto, the other retired general standing for president, who, as GOLKAR's candidate, should have had the largest following and the best chance of support nationwide performed woefully. Although Wiranto, along with his deputy, Solahuddin Wahid (W/SW) could have been expected to win the most votes, they were the biggest losers. This was despite the fact that Wahid, officially had the backing of one of the Muslim parties and Wiranto had the backing of GOLKAR. In the April parliamentary elections, the two parties jointly won more than 36 million votes but in July, votes for the duo fell to 26 million.

Rising from the ashes

In an attempt to improve his chances, Wiranto underwent a facelift before the July election. In 1998-1999, Wiranto had the worst possible image. Under the dictator Suharto, he took charge of the Indonesian armed forces and was seen as Suharto's golden boy. He was also held responsible for the devastating destruction of East Timor in September 1999 after the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence. It was widely expected that it would only be a matter of time before he was arraigned on charges of crimes against humanity. But unfortunately, Indonesia's democracy has not yet shown the political will to deal with violators of gross human rights who continue to enjoy impunity.

But thanks to a comprehensive facelift, Wiranto can be said to have risen from the ashes. A team of dentists patched up his teeth, he underwent a hair weave for the bald spots and he took a course in public relations. He created a new image for himself as the singing general with a CD of his songs going on sale and a perpetual smile on his face. Now he was ready to be launched as Indonesia's future president. However, the voters saw through the image-making and rejected Wiranto's candidacy.

The presidential candidates

The Amien Rais/Siswono Yudhohusodo (AR/SY) team faced quite a dilemma. In theory they should have won at least 22 million, which is what the eight smaller parties which supported them had won in April. But in the event, their support declined by five million.

By contrast, the Megawati/Hasyim Muzadi (M/HM) team did quite well. Their two parties, the PDI-P and PDS, had won 23 million in the general elections. In July, their joint showing rose to 31 million votes.

But topping the polls was the SBY/Yusuf Kalla (SBY/YK) ticket. They won votes from all parties and tendencies. On paper SBY's candidacy was only backed by his party and two small parties, the PBB and the PKPI, with a total of 12 million votes in April, but in July, the SBY/YK team won almost 40 million votes.

With four of the five candidates obtaining a significant number of votes, it was clear that voters had spread their support across a wide range of choices. While political loyalties may have played a role, it was ultimately the image of the candidates that counted.

SBY, a retired general with a friendly image, attracted voters from all sides. He won decisively in the heartland of East Java which is the base of Nahdatul Ulama (NU), the rural-based Muslim organisation. This was quite an achievement, considering that Hasyim Muzadi, Megawati's running-mate, chairs the NU and Solahuddin Wahid, the running mate of Wiranto, was the candidate of PKB, the NU's political wing.

Within GOLKAR, Wiranto's candidacy was a contentious issue. As is widely acknowledged, money was the factor which secured his election as the party's presidential candidate at the National Convention of GOLKAR in May. But this turned out to be a pyrrhic victory. Support within GOLKAR, from its chairman, Akbar Tandjung, and throughout the party's extensive network, was half-hearted and Wiranto was sidelined.

Akbar Tandjung has emerged again as one of the country's most powerful politicians and the acknowledged king-maker. In the period preceding the second round presidential election on 20 September, SBY and Megawati will have to negotiate with GOLKAR to build a coalition, in return for which GOLKAR is sure to demand seats at the top of the table in cabinet and plenty of lucrative postings in the state companies.

Hamzah Haz, the present vice-president and the chairman of the PPP, suffered a humiliating defeat, with only 3 per cent of the votes. In the Suharto days, the PPP as the only officially recognised Muslim party monopolised the Muslim vote but nowadays it has to compete with a number of Muslim parties. It advocates the establishment of a Muslim state, but by only winning 3.5 million votes, it is clear that the Indonesian electorate rejects this idea. Following his defeat, Hamzah Haz called on his supporters to vote for Megawati in the second round, which should win her a few million votes.

Amien Rais entered the elections lacking a clear identity. His political style is one of compromise. While he has on occasion presented himself as representing urban Muslims, he also tried to make an appeal to secular voters. His party, PAN, projects the same confusing image.

Just days before the July elections, Amien won the support of the PKS, an energetic, young Muslim group, as well as from sections of the pro-democracy movement, strongly boosting his position. Of all the five candidates, Amien was the only one to show a degree of support for democratic reform and was therefore seen as the lesser evil by some groups in the NGO community. It is not yet clear where his votes will go to in the second round. [See section on Golput].

Megawati, the underdog

The incumbent Megawati will have a tough time getting re-elected in September. So far, her campaigning team, Tim Sukses, has indeed been quite successful. The general elections in April were disastrous for Megawati and her party. She lost the majority in key places such as the capital Jakarta and West Java, striking the already tarnished image yet another blow. For a brief moment, stalwarts in her party, the PDIP, considered ditching her but her popularity among the rank of file was seen as being sizeable so the idea was dropped.

The 26.6 per cent she acquired in the first round of the presidential elections was a reversal of her fortunes and the result of some heavy-handed tactics by her campaigning team. Their first move was to put her notoriously unpopular husband, Taufik Kiemas, on a leash. He was told not to make statements and to keep a low profile. This certainly improved the standing of the president, reducing the image of cronyism and nepotism which thrives because of the wheeling and dealing of her husband.

Upgrade needed

Clearly Mega's passive profile needed some pepping up which was done by stressing her position as 'underdog', the victim under Suharto, in 1996 and 1997. Her ratings below SBY also helped to reinforce this underdog image.

Megawati's position as a woman was also turned to her advantage. Some right-wing Muslim clergy had issued statements saying that it is an affront to Muslim principles for a woman to be head of state, but Indonesian Muslims do not go along with such extreme views and Megawati will be able to benefit from this slur as close to half the voters are Muslim women.

In the first round Megawati won decisively in only six provinces, North Sumatra, Bangka-Belitung, Central Java, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara and West Kalimantan. Key, densely-populated areas like West Java, Jakarta, Yogyakarta and East Java all went to SBY so a lot of hard work will be needed by Mega's team to win votes in these places.

Her re-election would certainly be a great achievement. She has held key positions since 1999, initially as vice-president under Wahid for eighteen months, then after his impeachment, as president for three years. She will be remembered by people as someone who lacks social vision, who is distant, short in compassion and behaves like a Javanese princess.

In the past two years, the price of oil has soared, giving a much-needed boost to the state coffers but as yet, direct investments, both domestic and foreign, have remained sluggish, largely because of a lack of trust in her ability to run the country.

SBY, the leading candidate

In July, it was widely expected that SBY's popularity would secure him 40 to 50 per cent of the votes, perhaps even obviating the need for a re-run, so his 33.5 per cent was in many ways a disappointment and a cause for anxiety for him and his team in preparing for the September re-run.

Their main problem is how to stop the downward slide. Before the April elections SBY wore the mantle of underdog, having been unceremoniously removed from a key position in Megawati's cabinet, thanks to the intriguing husband. The Indonesian electorate always has a soft spot for underdogs, which was the case with Mega in the 1999 elections, which she won.

Another favourable factor for SBY is that he is seen as a gentle and considerate fellow, the nice guy who will be able to restore Indonesia to economic prosperity and political stability.

But some problems have emerged. His stints as co-ordinating minister for security and politics under both Wahid and Megawati are now being closely scrutinised. He is being blamed by the right for indecision at crucial times when military operations in Aceh and West Papua were considered necessary but the left sees him as the man responsible for the military adventures in both places.

The press is also focusing on the fact that he was Jakarta army chief of staff during the attack on the PDIP office in 1996.

So far, his coalition politics have been rather erratic. Although his running mate Yusuf Kalla, is regarded as a respectable South Sulawesi businessman with strong GOLKAR credentials, there is a dark side. He is now being criticised for harbouring anti-Chinese sentiments. The Chinese vote is quite substantial as the Chinese are the third largest ethnic group in Indonesia after the Javanese and Sundanese.

SBY has become close to justice minister Yusril Ihsa Mahendra, who is concurrently the chair of PBB, one of the smaller Muslim parties. PBB openly propagates sharia law, which has given SBY a fundamentalist image.

Although SBY is known as a military reformer, he has won support in many military circles and several generals have joined his advisory team. With these retired officers jumping on the bandwagon, his democratic credentials have become tarnished.

Military versus civilian

It remains to be seen whether the issue of the military versus civilians will play a significant role in the second round. Election results in July show that the electorate is only partially affected by this dichotomy. Three out of the five teams included a retired general. Wiranto and SBY are retired four-star generals while Agum Gumelar, the running mate of Hamzah Haz, was a red beret special forces, three-star army general.

The results suggest that as the winner, SBY was not affected very much by his military background. So far his track record is relatively clean and inquiries into several human rights incidents have drawn blanks. But things were different for Wiranto. His woeful track record is well known in cities like Jakarta where a major upheaval took place in 1998. The voters will not have forgotten his role in the tragedy of May 1998. [See separate article.]

Golput, the 'white' voters

Golput, an acronym of golongan putih, the white group, emerged in the early years of the Suharto dictatorship as a protest against the way elections were stage-managed. It meant going to the polling booth but invalidating the voting paper. Though Golput never became a mass movement, it was a well-publicised action by urban activists. As a dictator who was keen on projecting the appearance of legality, it was of prime importance to Suharto to hold elections. But the elections were rigorously controlled by the military and the results were never in doubt.

Today's golput is different. It simply means not turning up to vote and becoming an absentee. Gus Dur, as Abdurrahman Wahid is better known, has advocated golput, because he seriously doubts the capacity of the five candidates. In part this may also be because he was disqualified as a presidential candidate on grounds of ill-health, a decision which he is challenging in the courts. Large sections of the pro-democracy movement still regard the post-dictatorship structures (parliament, political parties etc) with deep suspicion. Many argue that the present political constellation is nothing but a continuation of Suharto's New Order, so joining political parties or voting is simply legitimising the old structures.

Boycotting the elections through golput is intended as a political act to develop a new political democracy in Indonesia. The latest figures suggest that golput will increase in September. In July, 20 per cent of registered voters are estimated not to have to cast their vote, with the majority being assessed as golput. Many prominent figures have advocated golput in the second round, including some leaders of Muhammadiyah, the modernist Muslim social-religious organisation.

Golput has become a more effective political act to express discontent with the slow rate of political reform. But the big question remains: how to transfer this discontent into a set of clear demands for change.

The general elections revisited

The 5 April general elections, the second after the fall of Suharto, were held under relatively peaceful conditions. Altogether 24 parties were given the go-ahead to compete for the 550 seats in parliament [See also TAPOL Bulletin No. 175, April 2004 'General elections: old wine in a new bottle?].

In most places the elections were relatively smooth. There were a few incidents such as money politics, holding unscheduled rallies, or using government facilities or public facilities like schools or places of worship but they were quickly reported to Panwaslu, the central and local supervisory committees and dealt with.

The only place where the Suharto Orde Baru tradition persisted was in Aceh, which is now under 'civil emergency', after a year of martial law. The military made sure that the elections in Aceh would be a 'success story' and Acehnese were warned that failing to vote would risk being labelled pro-GAM. This was done to avoid a repeat of 1999 when the Acehnese boycotted the general elections and only a quarter of the voters turned up. This time, under pressure, the turnout was well above 90 per cent, higher than anywhere else in the country.


Of the 24 parties, seven failed to win seats. The PDIP, Megawati's party and the biggest party in 1999, was the biggest loser, down by 15 per cent. The second biggest party, Golkar consolidated its position, losing only 0.88 per cent. With a total of 21.57 per cent, GOLKAR emerged as the largest party.

The three main Muslim parties, PKB (Partai Kebang-kitan Bangsa of Abdurrachman Wahid), PPP (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan of vice-president, Hamzah Haz) and PAN (Partai Amanat Nasional whose chairman is Amien Rais) each lost around two per cent. Two smaller Muslim parties, PKS (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera) and PBB (Partai Bulan Bintang) gained votes. The PKS won a spectacular 45 seats in parliament as compared with 1999 when as a newcomer, then called the PK (Partai Keadilan), it won a mere 1.4 per cent, with six seats. The PBB won more votes than in 1999 but its seats fell from 13 to 11.

The other vote winner was PD (Partai Demokrat) the political party of SBY. Although brand new with little organisational experience, it seized 57 seats to become the fifth largest party.

Two other new parties worth mentioning are PBR and PDS. PBR (Partai Bintang Reformasi) is a spin off from the old Muslim federation PPP which managed to grab 13 seats while PDS (Partai Damai Sejahtera) set up by some Protestant clergymen won 12 seats.

Election results

Party Votes PERC Seats
Partai Golkar 24.480.757 21.6 128
PDIP 21.025.991 18.5 109
PKB 11.994.877 10.6 52
PPP 9.248.265 8.1 58
PD 8.455.213 7.5 57
PKS 8.324.909 7.3 45
PAN 7.302.787 6.4 52
PBB 2.970.320 2.6 11
PBR 2.763.853 2.4 13
PDS 2.425.201 2.1 12

Note: The number of votes and percentages do not necessarily correspond with the number of seats as the number of votes needed to secure a seat varies in each province.

A few general conclusions can be drawn from the results. Pluralism has been achieved, with 17 parties gaining seats. The PDIP, the leading government party received a thrashing, an expression of voter dissatisfaction with the Megawati government. The other leading party, GOLKAR also lost votes but was able to consolidate its position because of the power base it enjoys in many provinces outside Java, especially within the bureaucracy and reaching down to village level.

None of the small parties on the left (PIB, PBSD, Merdeka) with programmes advocating social democracy, socialism or people's economy attracted many voters and they were unable to win any seats. Likewise on the right, the PKPB which favours a return to the good old days of Suharto failed to win many votes and won only two seats. The Pemuda Pancasila Party, also staunchly pro New Order, also failed woefully. The nationalist party PDIP spin-offs, the PNI, Pelopor and PBNK, acquired four seats. This suggests that the electorate favoured mainstream parties while parties advocating a religious programme did second best.

The new parliament

Cynics still see DPR, the Indonesian parliament, as nothing more than a rubber stamp. In the three decades of Suharto rule, parliament never exercised its legislative powers; it never initiated laws but simply passed laws drafted by the government.

But the new parliament of 550 members is quite different from the 1999 line-up. Around 400 members are first-time MPs. The 1999 DPR had 500 members of whom 38 were from the armed forces or police, who occupied specially allocated seats. Now, all the members are elected with no seats for the military.

The 1999 parliament was notoriously slow, inefficient, lacking professionalism, with a poor attendance rate. Any democratic legislature cannot operate without proper information, support and expertise. The old DPR lacked these basics and time was needed before MPs could function properly.

It will take time before the new MPs learn how to function in commissions and special committees. Hopefully, the 2004 DPR will develop the genuine democratic tradition of having government and opposition parties. In the Suharto era and also after the first free elections in 1999, Indonesian politics was still upholding the idea of 'we are all in it together', ignoring the basic principles of parliamentary democracy.

If small or medium-sized parties like PAN and PKS emerge as opposition parties, this will make parliament more lively and democratic.

The new parliament will get down to work in October.

The role of the military

Indonesia's new democracy has taken some significant steps since 1999 though movement towards civilian supremacy has been painfully slow, not least because of the role the military still play in day-to-day politics.

A few crucial problems continue to haunt Indonesia's political life. Formally speaking, TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, has abandoned politics. They have no seats in parliament and by 2009, the TNI faction in the upper house, the People's Congress, will also be scrapped. But in reality, the TNI still plays a dominant role in politics.

Gus Dur lost his presidency and was impeached after less than two years because he tried in vain to curb the powers of the military. During his short presidency, he sacked both Wiranto and SBY from his cabinet, only to see them re-emerge as presidential candidates three years later. Megawati adopted a position of accommodation, allowing the military to destroy the peace process in Aceh by launching military operations and arresting the Acehnese peace negotiators.

The Purnawirawan factor

Under strictly enforced regulations, TNI officers must retire at 55 and often go on to secure well-paid posts with plenty of kickbacks in the administration. The governor of Jakarta and the district chief in Yogyakarta district are both retired officers. Purnawirawan is the Indonesian word for retired officer. This is not just a name; it is also a powerful institution.

Purnawirawans have their own organisations and informal networks. The three decades of Suharto's New Order gave the purnawirawans access to power and economic wealth, and to this day, the majority of purnawirawans are unwilling to relinquish this privilege.

Officers like Wiranto, Agum Gumelar and SBY graduated from the military academy in the late sixties and early seventies, when Suharto and his inner core were building and consolidating the foundations for military domination in politics. The generation of cadets that graduated in the first half of the seventies are still on active duty and fill all the key positions in the TNI, and they are used to dominating. It is also true that the military are still the strongest and best organised political force in the country.

The military have dominated politics for over three decades and it is long overdue for civilian politicians to demonstrate their capabilities, free from military control. But as yet, politicians in parliament have shown little will to defy the military and establish civilian supremacy.

Draconian TNI Bill

Ominously, a draft bill on the TNI has been tabled by the ministry of defence and the co-ordinating minister for security and politics. It has been strongly criticised by military experts but so far the criticism has been ignored.

If it is adopted into law, it will be a victory for the military as it confirms the military territorial structure and limits the authority of the president. The territorial structure functions as a shadow administration alongside the civilian structure down to village level and often acts as the real power.

Where a state of emergency is deemed necessary, the top brass insist that the military should have the deciding voice about troop deployment. The law will limit the president's powers in decisions about going to war; other matters such as quelling social unrest or crushing secessionist movements will fall under the authority of the TNI commander-in-chief.

According to schedule, the present parliament will end its term on 30 September and the new members will be inaugurated on the following day but the TNI is determined to push the bill through before the present parliament expires. The aim seems to be to get the bill adopted quickly with as little debate as possible. *

6. MPs accuse Government of ignoring misuse of British arms in Aceh

A committee of MPs has accused the UK Government of failing to investigate claims that UK-built military equipment has been used in violation of human rights or for offensive purposes in Aceh. An official report has also revealed that, despite widespread parliamentary and public concern about the human rights record of the Indonesian military, the Government continues to back the sale of military equipment to Indonesia.

The inadequacies of procedures for monitoring the end use of British equipment, were exposed by the influential cross-party Quadripartite Committee on Strategic Exports in its Annual Report for 2002, published on 18 May.

In a wide-ranging indictment of Government policy, the Committee also questioned the value of end-use 'assurances' provided by Indonesia. It strongly criticised the Government for its lack of transparency in explaining why, in August/September 2002, it allowed Indonesia to weaken the 'assurances' at a time when the Indonesian military was continuing to conduct offensive operations in Aceh.

The Committee's inquiry into the use of British equipment in Aceh was prompted in part by evidence provided by TAPOL and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

UK-supplied Hawk jets and Saracen and Stormer armoured personnel carriers (APCs) were used in Indonesia's year-long martial law offensive in Aceh. At least 2,000 people were killed during the offensive, which lasted from May 2003 to May 2004. Although, martial law has now been lifted [see separate item], military operations continue with the ongoing risk that British equipment will be used to violate human rights.

The Committee said it had 'seen no evidence that the Government has taken any action (other than talking to the Indonesian authorities) to investigate claims that British-built equipment has been used in violation of human rights or offensively in Aceh'. It added that 'This calls into question the importance of such assurances in the eyes of the Government'.

The Committee referred specifically to a press report cited by TAPOL and CAAT. The report detailed the showing on Indonesian television of heavy machine guns mounted on Scorpion tanks firing at 'alleged separatist positions'. [In fact it transpires that these vehicles were more likely to be Saracens or Stormers than Scorpions, although all are UK-supplied military vehicles.] The Committee stated that it was not presented with any evidence that the Government examined the TV footage and called on the Government to explain what steps it has taken. Although the Foreign Office has since told TAPOL and CAAT that it has insufficient details to follow up the report, it is difficult to believe that the British Embassy could not have tracked down the footage with a little effort.

In September 2002, the Government controversially allowed Indonesia to weaken the conditions under which licences to Indonesia were granted, allowing British equipment to be used in Aceh at a time when the human rights situation was deteriorating. Previously, the use of British equipment in Aceh was not permitted under any circumstances unless advance notification was provided to the British Government. However, neither the Committee nor anyone else in Parliament was made aware of the change of policy until June 2003. The Government failed to explain the reason for the change of policy and the Committee was, therefore, forced to conclude that: '...there has been a serious lack of clarity in the Government's explanation to us of its rationale for allowing the Indonesian authorities to alter end-use undertakings regarding their use of British-built military equipment'.

Reflecting the views of TAPOL and CAAT that in any event the undertakings are worthless, the Committee went on to say that 'without more legal or political backbone, end-use assurances are not worth the paper they are written on'

The Committee further expressed the suspicion that 'the principal function of the end-use assurances is to shield the exporting Government from criticism when exporting equipment is misused.'

Arms sales increase

The Government's reluctance to change policy is no doubt due to the strategic and economic importance it attaches to the arms trade with Indonesia. The annual report on military exports for 2003, published in June, revealed that 110 standard licences with a value of 12.5 million were approved during the year for equipment ranging from components for combat aircraft, tanks, and aircraft machine guns to air guns and missile launching equipment. TAPOL and CAAT are awaiting a further explanation of the exact nature of this equipment.

A subsequent quarterly report on licensing decisions made between January and March 2004, published in July, revealed a substantial increase in the number of licences. A total of 41 standard licences for Indonesia were issued in the period, equivalent to an annual increase over 2003 of almost 50 per cent. The total value of the licence applications for Indonesia was 5.5 million, equivalent to a 76 per cent. increase.

No transparency thwarts judicial review

Regrettably, the decision-making process on export licences remains murky and secretive. Although the Government now publishes a limited amount of information in its annual reports on strategic exports, substantially more information remains hidden than is revealed.

Information about licence applications is not published in advance, not even on a confidential basis to the members of the Quadripartite Committee as representatives of Parliament, and it is not clear how Ministers apply the EU and national licencing criteria to each application.

This means that any attempt to challenge the legality of decisions made by Ministers is virtually impossible. Ministers are allowed almost unfettered discretion in deciding licence applications.

This proved to be the case when a human rights activist from Aceh, Aguswandi, recently failed in his attempt in the High Court to challenge by judicial review the legality of arms sales to Indonesia [see TAPOL Bulletin, No. 175, p. 8].

Aguswandi argued that the Government has indicated, by its words and actions, that it will refuse licences only after equipment has been misused. In other words, it will wait until equipment is used to violate human rights before it will do anything more. This would be a clear breach of the requirement that it must refuse a licence if there is a clear risk that the equipment will be used for internal repression: the Government has unlawfully replaced the (proactive) 'clear risk' test by a (reactive) 'evidence of misuse' test.

Aguswandi also argued that decisions to issue licences were legally irrational in view of the human rights record of the Indonesian military.

Permission for Aguswandi's application to proceed was refused because insufficient information was available about specific licences and decisions.

The court did, however, say that if there was any demonstrable evidence that British-supplied equipment had been used to commit specific human rights abuses, this would be decisive in law and should prevent the future export of similar equipment.

US ban on military assistance continues

Meanwhile, a key subcommittee of the US Congress has voted to renew a ban on International Military Education and Training (IMET) and foreign military financing (FMF) for Indonesia.

The Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House of Representatives' Committee on Appropriations supported the extension of the ban on IMET until the State Department determines that the Indonesian military and government are co-operating with the FBI's investigation into an ambush which killed two US citizens and an Indonesian in West Papua. The ban was agreed before news emerged of the indictment of a suspect for the murders [see separate item].

The Foreign Operations Appropriations legislation is unlikely to be finalised until after November's US elections.

7. Papuans face uncertain future

Despite the emergence of further evidence from the US that the 1969 Act of Free Choice - which consigned West Papua to decades of harsh and repressive Indonesian rule - was a sham, little progress is being made towards providing Papuans with the autonomy some are prepared to accept as a step towards self-determination.

Secret documents released by the Washington-based research group, the National Security Archive, on the 35th anniversary of the Act of Free Choice, confirm that the US approved and supported the rigged referendum despite being aware of the Papuans overwhelming desire for independence (1). For reasons associated with Cold War politics, the US was keen to avoid confronting the anti-Communist regime of General Suharto, which had control of the territory, then known as West Irian. The documents also highlight Washington's failure to respond to death threats and extensive human rights violations against Papuans.

In July 1969, the US Ambassador to Indonesia noted that 'past abuses had stimulated intense anti-Indonesian and pro-independence sentiment at all levels of Irian society' and suggested that 'possibly 85 to 90% of the population are in sympathy with the Free Papua cause'. The process was summarised in a US Embassy telegram:

'The Act of Free Choice (AFC) in West Irian is unfolding like a Greek tragedy, the conclusion preordained. The main protaganist, the GOI, cannot and will not permit any resolution other than the continued inclusion of West Irian in Indonesia. Dissident activity is likely to increase but the Indonesian armed forces will be able to contain and, if necessary, suppress it.'

A detailed analysis of the documents by retired US Foreign Service Officer and former Political Counsellor at the US Embassy in Jakarta, Ed McWilliams, appeared in TAPOL Bulletin No 173/174 published in December 2003.

In response to the documents' release, an editorial in the Jakarta Post newspaper urged the Indonesian Government to face the issue of the flawed referendum head-on and talk to the Papuans about the issue (2). The Papuans themselves have long been advocating such dialogue as a means of resolving the conflict. The Government of Vanuatu has offered to hold peace talks between West Papuan and Indonesian Government representatives at the end of July, but so far Indonesia's response has been non-committal.

Referring to an international campaign concerning the Act of Free Choice (3), the Jakarta Post said: '...something is brewing on the international front. In March this year, Irish parliamentarians urged UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to review the world body's role in the 1969 referendum, joining South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and scores of NGOs and European Parliamentarians'.

The internationalisation of the West Papua case is certainly causing concern for the Government in Jakarta and could becoming an increasingly important spur to progress.

Special autonomy chaos continues

The Jakarta Post also called upon the Indonesian Government to honour its promise of special autonomy for West Papua. Although special autonomy falls far short of the self-determination wanted by the overwhelming majority of Papuans and is regarded by many as a cynical attempt to weaken support for independence, some are prepared to accept it as a step towards that objective and a means to give Papuans greater control over their own development, especially in the areas of health and education.

However, special autonomy remains another unfulfilled promise from Jakarta due to the chaos caused by Government's provocative attempt to split West Papua into three provinces (4). This divide-and-rule tactic is regarded as a further move to undermine support for independence as well as an opportunity for the military to increase its numbers and level of economic activity in the territory.

In June 2004, Papuan religious leaders warned the Government of worsening problems if it failed to implement special autonomy. In a strongly-worded statement, the deputy chairman of the Communion of Churches in Papua, Socratez Sofyan Yoman said:'The churches in Papua can no longer remain silent if injustice and human rights abuses in the province continue. So far we cannot continue to maintain a neutral stance because the political issues now encompass injustice, human rights abuse, extortion, insults and poverty' (5).

Yoman's statement was made after a meeting with the President of the Constitutional Court, which is reviewing the legality of Presidential Decree 1/2003 dividing West Papua into three provinces. The application for judicial review was made by the Chairman of the DPRD provincial legislature and the Advocacy Team for Papua's Special Autonomy, who assert that Decree 1/2003 contravened the law on special autonomy passed in October 2001. The campaign against the three-way split had earlier received a major boost after the State Administrative Court ruled that a law appointing Abraham Octavianus Atururi as the governor of West Irian Jaya was contrary to the law on special autonomy (6).

Key to the implementation of special autonomy is the establishment of a Papuan People's Assembly (MRP). Under the special autonomy law, the MRP, whose membership should include representatives of traditional/tribal leaders, religious communities and women, is given various powers including the right to give prior approval to any division of the province. President Megawati has delayed signing the necessary implementing regulation amid fears that she is intent on weakening the MRP's powers.

Presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged to speed up the establishment of the MRP and promised to revise all laws that contradict the special autonomy law (7). This issue will be a major early test for the Indonesian administration which comes into power after the second round of the Presidential elections on 20 September.

Senators call for UN Special Representative

Meanwhile, US Senators have launched an important initiative aimed at resolving the conflicts and improving the human rights situations in West Papua and Aceh by calling upon the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to appoint a Special Representative to Indonesia to monitor and report on the two provinces. In a letter to Kofi Annan dated 28 June 2004, they said the scale of human rights violations warrants special attention by the international community, which has remained too quiet on the conflicts for too long. The Indonesian Government rejected the initiative and berated the Senators for interfering in Indonesia's internal affairs.

Abepura trials begin

After much delay, the first trials for gross human rights abuses in West Papua began in Indonesia's newly-established human rights court in Makassar, South Sulawesi, which has jurisdiction over West Papua. Two senior police officers are being tried separately on crimes against humanity charges in relation to their command responsibility for the killing of Elkius Suhunaib, 18, and arbitrary detention and torture of scores of others, which resulted in the deaths of Johny Karunggu, 18, and Orry Doronggi, 17, in police custody at Abepura in December 2000.

The police raided three student dormitories in Abepura after an attack by unidentified persons on the local police station in which one police officer was killed. The torture of the prisoners was witnessed and later graphically described by a Swiss journalist who had been arrested for alleged abuse of his tourist visa (8). Two other persons suffered permanent injuries and one has since died.

It is not clear why more police officers have not been charged. An investigation by Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) named 25 officers as suspects (9). The two men charged are Johny Wainal Usman, Jayapura commander of the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) police special forces at the time of the incident and the then Jayapura police chief, Daud Sihombing. Two other senior officers named by Komnas HAM - the provincial police chief, Sylvanus Wenas and his deputy, Moersoetidarno Moerhadi - have not been charged. The trials of the two accused are continuing.

Refugees: A cause for concern

The fallout from the conflict continues to be felt in neighbouring Papua New Guinea (PNG) as refugees cross the border to camps near the town of Vanimo on a daily basis (10). Concern has been expressed recently that some 400 refugees will be moved to camps at East Awin against their wishes. East Awin has a reputation for being almost uninhabitable, bad for growing crops and rife with malaria. A number of refugees have died after moving there.

On a more positive note, over 1200 children born to West Papuan refugees in PNG have been given birth certificates and a legal identity they previously lacked in a programme assisted by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) (11).


  1. See 'Indonesia's 1969 Takeover of West Papua Not by "Free Choice"' at: http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB128/index.htm

  2. 'Spotlight on Papua', Jakarta Post, 16 July 2004.

  3. See TAPOL Bulletin No. 166/167 at p. 27. For further details of the campaign and supporting documents, visit http://westpapuaaction.buz.org/unreview

  4. See TAPOL Bulletin No. 173/174 at p. 11; and TAPOL Bulletin No. 175 at p. 21.

  5. 'Religious leaders warn government of chaos in Papua', Jakarta Post, 25 June 2004.

  6. See 'W Irian Jaya Governor Illegitimate: Court', Jakarta Post, 16 June 2004.

  7. See 'Susilo Pledges to Implement Papua Special Autonomy Law', Jakarta Post, 10 June 2004.

  8. See TAPOL Bulletin No. 161 at p. 20.

  9. See TAPOL Bulletin No. 162 at p. 18.

  10. See 'Papua New Guinea Camp Reports Influx of Indonesian Border-Crossers', BBC Monitoring, 12 May 2004.

  11. See 'Refugee children granted legal recognition in PNG', Radio Australia, Pacific Beat, 14 May 2004; and 'Birth Certificates Issued to Indonesian Refugees in Papua New Guinea' BBC Monitoring, 11 May 2004.


9. Military operations in Aceh fail

Human rights conditions in Aceh continue to be deplorable. Although the military campaign has been cut back slightly, the military presence and the lack of freedom of movement is stifling daily life in Aceh. In the countryside, especially in areas seen as GAM strongholds, the social structure has suffered severely.

The peace process in Aceh was abruptly ended with the military operations that started in May 2003. TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, had come to the conclusion that the cease fire provided the opportunity for GAM, the Free Aceh Movement, to consolidate itself. The TNI leadership basically took over the Aceh political agenda of the cabinet by opting for a military campaign. Cabinet ministers were told that the military approach was the only option. After the military defeat of GAM, they were persuaded to believe, the separatist remnants could be dragged into new talks, ultimately accepting NKRI, the unitary state of Indonesia. Leaders of political fractions were given the same message. The issue was never discussed in Parliament. After more than a year of military operations, the scenario turned out to be a total failure.

The ultimate aim of winning a war is to win hearts and minds, but military operations in Aceh have always had the opposite effect. During the DOM period (1989-1998), Indonesian military operations resulted in the spectacular growth of GAM and enhanced its popularity among the population. All the signs are that the present military operations will have the same effect and alienate the population even more from Jakarta.

From martial law to civil emergency

When martial law ended in May 2004, not a single high-ranking GAM commander had been caught, nor had peace been restored. But instead of examining the facts and admitting that martial law had failed, Jakarta opted to continue with the military approach by granting Aceh another special status, now called 'civil emergency'. It was under martial law that the April general election was conducted in Aceh.

Under martial law all the basic freedoms were abrogated, so how democratic can elections be under such circumstances? Holding elections in such a situation has only served to reinforce the conflict between GAM and the military for survival and power.

When martial law was lifted on 19 May, some people were satisfied that their demands had been met. However, those who are striving for peace in Aceh and meaningful democracy in Indonesia know only too well that little has been achieved. On 20 May, Aceh was still a militarised territory and peace a distant dream. The lifting of martial law was meaningless for the Acehnese while military operations continued. The military approach means that dialogue has been spurned. After martial law had been lifted, the commander-in-chief of the army told the press that military operations would continue and not a single soldier would be withdrawn.

Civil emergency simply shifts the locus of authority in the province. While under martial law, ultimate authority was vested in the military, the province is now under the authority of the governor of Aceh. When these new powers were conferred on him, Governor Abdullah Puteh (who incidentally is facing grave corruption charges) described his authority as follows: 'It's like this. Whereas before I helped the military and the police, now it's the other way around. They help me.'

This shuffling around is simply a re-run of what happened in 1998 when the notorious DOM (Daerah Operasi Militer - Military Operational Zone) was lifted. Then too, military operations continued. The military will continue to determine the methods used to resolve the situation in Aceh.

Human rights abuses

Since martial law was declared in Aceh in May 2003, more than two thousand people have been killed, 2,100 people have been arrested, and hundreds have been tried in courts, without any pretense of due legal process. We are also told that 1,276 people surrendered to the army. (Jakarta Post, 24 May 2004).

This amounts to more than five thousand people, yet when martial law was declared, the military alleged that GAM had between three and five thousand members. This means that they have either successfully eliminated GAM or their intelligence was so bad they had no idea of how much support the rebels enjoy. This in turn raises questions about the extent of pro-Indonesian sentiment in the province. Or does it mean - as numerous reports suggest - that many of those killed, arrested or convicted were not GAM at all? Whatever the case may be, the military's insistence that statements issued by them are indisputably true is highly questionable. Which brings us back to why the military strategy was chosen.

The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) in Jakarta has frequently confirmed that human rights violations have been committed by the troops in Aceh, with civilians accounting for most of the victims. The seventy cases investigated by the Commission included arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, forced disappearances, sexual harassment and rape, extra judicial executions, indiscriminate attacks as well as the looting and destruction of private property (Jakarta Post, 24 May 2004).


However, Aceh's woes are not limited to the horrors of military action. The conflict has provided fertile soil for widespread, debilitating corruption. The lives of the Acehnese are now at the mercy of corrupt civil authorities and hard-line military action.

Still worse, no one apart from the Acehnese now living in Jakarta is asking questions about Aceh, neither politicians, social activists nor intellectuals. Apart from protest actions by Acehnese, everyone has been busy with the presidential elections. The war in Aceh has become a forgotten war, internationally and in Indonesia.

In an election year, when politicians should be called on to explain and account for their policies on critical issues such as Aceh, very few questions have been asked. No politician has provided the necessary vision and strategy for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The two candidates who will contest the presidential election in September, President Megawati and retired general, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, have failed to enunciate policies for resolving the conflict in Aceh.

No one seems concerned about the fate of hundreds of Acehnese political prisoners whose treatment violates international standards of justice. No one seems particularly concerned that thousands of Acehnese have been forced to join the militias.

No one has even asked why martial law failed to crush GAM. No top level GAM commanders have been captured, yet instead of recognising that martial law was a failure, this has been cited as a reason for continuing military operations in Aceh.

Elections in Aceh

Campaigning for the general elections in April took place under martial law, while the presidential elections were conducted after martial law had been replaced by the civil emergency. During what should have been a period of election campaigning, there was widespread intimidation to force people to register as voters. In many places people who refused to register were accused of being members or sympathisers of GAM.

The journal, Aceh Kita, published many stories about Acehnese being forced to register. Those who failed to register were visited and terrorised by militia groups. Those who failed to turn up on election day were forcibly escorted to the polling stations. As a result, the armed forces commander-in-chief, General Ryamizard Ryacudu triumphantly claimed that 94 per cent of the population turned up to vote. This means that the turnout in Aceh was higher than in Indonesia as a whole.

Actually, the mood in Aceh during the parliamentary and presidential elections was one of despondence, not only because many Acehnese did not want to vote while martial law continued but also because few people believed that elections would make any difference to the situation on the ground. Acehnese sociologist Human Hamid commented that the majority of people simply did not believe that any of the candidates would bring about changes in the province.

Groups that were authorised to monitor the elections in Indonesia were allowed to send a few representatives to Aceh. However, although international organisations praised the July elections as a success, international monitors were glaringly remiss in their reporting of the situation in Aceh. Most of them failed to comment on the atmosphere in Aceh. By simply recording how many people turned up and how they behave at the polling stations, they found very few incidents. But in a war zone like Aceh, election monitoring should consider the atmosphere surrounding the process. Strange to say, the EU monitoring team made no mention of Aceh in its report.


During the general elections in April as well as in the first round of the direct presidential elections in July, the election results and the behaviour of the electorate in Aceh was strikingly different than in other parts of Indonesia.

In the April 1999 elections, the Acehnese electorate boycotted the elections on a massive scale, with less than a quarter of the electorate bothering to vote. While Indonesians went to the polling booth in droves in that, the first free elections after the fall of the dictator Suharto, the political situation in Aceh had entered a new stage. Acehnese civil society was demanding justice from the new political leaders in Jakarta and an end to impunity by bringing the gross human rights violators to justice.

But the reverse happened in 2004, after the military authorities had given a clear warning that those failing to cast their votes would be labelled as GAM or GAM sympathisers. While the Indonesian turnout was above 80 per cent, the Acehnese broke all records with a turnout of 94 per cent. This is reminiscent of the Suharto days when village and district chiefs were instructed on the size of the vote they should secure for the government's party. Officials used all kinds of persuasion accompanied by intimidation, to drive villagers to the polling booths.

In 2004, the objective was to secure a huge turnout in Aceh though it did not seem to matter which of the parties the Acehnese voted for. In any case, there were no Acehnese parties on the ballot papers, only the national parties permitted to take part in the elections, none of which had anything special to offer the Acehnese.