Bulletin no. 171
2. International humanitarian intervention [text unavailable]
3. Why the Acehnese want independence [text unavailable]
4. Indonesia’s territorial integrity and TNI's role in crushing separatism [text unavailable]
6. Military operations in the Central Highlands [text unavailable]
7. Infant mortality in Papua: the worst in the world [text unavailable]
10. Hawk jets used in Aceh war [text unavailable]
11. Call for military embargo [text unavailable]
13. Problems bedevil Indonesian workers [text unavailable]
Following the breakdown of talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement, GAM, Jakarta declared martial law in Aceh on 19 May. All-out war has been raging since then, with casualties mounting by the day. Tens of thousands of villagers have fled their homes and hundreds of schools and other public amenities have been burnt down. Aceh is now under strict military control, independent press access has been curbed and the whole province is effectively isolated and sealed off.
The people of Aceh are today living in what can only be described as a living hell, a daily round of trauma and extreme fear, of sweepings of villages, of the seizure of people at random and, hours later, their bodies left lying by the roadside.
A week after martial law was declared, a foreign journalist reporting from Seunade, in the district of Pidie, described how 'three men were gunned down as they walked home after harvesting rice in the paddy fields. The following day, the soldiers returned and dragged two men out of their houses, shooting them dead in front of their terrified families'. According to villagers, one of the three men was a GAM member but was unarmed while the other two were farmers.
One of the two men killed on the following day had tried to escape through his bedroom window but was stripped and beaten on the dusty track outside his house. Nurbaiti, the widow of one of the men, married her husband two months ago. Her first husband was killed by the TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, two years ago.
The people of Seunade, the journalist continues, 'are petrified after the recent killings. They dare not venture out to work in the fields and the crop of red chillies ripe for harvesting has been left to rot.'
She writes that 'both the military and GAM are feared by the Acehnese. Both are involved in extortion and drug-running and both harass and intimidate civilians. But there is little doubt that the TNI excites greater dread.' [Kathy Marks in The Independent, 26 May 2003]
Hundreds of people are known to have been killed in the first month of martial law, but anything approaching an exact figure is difficult to establish. Although the military authorities claim that all those killed are 'GAM suspects', this is clearly a fabrication.
Accord sabotaged by the military
When the Cessation of Hostilities (COHA) accord was signed on 9 December 2002, the prospects for a peaceful solution in Aceh appeared for the first time to be bright. The accord allowed for the presence of international monitors, along with monitors from the two sides to check on implementation. The Indonesian side undertook to halt offensive actions and pull back their troops to defensive positions while GAM agreed to place their weapons in storage, beyond use. The tripartite monitors were organised in Joint Security Committees (JSC) which set up local offices. COHA also provided for the creation of 'peace zones' and for a couple of months, several such zones were identified.
However, although the accord had its advocates within the Megawati government, the military in Aceh and top ranking officers in the Indonesian armed forces, the TNI, were clearly unhappy and soon began to sabotage the agreement. By early March this year, JSC local offices were being attacked by mobs organised by the military; some of their premises were heavily damaged and several officials were wounded. This forced the Henry Dunant Centre, the Geneva-based conflict resolution organisation which had brokered the accord, to order the closure of the offices and the withdrawal of monitoring personnel to Banda Aceh, which was a serious setback for peace.
On 10 April, Minister-Coordinator for Political and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had initially favoured the accord, announced that Indonesia was ready to launch military operations in Aceh and was preparing to use 50,000 troops. Lt-General Bibit Waluyo, commander of the army's strategic command, KOSTRAD, said he would be sending hundreds of reinforcements to Aceh 'to crush GAM', while Major-General Sriyanto, commander of the special forces, Kopassus, said that two Kopassus battalions, about 1,600 men, had just been dispatched to Aceh.
At the end of the month, Yudhoyono again took the stage, announcing that Indonesia was issuing a two-week ultimatum to GAM to accept special autonomy and to agree that Aceh would 'remain within the fold of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia'. Although COHA was still acknowledged as being the framework, these demands went far beyond the terms of the accord which did not deal with seeking a political solution and referred to special autonomy only as 'the starting point' for the talks.
As a further sign of bad faith on the Indonesian side, five members of the GAM negotiation team were arrested in Aceh Besar in early May as they were leaving their hotel. They were later released. However, when they were due to leave for Tokyo to attend a meeting of the Joint Security Council, they were held again by the Indonesian police and prevented from leaving to attend the talks. The Indonesian authorities announced that they would face charges of treason, in total disregard of their legitimate status as negotiators.
International community's duplicitous position
While western powers have promoted the talks, they also take the position that Indonesia's territorial integrity is paramount, a position that justifies Indonesia's policy of taking whatever action it considers necessary, including waging war, to prevent the break-up of the Republic. It is a position that Indonesia's military leaders have used to their advantage.
Throughout the talks process, western governments and agencies, including the US, Japan, the European Union and the World Bank, held several meetings in Tokyo to press for a peaceful solution and met several times in Tokyo. They had announced their decision to fund a programme of reconstruction to Aceh, amounting to $40 million.
But with nationalist sentiment so deep-rooted among Indonesia's political leaders, there was shock and horror at the internationalisation of the Aceh conflict. Far from acknowledging the positive role of the Henry Dunant Centre in trying to resolve the conflict peacefully, there were expressions of dismay that a foreign agency regarded as a useless NGO had intervened and calls for it to be excluded from further involvement in Aceh.
As violations of the accord on both sides mounted, it was apparent that the body set up under COHA to act as final arbiter regarding serious disagreements, the Joint Security Council, would have to convene. After disagreements over the date and location, the Council eventually met in Tokyo on 17 - 18 May, under pressure from the Tokyo Group.
Weeks before these talks, the Indonesian armed forces had announced the immediate dispatch of heavy military equipment and thousands of reinforcements to Aceh, in anticipation of intensified military operations, hardly a good omen for the talks. Included among the equipment being prepared for Aceh were four British-made Hawk ground attack aircraft and Scorpion tanks, also from the UK.
Far from seeking to pave the way to an agreement, the Indonesian delegation, after lengthy consultations with Jakarta, presented a series of demands that they knew would be unacceptable to GAM. They demanded that GAM should accept special autonomy as the final solution, that it should abandon its demand for independence and that it should disband its armed forces. As a spokesman for HDC at the talks said later, 'The government put forward additional conditions (which) made any discussion or dialogue impossible.' [Jakarta Post, 28 May 2003] Yudhoyono also said that a military operation would commence if GAM refused to accept the conditions. Predictably, the talks broke down. On the following day, 19 May, martial law was declared in Aceh and renewed military operations began.
With a few rare exceptions, Indonesian politicians have not spoken out against the imposition of martial law. The only prominent public figure to express concern has been Ahmad Syafii Maarif, the chairman of Muhammadiyah, a Java-based organisation with millions of members. Unlike the other mass Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, the Muhammadiyah also has a sizeable following outside Java. Fearing the damage that operations could inflict on the population, he urged the military to halt its operations. 'We have seen that even with a military operation, the GAM separatist movement cannot be beaten easily.' He warned that as casualties mounted, 'the people of Aceh will become more anti-government, although they may not be supporters of GAM.' [Jakarta Post, 31 May 2003]
Strict control of the press under martial law
Already weeks before martial law was proclaimed in Aceh, the military authorities issued a number of warnings to Indonesian journalists regarding their reporting of the situation in Aceh. Several dozen Indonesian journalists who were accredited to report on the war in Aceh were required to undergo a four-day course of strenuous military training and were told that they would be required to wear military clothing which, as GAM later warned, would put them in the line of fire. Accredited journalists would be embedded with the troops and would be required to check their reports with the military authorities.
Further restrictions on the press were announced on 21 May by Major-General Endang Suwarya, commander of the regional military command in Aceh and now also the officer in charge of implementing martial law in Aceh. Citing legislation governing states of emergency, Suwarya banned journalists from quoting GAM spokespersons for the duration of the state of emergency. The general said Indonesia's interests must be paramount in all press coverage. 'I demand that all news reports support the nationalist spirit. The interests of the unitary state must come first. No credibility may be accorded to the GAM's statements, which constantly twist the facts,' Suwarya said.
Protesting against the restrictions, AJI, the Alliance of Independent Journalists, said: 'The media's credibility and journalists' safety in conflict areas can only be guaranteed if there is fair and impartial coverage, not one-sided propaganda.'
Within days of martial law, several news organisations encountered problems. Soldiers threatened reporters from the privately-owned television station Metro TV with expulsion from the province because they filmed a group of persons with GAM logos on their clothes. The people concerned were helping to put out a fire at one of the many schools that have been torched since the start of the army's offensive. The local daily newspaper Serambi Indonesia also received a strong reprimand for alleged bias in favour of the separatists in its coverage of the military operations.
One of Indonesia's leading dailies, Koran Tempo, which has made every effort to report developments in Aceh, will face legal proceedings by the army for publishing 'incorrect reports' about the killing of ten civilians during a raid in the first week of martial law. The article was based on a report by AFP which, the military warns, could also face legal action.
The report that triggered the army's fury was headed: 'Civilians have started to become victims'. The article reported a raid that led to the deaths of ten civilians including a thirteen-year old boy in the village of Matam Mamplang, in the district of Bireuen. According to the report, an 87-strong unit led by Captain Mahfud Supriadi shot the civilians during a search for GAM guerrillas. The ten victims were guarding a shrimp farm at the time of the raid and were told to stand in a row, then shot, one by one. [Jakarta Post, 28 May 2003]
During the first week of martial law, a number of foreign journalists went to Aceh and were able to file reports giving extensive coverage in British, Dutch and Australian newspapers. However, Kathy Marks of The Independent in London, said in one of her articles that she had been subjected to lengthy questioning by the military while she was gathering her information.
But as we went to press, the position of foreign journalists in relation to Aceh was unclear. Although no ban had yet been announced regarding foreign journalists and foreigners in general, the martial law commander turned down applications from 10 foreign-based journalists to report from the province, stating that there was 'no need for foreign observers' in Aceh.
UN Secretary-General expresses concern
On 28 May, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued a statement saying that he was 'deeply concerned' over the impact on the civilian population of renewed hostilities in Aceh. He said he was disturbed by reports of extra-judicial killings and the widespread burning of schools. He urged all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations to protect civilians in armed conflict, and called on the Indonesian government to 'ensure the necessary security conditions to allow international aid organisations safe and unhindered access to affected populations.'
During the first week of martial law, hundreds of school buildings were burnt down. Both sides deny that they were responsible for these acts of destruction while it is clear that the troops did nothing to prevent these acts of arson.
A number of international aid and humanitarian agencies have been working in Aceh for several years. They include UNICEF, Oxfam and Peace Brigades International. The PBI provides protection for human rights activists. They too have been placed under severe restrictions.
Yusuf Kalla, the minister for social affairs, announced that international aid agencies operating in Aceh would be required to conduct their activities in collaboration with the government which, under martial law, means in effect with the military. Here too, as with the press, the martial law authorities have indicated that foreign aid agencies will be prohibited from operation in Aceh, but as yet, they have not been forced to leave. However, with security conditions along the highways so hazardous, aid workers are in effect only able to operate in Banda Aceh.
Casting doubt on the motives of the aid agencies whose purpose in Aceh has always been humanitarian, foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda said that the government should be 'extra cautious' about the activities of international agencies in Aceh as 'there are questions about the sincerity of these organisations in helping the Acehnese, especially non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which could have other motives or might support GAM.'
Wirayuda said the government did not want to be bothered by the unnecessary presence of foreigners in the province, which might disrupt the military operation in Aceh. Yet he knows only too well that the true purpose of the martial law authority is to close Aceh off to outside observation.
Diplomatic spat with Sweden
Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has been engaged in a fruitless attempt to persuade the Swedish government to take legal action against GAM leaders who have been living as refugees in Sweden for many years. The government has sent several missions to Stockholm but have been told that no action can be taken against the Acehnese refugees who were now living in Sweden as Swedish citizens and have committed no crimes under Swedish law. They include Hasan di Tiro, head of the Aceh-Sumatra National Liberation Front, Dr Zaini Abdullah, Bachtiar Abdullah and other top-ranking ASNLF members whom Jakarta would dearly like to get their hands on.
In the current atmosphere in Indonesia, Swedes have become targets and for a few days, the Swedish embassy in Jakarta was closed.
Komnas HAM visits Aceh
The National Human Rights Commission, Komnas HAM, quickly made known its intention to visit Aceh for the purposes of conducting an investigation. In early June, a team of five members, headed by MM Billah, spent four days in the region. On its return to Jakarta, they announced that they had been able to gather information from a large number of witnesses.
Clearly infuriated by military moves to gag the team, Billah arrived at the press conference in Jakarta with his face covered by a black cloth. The team said their purpose had been to carry out a preliminary investigation only and a fact-finding mission would be dispatched to Aceh very soon. They had found evidence of six types of violations: the burning of school buildings, the summary killing of civilians, arbitrary arrests, torture of unarmed civilians, sexual harassment and abuse, and forced displacement.
Billah also told the BBC that they had heard credible evidence of the existence of mass graves containing dozens of bodies in the district of Bireuen. Billah said that the team had heard many reports about the recruitment and training of militias by the army. This statement in particular incurred the wrath of the armed forces commander in chief, General Endriartono Sutarto. The training of militias is in the tradition of army practices in East Timor in the months before and after the referendum there in August 1999. These were the gangs who caused such havoc and destruction there.
Army chief of staff, General Ryamizard Ryacudu, challenge the team to return to Aceh 'when we will knock their heads off'. He accused the Commission of falsification and said that they should produce their witnesses and have them repeat their testimonies in the presence of the authorities. He has also threatened the Commission that the army will take out legal proceedings against it if it fails to provide convincing proof of its 'allegations'.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Red Cross announced that they had found no fewer that 151 corpses in various parts of Aceh and taken them to hospitals and morgues. The organisation was not in a position to identify the bodies or to say how they had died but said that they had all been dressed in civilian clothing.
According to a report from contacts inside Aceh, volunteers of the Red Cross had seen about fifty bodies 'littering the road' in the sub-district of Sawang, North Aceh and a similar number of bodies on the road near Krueng Tuan, also in North Aceh, but their efforts to move the bodies had been hampered by the security forces.
Human rights activists rounded up
Although there have been a number of bitter armed clashes between the Indonesian army and GAM units, it is civil society that has borne the brunt of the clampdown in Aceh. Shortly after the imposition of martial law, 14 students were arrested in Banda Aceh. Although most were later released, they are all required to report regularly to the authorities. It is difficult to keep track of the arrests and to know the actual number of people currently being held.
Early on, a well-known woman activist, Cut Nur Asikin, who recently set up a new women's organisation, Srikandi Aceh, was arrested and as far as is known in still being held. Three weeks later, on 7 June, a number of activists were arrested in East Aceh. They include Mohammad Yusuf Puteh, chairperson of a human rights organisation, FP-HAM in East Aceh, Nursyamsyiah a staff member of FP-HAM who is also director of PHIA, Acehnese Women's Empowerment Movement, Nadariah who is also on the staff of FP-HAM, and Marnus, a volunteer working for the Indonesian Red Cross. Two days earlier, Kerun, a volunteer for the Red Cross, was abducted and later found to be being held by the police. On 8 June, Fitri, an activist from Forum Rakyat Aceh, was summoned to appear at police headquarters where he was questioned, then promptly placed under arrest.
The Attorney General's office in Jakarta has announced that 18 Acehnese will be prosecuted in court, including the GAM negotiators who will be charged with treason and terrorism under articles in the Criminal Code in which the maximum penalty is death. The police in Aceh have said that the others who come to trial are likely to be charged with subversion, for which death is the maximum penalty.
The martial law authority has also announced that preparations are underway for the establishment of an island prison on Pulau Nasi, south-east of Sabang, off the northern tip of Aceh, for the incarceration of the hundreds of detainees. This follows the tradition of island prisons well established during the days of the Suharto New Order. In the 1960s and 1970s there was Nusakembangan prison off the coast of Central Java and then the notorious Buru Island concentration camp where tens of thousands of alleged communists were held for up to fourteen years without trial. Hundreds of East Timorese were held on the island of Arauro, north of Dili, in the 1980s.
Acehnese communities outside Aceh are also being targeted and are being placed under constant surveillance. The governor of Jakarta, Sutiyoso announced in May that eighteen Acehnese communities in Jakarta are being monitored for signs of support for GAM. These communities consist of tens of thousands of families. All in all, being an Acehnese in Indonesia means being the target of what can only be described as 'racial discrimination'.
Massive population displacement
A key element in the army's strategy in its war against the people of Aceh is the organised re-location of huge numbers of villagers. When the presidential decision on martial law was announced, it was also stated that between 100,000 and 200,000 Acehnese would be 're-settled' in camps for internally-displaced people. The declared intention is to separate the people from GAM, in an attempt to undermine local support for the movement.
Over the years, many thousands of Acehnese have been fleeing their villages as their villages were subjected to sweepings by the military or in order to avoid being caught up in the fighting. But as a general rule, the IDPs were later able to return to their villages. But if the army's strategy is put into effect, this re-location will become permanent. At present there are thought to be about 25,000 IDPs in various parts of Aceh.
It has also been announced that all civil servants in Aceh, said to total more than 67,000 people, will be screened to determined whether they are supporters of GAM. In early June, 78 village heads announced that they had resigned their posts because they could not cope with the difficulties they now face. It seems that they, along with many other village heads, will be replaced in most if not all cases by army officers, further intensifying the extent and depth of militarisation in Aceh.
Human rights NGO attacked in Jakarta
The office in Jakarta of Kontras, the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence was attacked on 28 May by a group of about one hundred men, clad in military fatigues. Kontras is one of a small number of Indonesian NGOs in Jakarta that has been outspoken in its condemnation of the declaration of martial law and the war now underway in Aceh.
General Endriartono commented later that the organisation only had itself to blame because of its advocacy on behalf of victims of abuse. He said: 'This (the attack) is a negative excess, perhaps by people who just got tired of Kontras, who always have negative perceptions about the government's actions,' he said. 'While it may be true that attacking the organisation is against the law, maybe they (Kontras) should look at themselves in the mirror.' [Jakarta Post, 29 May 2003]
The attack was organised by Pemuda Panca Marga, a nationalistic group whose members are the children of veteran soldiers. Outside the Kontras office, they said they were looking for Munir, founder of Kontras and now executive director of Imparsial, a human rights watchdog group. The attackers turned violent and vandalised office equipment, as well as physically assaulting members of staff, none of whom sustained serious injury. Ori Rachman who heads the Kontras presidium, complained that no police arrived on the scene, even though they had been informed of the attack. Police arrived later, saying they had been in a meeting at the time.
The attack was strongly condemned by MM Billah of the National Human Rights Commission who described it as a 'serious crime' against an organisation with a legal mandate to help ensure better rights protection for all people.
In an editorial on 29 May, The Jakarta Post said that those who launched the attack maintain that 'no one should speak up against the war in Aceh, or should do so at the peril of being called a traitor of the "patriotic" and "nationalistic" cause.'
The attack was also condemned by the Friends of Islam Civil Society, whose coordinator, Rizaldin Kurniawan described it as a serious threat to law enforcement and to people's criticism of state violence. This organisation consists of several organisations under the aegis of the main Muslim organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. [Jakarta Post, 31 May 2003] *
Martial law and the massive military operation in Aceh launched in May is confirmation that the military is determining the political agenda in Jakarta. For a short period following the fall of Suharto in 1998, it seemed that the military were willing to accept civilian supremacy but recent developments prove that this was an illusion.
The declaration of martial law in Aceh and the massive military operation involving about 50,000 troops - only to be compared with the invasion of East Timor in December 1975 -also signals the symbolic death of reformasi, the name of the reform movement that emerged after the fall of Suharto in 1998. Yet again it is the TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, and in particular the army, who are deciding the political agenda and halting the process of civilian supremacy over the military or still worse, has reversed the process.
Political events in the first months of 2003 brought the role of the military to the fore again. On 21 February, 250 active and retired army generals came together to show their determination to play an active role again in politics and to voice their grievances about the feeble policies of the Megawati government. The publication of a White Paper by the Defence Ministry, run by retired generals, is further proof of their dogged determination to keep control of political events. The weak, ineffective government and a weak-kneed parliament, incapable of resolving serious economic and political problems, has shifted public opinion in favour of the TNI as the only solid, centralised body capable of holding the country together. (1)
All this has focussed on the threat of 'separatism' and the determination of the TNI to hold the country together. 'Fighting separatism' has become the main rationale for the TNI to step back onto the political arena.
Discussions in the DPR, the Indonesian parliament, on draft bills on the TNI and on state intelligence, and the enactment of the anti-terrorist regulation into law have provoked controversy, particularly among Indonesian NGOs and military watchers. The main focus was on Article 19 of the TNI bill which was nicknamed the 'coup d'etat article', because it would grant extraordinary powers to the TNI to declare a state of emergency without consulting the president. General Endriartono Sutarto, commander-in-chief of the TNI argued that, when the country is in turmoil and the president is unavailable or maybe kidnapped by rebels, do we have to wait till a new president is installed ? (2)
People these days tend to talk about the 'good old days' of the Suharto era, when the economy was running well and regions of conflict like Aceh, West Papua and Maluku were under the grip of the Suharto regime.
Key issues regarding the military
Serious Indonesia watchers have always closely scrutinised the role of the military. It remains the main parameter for analysing Indonesian politics. While the New Order period was characterised by General Suharto's strong grip over the TNI, the three presidents since 1998 must be judged by their relationship with the TNI top and in particular with the army top.
The excessive role performed by the military during the New Order period from 1965 till 1998 fits the description of an authoritarian regime par excellence. The complexities of Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world, a diverse mix of ethnic groups and religions, were steam-rolled into a republic of fear under a formidable network of military intelligence and a territorial army with a presence from the capital down to the villages. In addition, General Suharto held power by bribing vast swathes of society into allegiance or acquiescence through the proceeds from gas, oil and other mineral revenues. The military ideology became synonymous with an obsession with national unity.
In the eighties, Suharto tried to create one unifying ideology, steam rolling and homogenising the huge variety of cultures and ethnicities. Totalitarian systems always create their own antithesis and the homogenised doctrine called Pancasila totally collapsed. The antithesis was also predictable: the fall of Suharto was followed by an outburst of regional demands for more freedom, justice and autonomy. All this ended in more deepening ethnic, religious and cultural divides.
From the first days of the Indonesian republic, regional rebellions were a constant threat to unity. During the New Order, rebellions were handled according to a single recipe: brutal repression through military operations. This could only happen under the rigid control of a military security body, initially set up in 1965 to combat communism but used subsequently to keep a stranglehold over civil society. This security approach remains the main feature of the Indonesian military strategy.
Another feature of authoritarian regimes is engaging itself in military adventures. In 1975 Suharto and some key generals decided to grab East Timor. Running an occupied country turned out to be very different from oppressing its own population. As recent global history tells us, a military victory is only a small part of the story, winning the hearts and minds of the East Timorese was a much more difficult hurdle to jump. In the end, the TNI and its proxies, the militia units went on the rampage when the East Timorese voted for independence.
Military might by US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are the latest examples of the easier part of achieving a relatively smooth military victory while facing the more difficult task of building the nation from scratch.
The withdrawal of TNI from East Timor in September 1999 was a humiliation for the military top as UN Peacekeeping Forces stepped in. Hardliners within the TNI still cling to the belief that Indonesia is the rightful owner of East Timor. The East Timor drama has only strengthened the belief of TNI that it was an international conspiracy that led to the defeat in East Timor and as a result, TNI officers in general deeply distrust foreign powers and foreign intervention.
The military operation in Aceh launched in May 2003 is another blatant example of a military adventure where the military top from the outset rejected the peace process and saw negotiations as an act of humiliation for Indonesia vis--vis separatist rebels. On top of this, the involvement of the Geneva-based NGO, the Humanitarian Dialogue Centre (HDC), originally called the Henry Dunant Centre, that facilitated the talks between Jakarta and GAM was seen by the military as being foreign intervention in domestic affairs.
Last but not least, the post-Suharto period is regarded as a very painful period for most high-ranking officers. The TNI have had to forego much of its political clout and the reformasi era forced the military to leave formal politics. For more than 30 years TNI was used to being centre stage in running state affairs. A comeback by TNI was bound to happen, especially in a period of a dysfunctional government and feeble political institutions in present day Indonesia.
A soft coup by the military
The crucial question is whether the military will take over state affairs; this can be answered in the negative. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Suharto regime the military organised a number of internal meetings to assess the new situation. Their public image was a shambles. Up to its topmost levels, the TNI was responsible for massacres and for the killing and kidnapping of activists; the destruction of East Timor in September was the last straw. TNI became an international pariah. Moreover, the thriving reformasi movement at its peak demanded that the TNI should retreat from the political arena and also demanded the dismantling of the territorial structure of the army.
The army top was very disunited in assessing the new situation and the several fractions were almost fighting it out in the streets. But the majority of officers agreed on certain major issues. The military should not be involved in politics as in the New Order period. In its extreme form in the seventies and eighties, most of the important jobs in the civilian structure were occupied by military, either retired or still on active service. The other structure called sospol (sosial politik), was a typical structure of the New Order period in which the military were entitled to control the political activities of civilians. As many officers said, the TNI was in need of its own ‘reformasi intern’. The conclusion of the army top was to withdraw from too much involvement in politics. Some points were obvious: the army would not be involved in day-to-day politics and would gradually withdraw from the legislative bodies and would no longer be linked to any political grouping or party. (3)
The other common understanding reached in the reformasi intern discussion was the way Suharto and his cronies (which included many TNI officers) had led the country in the wrong direction. Corruption and nepotism became the hallmark which resulted in a weak and flabby TNI. (4)
By itself, this was an important conclusion as it meant distancing itself from a claque of super-rich generals who were part of the Suharto inner circle. A period of rethinking and consolidation was needed. The army was willing to take a few steps back from the political arena and reassess its new role in society.
The Turkish model
Conditions in the post-Suharto period are profoundly different from October 1965 when Suharto and the army conducted a successful coup. Many people didn't realise that a coup was being implemented as Suharto removed his predecessor Sukarno step by step. (5)
In that period, the TNI faced a formidable force, the Indonesian Communist Party, PKI, at the height of the cold war in Southeast Asia. Suharto and the army enjoyed all the favours and support imaginable from the west.
The conditions in 1998 were very different. Suharto was an outdated dictator and of no further use to the west in the post-cold war world. The brutalities perpetrated by the TNI in East Timor, Aceh and other places were at the centre of the international human rights agenda, ruining Suharto's and the TNI's image. Equally, there was a deep sense of loathing domestically for Suharto and the TNI. Five years on, even with a strutting, self-confident army leadership and a dysfunctional civilian government, a military-run government still remains a remote possibility. (6)
The only feasible option left is to find a side door to enter politics again. The TNI has begun to recreate its image as a people's army and guardian of state unity. The TNI only step in when they think it is necessary, i.e. whenever government policies are seen as threatening national unity. This model has become a tradition in Turkey for the last 40 years; the term 'Turkish model' is used by political analysts for an active watchdog role for the military. The military in Turkey carried out four coups in four decades and in between, implemented several soft coups. A soft coup is defined as intervention in the political process without overthrowing the government. The last soft coup in Turkey happened in 1997 when the duly elected Prime Minister Erbakan was forced to resign when he was seen as a threat to secular order in Turkey.
The announcement of martial law by the Indonesian government on 19 May fits the category of soft coups as the Indonesian government was actually pursuing a different line through negotiations with GAM, the Free Aceh Movement. The reversal was definitely as a result of the actions of the military. This soft coup by the TNI is almost imperceptible and has been hardly noticeable to the general public, being backed by the majority of members of parliament and members of the cabinet, including President Megawati.
It could be argued that the impeachment of President Wahid (Gus Dur) in July 2001 was the first soft coup by the TNI in post-Suharto Indonesia. Gus Dur's presidency was characterised by a never-ending conflict with the military; for a number of reasons he became increasingly isolated politically while the military consolidated their position. In an act of desperation Gus Dur tried to impose martial law by means of a presidential decree but the TNI and the Police refused to cooperate, defiantly refusing to disband parliament. A few days later Gus Dur was impeached by the MPR, the People's Congress. The departure of Gus Dur also meant the departure of the few liberal generals who had accepted the paradigm of civilian supremacy but who had never been more that a tiny minority in the TNI rank and file.
Fostering and grooming conflicts
The TNI image was heavily bruised by the reformasi movement in 1998, but it was able to make a relatively swift comeback, not least because of the continuous malfunctioning of the newly-created democratic institutions like political parties and the executive, legislative and judiciary bodies. Several global issues, not the least the 11 September tragedy, helped the TNI to speed up its consolidation. The global war against terrorism, Washington's response to 11 September, enhanced the role of the military or more precisely the role of military intelligence. (7)
But even more important are a series of domestic events, used or groomed by sections of the army to show their indispensability in keeping the country together. A sustained campaign of destabilisation was organised by hardliners in the army, not least by sections of Kopassus, the notorious elite squad of the army. (8)
This 'strategy of tension' (the term widely used in Italy in the sixties and seventies when many terrorist activities took place) was applied in its most successful form in places like Maluku and Poso (Central Sulawesi) where extreme wings of Christian militia were pitched against extremists from the Muslim camp. The military intelligence scenario succeeded in fanning the conflict; civil society in both areas collapsed and the religious conflict grew unchecked. The conflicts in Maluku and Poso were groomed and fostered by key military hardliners. The violence died down when the TNI top stepped in and dislodged the most extreme militia groups from the region. Things calmed down and the military emerged as the saviour, while rewarding itself with a new territorial command in North Maluku.
Growing demands for independence in West Papua and Aceh have also been utilised by the military to justify their presence and military operations there. Every time peaceful means or negotiations materialise, conflicts flare up and military operations become the rationale.
TNI on the offensive
In a packed meeting of 250 active and retired generals on 20 February, the army chief-of-staff General Ryamizard Ryacudu made a solemn pledge: 'The Indonesian army will never tolerate efforts to separate Papua and Aceh from NKRI [the Unitary State of Indonesia], whether they come from at home or abroad'. The same general who cannot open his mouth without spewing out tough language, said on another occasion that GAM and OPM (Free Papua Movement) are rebels and enemies of the state and should be eradicated.
The aim of all those remarks was clearly directed at achieving the goal of being solely responsible for handling domestic security. In 1999, Polri, the police force, was separated from the military and was given the task of dealing with law and order but the TNI never accepted this.
A new batch of officers has emerged, brimming with self-confidence and surveying contemptuously the woeful performance of civilian politicians. A new, mutual symbiosis is emerging. On the one hand the military have gained confidence and become entrenched in the old military doctrines. The basics of the military doctrine are quite simple. They are the ones who fought and achieved independence while civilian politicians were engaged in feeble diplomatic work. The other main doctrine holds that the military originate from the common people and it is more than justifiable for the TNI to involve itself in politics, that only the military can safeguard the nation from separatism, turmoil, rising criminality and so on.
On the other hand, civilians who run the government and sit in parliament yearn for military guidance as the only option. It creates weird situations where provincial legislators and political parties back retired officers as sole candidates for the post of governor in all the provinces. The military are back in the front seat but this time with the full support of the political community.
The White Paper
The Defence White Paper is another example of the new arrogance by the military. Formally published by the Defence Department, headed by a civilian minister, it was written by retired officers, including Lt-General Sudradjat, the influential secretary-general of the department. The White Paper was presented as the key document for explaining how the military are facing the challenges in the 21st century. The result is shoddy, an example of a dead end in Indonesian military thinking.
Poorly written with no new ideas emerging, the White Paper's principal aim is to justify the TNI's territorial function and its role in dealing with separatism, terrorism, piracy, illegal logging and trafficking of people.
The most worrying part of the book is the blatant admission that in the foreseeable future, Indonesia need not worry about external enemies. The main threats are domestic and although in the post-Suharto structure most of these tasks are the responsibility of the police, the military has denounced this. The White Paper explicitly argues that Polri aren't capable of handling domestic security issues.
The civilian-military relationship
The Megawati government is entering its third year, quite an achievement if one considers that her predecessors, Habibie and Wahid, lasted less than two years. One of the major features of her reign is one of accommodation with the military. Wahid's presidency ended in impeachment not least because of his troubled relationship with the top of the military. Megawati's relationship with the top of the military is based more on realpolitik and a common approach than Wahid's.
The appointment of General Endriartono Sutarto, a mainstream reform officer, as TNI commander-in-chief calmed the turbulent atmosphere of the Wahid period. She only appointed four retired army generals in the cabinet, but each of them has been given a heavyweight position.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs, known usually as SBY. He functions more or less as Indonesia's prime minister and has been crucial in the negotiations on Aceh under the auspices of the Henry Dunant Centre in Geneva. Indonesia's presidential system makes Megawati's powers similar to those of the US president but her inexperience and seeming lack of interest in political matters makes the position of SBY even more pivotal. Hari Sabarno, another retired general, is the home affairs minister, a position of exceptional importance also due to the territorial structure of the military that shadows the administrative structure from provincial capitals to the villages.
The two other generals in the cabinet belong to Megawati's inner core and have a strong influence on Megawati's policy-making. Retired Lt-General Hendro-priyono who is the chief of the intelligence agency BIN is also a member of the cabinet. BIN is the revamped intelligence body and in future will function along the lines of the National Security Council in the White House.
As intelligence supremo, Hendropriyono carries a lot of political weight, combined with his background as a long-serving Kopassus intelligence officer. His past record as a ruthless commander has left many bloody trails in different parts of the republic, not least in Lampung where he led a raid in 1989 that resulted in a bloodbath of innocent villagers. The present minister of communications, retired Lt-General Agum Gumelar has a similar background. He also served as Kopassus officer and at the height of his military career became director of BAIS, the influential military intelligence body. Both ministers have been instrumental in the decision to launch the military operation in Aceh. The preparation of this operation and its aims carry all the hallmarks of an intelligence and counter insurgency operation.
Ever since the birth of the Indonesian Republic in 1945, the military have always played a major role in politics. Only for a brief period in the first half of the fifties were the military subordinate to the civilian government. In the New Order era of Suharto which lasted more than three decades, the country was run along the lines of a totalitarian military regime.
The fall of General Suharto in May 1998 eroded the dominant role of TNI and in the brief periods of the Habibie and Wahid presidential terms, there were some achievements in democratic control of the military. Parliament nowadays can exert more control on the TNI and demand more transparency. The Defence Department has been reorganised and is nominally run by civilians. The Defence Law and the Law on the Police provides enough judicial control.
But the reality is different. Martial law in Aceh has proven that democratic control over the military is feeble and ineffective. The military top simply consulted with the heads of the fractions in parliament and the green light was given. It is still the military who determine the political agenda in Indonesia.
Political analysts consistently describe the Indonesian military as 'a state within the state' or 'a closed corporate group'. Some analysts go further and consider the position of the military at present to be much stronger than in the closing years of the Suharto era. (9)
When push comes to shove, political will is needed to curb the powers of the military. It means strengthening the political institutions and ensuring that civilians assert control over the military. This applies also to the military. Without the willingness of military officers to accept democratic reforms, the road to democracy will stagnate, as is now the case. Or still worse, choosing the militaristic road, the future of Indonesia looks utterly bleak and paraodoxically, the break up of Indonesia becomes more likely.
(1) See also TAPOL Bulletin No. 171/172, June 2003, TNI's Role in Crushing Separatism
(2) See NRC-Handelsblad, 26 April 2003, Dirk Vlasblom: De Terugkeer van de Generaals
(3) See also TAPOL Bulletin No. 152, May 1999, p 13, 14 Growing conflicts within ABRI
(4) See Sdostasien Informationen 4/02, Ingo Wandelt: Die Hter des Waffen- und Gewaltmonopols
(5) See Media Indonesia 10 March 2003, Aris Santoso: Akankah Ada Kudeta dari TNI?
(6) See also TAPOL Bulletin No. 166/167, April/May 2002, The Military and the Arrogance of Power.
(7) See also TAPOL Bulletin No. 169/170, January/February 2003, The Bali Blast and Beyond
(8) Ken Conboy: Kopassus, Inside Indonesia's Special Forces, Equinox Publishing, 2003
(9) See Jakarta Post, 3 May 2003, William Liddle: Indonesia's army remains a closed corporate group
BP's proposed giant liquified natural gas (LNG) project in Bintuni Bay, West Papua - the Tangguh project - continues to cause concern for human rights and environmental organisations. BP's failure to make public their in-house report on the project's human rights impact has been condemned by NGOs. Any potential benefit to the people of Papua looks set to be undermined by the threat the project brings of increasing HIV/AIDS, inward migration, and militarisation - and thereby an increased risk of human rights violations. There is also the prospect of a controversial new World Bank loan.
Tangguh is BP's proposed $2 billion LNG project, planned for the remote Bintuni Bay in the Birds Head region of West Papua. The project involves offshore gas platforms, pipelines and an onshore LNG processing plant. Gas will be shipped to export markets. Although there have been some delays in construction due to problems securing adequate gas contracts, a base camp has been built and work on a port and airstrip is underway. The project area is 3,416 hectares, with 4,200 local people inhabiting the 'directly affected villages'. Indonesia has secured gas contracts with Japan and China, and is in negotiations over contracts with Taiwan, the Philippines, and Korea.
Failure to publish Human Rights report
In its communications with NGOs, BP has made much of its intentions to assess the potential impacts of the Tangguh project. To this end, and for the first time, the company commissioned a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) report on the project. The report was written by two former US State Department officials. Much to the frustration of human rights organisations, BP never published the 70-page report - citing 'legal reasons' as the obstacle. No offer was made to publish or circulate a version with legally sensitive references removed. Instead, the company placed a five-page 'Summary of recommendations' in the public domain, along with its own response to it.
In February 2003, BP's refusal to disseminate the report led to Indonesia-focused human rights organisations - including TAPOL - boycotting the company's London meeting on Tangguh. An assessment of BP's response document, which quotes selectively from the report, reveals some points of concern, but raises as many questions as answers.
BP agrees with the human rights report that the 'balance' between human rights and security represents 'one of the most difficult challenges for the Tangguh Project'. [BP Response to HRIA Report, February 2003, p.17] Whilst the company clearly acknowledges the risk security provision represents for human rights, its approach to 'balance' human rights against other factors is highly questionable. Human rights should be upheld for all people, regardless of circumstance - not balanced against other, commerically driven objectives. BP also concedes the genuine risk of human rights abuses. The company expresses its 'hope' that the proposals for 'Community-Based Security'...'will reduce the risks of human rights incidents from taking place'. [Ibid. p.15]
Under a section on 'Freedom of Opinion and Expression', the BP response notes that 'the report specifically discusses ELS-HAM, the Papua human rights NGO' - but fails to indicate why the report refers to ELS-HAM, or to engage with any issues that organisation may have raised as concerns. [Ibid. p.15]
Also in relation to the security issue, the BP response notes that 'at present, as the [HRIA] report implies, there is considerable animosity among some of the various stakeholders' [ibid. p.19] - yet there is no further elaboration.
These examples indicate that the HRIA report identified some serious human rights concerns - but that keeping the report out of the public domain makes it virtually impossible for specific concerns to be assessed impartially. A company's expression of 'hope' that its own solutions will work is far from adequate - especially when assessing a commercial project's risk to human lives.
A catalyst for militarisation
As part of its Community-Based Security policy, the company has recruited 65 Papuans who are being trained internally for unarmed security work - and says it will not pay the military to guard the project. However, regardless of its intentions, the company's professed policy will not be able to stop the military and mobile police (Brimob) making use of Tangguh for their own ends. Interestingly, BP has stated that the project would not automatically be cancelled if the community approach to security failed to work. [Down To Earth (DTE), Update on BP's Tangguh LNG project, June 2003]
BP has set up an independent panel to assess the 'non-commerical' aspects of the project. The BP-funded Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel (TIAP) is made up of Senator George Mitchell, Lord David Hannay, Ambassador Sabam P. Siagian and Reverend Herman Saud. The panel's first report on the project described security as 'the most difficult and sensitive issue for BP'. [TIAP report, October 2002, p. 20] The TIAP report specifically raises doubts over the viability of the Community-Based policy: "many believe this concept is unrealistic and that the TNI will insist on protecting this vital national asset at close range". [Ibid, p. 21, our emphasis]
BP's plan to provide security from local, unarmed civilians already risks being undermined by the reality of the situation in Papua. Indeed, the company is well aware of this situation, when it readily acknowledges not only that 'the provision of security is ultimately the exclusive prerogative of the State' but also that 'the Indonesian security forces must be constructively involved - along with Tangguh's many other stakeholders'. [Ibid, p15, p17]
The size of this mega-project, its status as a 'provit' - a projek vital or national (Indonesian) asset - and the fact that the military are already heavily deployed in West Papua means that the security forces will clearly see themselves, like BP sees them, as stakeholders. But it is fanciful to think that they will not bring significant pressure to bear. This may manifest as demands for income or as military action to demonstrate to Jakarta the need for significant military deployment in the area - an objective likely to lead to the orchestration of 'security incidents'.
Given the self-serving military, political and financial objectives of the Indonesian security forces [see related articles in this TAPOL Bulletin], the military remain in no mood to defend 'national vital assets' like Tangguh 'sensitively'. Indeed a major Indonesian 'national asset' in Papua would, from the military's point of view, require significant military protection - and therefore an increase in military resources.
The concern that Tangguh represents a catalyst for the militarisation of Papua has now been voiced internationally. The northern 2003 International Solidarity Meeting on West Papua (ISMWP), held in Brussels in June, gave the following assessment in its statement: 'We are concerned that large-scale resource extraction by multinational corporations acts as a catalyst for militarisation and an increased risk of human rights violations.' The statement specifically mentioned BP. [Statement of the Fourth ISMWP(north), June 2003]
The threat of HIV/AIDS
The northern 2003 ISMWP also expressed its extreme concern that 'HIV/AIDS has reached crisis levels in West Papua' and is calling for greater action from development organisations'. [Ibid]
When Tangguh begins its construction phase, up to 5,000 workers will be employed in the Bintuni Bay area. Many will be migrant workers attracted to the area as a result of the project. The TIAP report draws attention to the likelihood that migrants will bring HIV/AIDS into the area, as well as other contagious diseases and alcohol and drug use.
As TIAP acknowledged, to deal with what could become a major health crisis, health care provision in these communities will become vital. [TIAP report, 2002, p25-6, p20] A major problem is that the greatest HIV/AIDS and health risk will be during the project's construction period - long before any revenue will flow to Papua from the project. If the project proceeds without significant advanced investment in appropriate healthcare the results could be disastrous.
New debt for Papua?
The question of the timeline for revenue flows to Papua raises other concerns. Revenues for Papua have been estimated at between US$100m by 2016 up to a possible US$225m at the project's peak. However, TIAP points out that it may be 10 years before any potential revenues reach Papua. It proposes the development of a mechanism to even out revenue flows to Papua - bringing them forward to before the project enters its commercial production phase. BP's response to the proposal has been to suggest a World Bank loan - something which would place new debt burden on Papua, and would mean that Papua was effectively underwriting financial risk and investment in the project. This scenario risks Papua becoming 'locked in' to the project and a relationship with BP, and left to service a debt burden even if the project ran into difficulties. [DTE, Update on BP's Tangguh LNG project, June 2003; TIAP report, 2002, p.18; BP written response to TIAP report, 2002, and information at TIAP meeting, March 2003]
Investing in the violation of the right to self-determination
As the international campaign for a UN Review of the so-called 'Act of Free Choice' makes clear [see TAPOL Bulletin 166-7], the people of West Papua have been systematically denied their human right to self-determination. As well as the longstanding denial of this basic human right, Papuans continue to suffer ongoing human rights abuses [see separate article] by the Indonesian military.
BP's project needs to be seen in this context. By developing an Indonesian national asset in West Papua - and all that this implies in terms of human rights and increased militarisation - are BP simply doing business as usual, or are they complicit in these violations?
There can no longer be any doubt that the proceedings in Indonesia's ad hoc human rights court for East Timor are a sham following the extraordinary decision by the prosecution to request the acquital of the highest-ranking defendant Major General Adam Damiri. The fate of Damiri is in sharp contrast to that of civilians killed in Aceh in atrocities reminiscent of East Timor and of anti-government protestors thrown into jail in Jakarta for the 'offence' of insulting the President.
Little prospect of military accountability
The series of trials in Jakarta of 18 defendants accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor before, during and after the independence ballot in August 1999 are likely to end soon with the acquital of the former regional military commander, Adam Damiri.
The prosecution asked for the charges against Damiri to be dismissed because of the alleged lack of evidence against him. The formal verdict is due to be announced on 1 July.
While an affront to justice, this development is perhaps not surprising given the abject performance of the prosecutors to date. They have ignored vital evidence, presented a false account of the events as a conflict between two violent East Timorese factions, and given the impression that they would prefer all the accused to escape punishment.
Damiri has demonstrated his own contempt for the proceedings by taking time off from his trial to help prepare the armed forces for their war on Aceh. His arrogance and lack of concern for justice is a disturbing sign that the military is enjoying a resurgence which has put it beyond the law.
In recent months, the ad hoc court has convicted former East Timor commander, Brigadier-General Noer Muis of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to five years imprisonment, half the legal minimum, and acquited another former East Timor commander, Brigadier-General Tono Suratman.
In the 17 concluded cases, the court has acquited 12 defendants and convicted only five. All five have been given lenient sentences and remain free pending appeal.
The lack of political will to challenge the power of the military and to push through meaningful legal reforms has meant that these outcomes were sadly inevitable.
UN expert castigates legal system
The extent of the crisis in the Indonesian justice system was made clear in a report, published in January, by the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Dato' Param Cumaraswamy, following his visit to Indonesia in July 2002.
Mr Cumaraswamy expressed concern about the 'lack of a culture of judicial independence' and 'widespread judicial corruption' which, he said, is not limited to the judiciary, but 'spreads as cancer in the entire system, the judiciary, police, prosecutors and Office of the Attorney-General. He concluded that 'the slow pace with which the Government and DPR [parliament] are addressing the issues has called into question the political will of these institutions to deal with the situation on an urgent and priority basis'.
He further suggested that restrictions on the jurisdiction of the ad hoc court for East Timor amount to a 'violation of the principle that prosecutions are to be undertaken in good faith and with due diligence'. The several acquitals are not surprising given the 'insufficient investigations and the failure to produce material evidence,' he said. He expressed concern about 'the wholly unsatisfactory implementation of the witness protection measures'.
Mr Cumaraswamy called for 'drastic, urgent and far-reaching action' to tackle judicial corruption and for 'a holistic approach to reforms of the judiciary, the entire prosecutorial system and the police force. He recommended that the Government should develop a plan, with the assistance of the international community, to ensure that future prosecutions of gross human rights violations reflect international standards and practice'.
UN Rights Commission betrays victims
Serious flaws in the ad hoc trial process were also identified by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio de Mello, in his report to the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in March.
Mr de Mello - formerly the head of UNTAET in East Timor - referred to the 'insufficient investigations undertaken by the Office of the Attorney-General' and the weakness of the indictments. He rightly made the point that none of the defendants, except one, was accused of personally committing or commanding the commission of crimes against humanity. He stated that the failure to put before the court evidence that portrays the killings and other human rights violations as part of a widespread or systematic pattern of violence 'seriously undermines the strength of the prosecution's case and jeopardizes the integrity and credibility of the trial process'.
In the light of this, it is hard to understand why the Commission did nothing to ensure that the perpetrators of gross violations in East Timor are brought to justice. In an agreed Chairperson's Statement, the Commission merely expressed disappointment at the way in which the trials were being carried out. Its underlying message was that if improvements were made, the process would be acceptable. It ignored the many flaws in the process, the limited jurisdiction of the court and the failure of the Indonesian authorities to investigate more than a handful of the hundreds of serious crimes committed in East Timor.
At a special session in September 1999 the Commission had condemned the 'widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law' in East Timor, and called for those responsible to be brought to justice. Although there is currently no meaningful prospect of accountability, the Commission perversely dropped the issue from its agenda for future sessions.
Next year, the Commission will consider only the question of technical cooperation with East Timor in the field human rights. This will likely preclude any further consideration of Indonesia's responsibility for the atrocities.
Serious Crimes Unit delivers verdict on Jakarta justice
On 24 February, the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) in East Timor - set up by the UN under UNTAET - delivered its own verdict on the Jakarta process and the authorities' failure to investigate the highest-ranking suspects, by filing indictments against former armed forces commander, General Wiranto, six other senior military officials and former civilian Governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares (one of the few convicted by the Jakarta court).
This was a major development in the search for justice for East Timor, but predictably Indonesia stated that it would refuse to transfer the accused to East Timor.
The response of the East Timorese leadership was also less than helpful. President Xanana Gusmao issued a statement saying that the process was not in East Timor's national interest and Foreign Minister Jos Ramos Horta, on a visit to Jakarta at the begininning of March, indicated that relations with Jakarta were more important than justice.
Concerned about the lack of political support for the serious crimes process, the International Federation for East Timor (IFET), of which TAPOL is a member, wrote to the President on 1 April, expressing support for his desire to promote reconciliation and good relations with Indonesia, but pointing out that those objectives were not incompatible with the pursuit of justice and should not be given priority over justice.
IFET argued that Indonesia would be 'strengthened as a nation if it confronts the issue of impunity and in particular the responsibility of its armed forces for gross violations in [East Timor]'.
It also expressed the fear that the President's response to the indictments could encourage the Indonesian authorities to ignore numerous other gross violations perpetrated in Indonesia. 'The people of Indonesia will not be well served by the continued protection of TNI impunity,' it said.
IFET agreed with the President that East Timor is not able to provide justice on its own. It pledged to press the international community and the UN to support the serious crimes process, both politically and with the necessary resources, now and after the expiration of the current UN mission, UNMISET, in May 2004. It said it would also urge the international community to find other ways of bringing the perpetrators to justice including the establishment of an international criminal tribunal and prosecutions in third countries under universal jurisdiction provisions.
On 20 May 2003 - the first anniversary of East Timor's independence - IFET wrote to members of the UN Security Council calling upon the Council to establish an international tribunal. It also asked the Council to extend the mandate of the SCU and the associated special court, saying that the 'work of the SCU would serve as a solid basis for an ad hoc international tribunal.[The texts of IFET's letters are available at http://www.etan.org/ifet].
East Timor's prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, has been more forceful in pressing for international justice. In May, in an interview with the Asia Times he said: 'Crimes against humanity must be judged...and the international community has primary responsibility
We cannot just ignore crimes against humanity, which are the gravest of crimes, yet take petty thieves to court. It would be a travesty of justice' [Asia Times, 15 May 2003].
He subsequently criticised the Jakarta trials ('They are like a piece of theater') and called for an international tribunal in a neutral country [AP, 30 May 2003; UNMISET, local media monitoring, 30 May].
This issue is not just about the views of the East Timorese government or any other government, however. It is also about the East Timorese people, the victims and their families and about the Indonesian victims of military violence. And it is about the need to uphold human rights and the supremacy of international law. The international community, not the East Timorese government, is therefore ultimately responsible for ensuring that justice is done.
There is growing concern in Indonesia that impunity - exemplified by the Jakarta trials - is now so entrenched that increased militarisation of the country is inevitable.
This was a major concern of the international solidarity movement for West Papua (North) meeting in Brussels from 6-8 June. The movement has written an open letter to members of the international community expressing grave concern about the impact of the Jakarta trials on the unaccountable power of the military.
The letter expressed the movement's fear that 'increased militarisation and violence in areas such as West Papua and Aceh will result from the legal system's failure to challenge the power of the military'. It argues that 'sustainable peace will not be achieved as long as the authorities persist in pursuing the military solution to political problems and do nothing to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to justice'.
With many innocent civilians now being killed in military operations in Aceh and West Papua, the need for justice to triumph over impunity is more urgent than ever.
The question of HIV/AIDS is not one that is publicly discussed in Indonesia, but things may be changing.
Hundreds of people took part in a demonstration in Jakarta in May demanding that the government disburse Rp 4.8 billion ($539,325) as promised to help people with HIV/AIDS who need to buy antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. The protest was backed by the Pelita Ilmu Foundation, a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS.
A co-founder of the foundation, the immunologist Samsuridjal Djauzi, said that the Minister of Health, Achmad Suyudi had promised in March to subsidise all people with the condition to the tune of Rp 200,000 a month to help purchase the drug, which is essential to minimise the likelihood of infection which could cause opportunistic diseases to spread.
ARV drugs are produced in the US, but at a prohibitive price. India is now able to replicate the drugs without the need for extensive research making them much cheaper.
Samsuridjal said that 'financial aid is crucial as many people have been fired from their workplaces, once it has been discovered that they are living with HIV/AIDS.' Many companies are now refusing to except such people.
One person who took part in the demonstration said that she had been laid off work in February 2002 and had no source of income since then. There is no social security at all in Indonesia for the unemployed. Yanti said that the monthly cost of drugs, counselling, tests and painkillers was Rp 650,000. She now lives at a treatment centre run by the Pelita Ilmu Foundation.
It is estimated that 120,000 to 190,000 Indonesians are living with HIV/AIDS, most of whom acquired the conditions due to sharing unsterilised needles for intravenous drug use. This figure clearly understates the problem as an unknown number of people have failed to report their condition for fear of being stigmatised at work.
As reported elsewhere in this Bulletin, the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS is in Papua which, with a population of 2.4 million, accounts for 34 per cent of the national total [Jakarta Post, 19 May 2003].