- ----- Original Message -----From: AmbonSent: Wednesday, January 30, 2002 8:55 PMSubject: <PPDI> Power and Money ....The Jakarta Post, 31st Jan.2002
Power and money drive Aceh military solution
Lesley McCulloch, Lecturer, Asian Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia
"I am Acehnese. I have seen all Aceh's territory. I have met with Aceh's religious leaders, and many of the population too. It is the request of the civilian population that a new military command (Kodam) be established in Aceh."
These are the words of Brig. Gen. M. Djali Yusuf, commander of the military operation in Aceh in an interview with this author on Jan. 11 -- just one day after the announcement from Jakarta that Aceh is to receive its own military command (Kodam).
For the past 30 years the Atjeh Sumatra National Liberation Front (ASNLF) has been fighting for independence. The struggle is not based on religion, nor is it motivated by a desire to impose syariah law in Aceh as so many recent media reports imply.
Rather, the ASNLF enjoy significant support in Aceh for two reasons. The first is the belief that there has been a systematic plundering of the province's riches by the Jakarta government, the local pro-Jakarta elite and the military and police stationed there.
And perhaps more significantly, in recent years the human rights abuses perpetrated by the security forces (who have yet to be brought to trial for these crimes) has fostered a sense of fear, distrust -- even hatred -- towards the government in Jakarta and the military and police.
From 1989 to 1998 Aceh was designated a special military operations area (DOM). During this period thousands of people were killed, tortured and raped by the security forces, many more simply disappeared. The climate of intimidation which is the legacy of DOM has driven many of the civilian population to support the push for independence. Indeed, the killings, disappearances, rapes and torture are not confined to the DOM era, they continue even today.
When President Megawati Soekarnoputri came to power in August 2001, many had high hopes that her government might be able to produce a peaceful end to the bloodshed in Aceh. In fact, Megawati has declared the unity of the Republic as one of her top priorities. To this end she has been persuaded by the military that a security approach is the only way to ensure there is no further disintegration of the Republic.
Megawati continues to voice her support for a peaceful end to the dispute in Aceh. But the process of dialog remains stalled with informal talks in February likely to achieve very little. The Indonesian government refuses to allow an international third party to mediate the dispute.
Aceh's own Iskandar Muda Military Command was dissolved in 1985. Since then there have been several attempts to revive it. It is true, as Gen. Yusuf said, that a delegation from Aceh's civilian local government did indeed request the re-establishment of the new Kodam. Governor Abdullah Puteh traveled to Jakarta with his deputy and three members of the legislative assembly to request the new Kodam. But the idea has received widespread condemnation from local civil society groups and activists.
Arie Maulana of the Aceh office of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (LBH) said, "so far this year has been more brutal than last." The total number of civilian deaths so far is around 80, with 49 people arrested and an unconfirmed number kidnapped. Arie says "the new Kodam is merely another strategy by the Indonesian government to repress the people. It will mean a return to the DOM era."
Gen. Yusuf counters this by saying that such criticism is fueled by the propaganda campaign of the ASNLF, and is not based on reality. He says "under the new Kodam there will not be, as some have suggested, an increase in the number of troops stationed in Aceh from elsewhere. We would prefer to recruit Acehnese to serve under the new Kodam. This should lead to better relations between the security forces and the local population. But, if the situation remains non-conducive then we will of course continue to use non-organic [those drafted in from Java] to solve the problem."
Throughout the interview Gen. Yusuf emphasizes his Acehneseness and his desire to "serve" his people. But the General does not shy away from the continued pursuit of a military solution; "if the people use guns against the government, so we must reply with guns."
Several aspects of my conversation with Gen. Yusuf left me feeling rather unconvinced that the new Kodam will be good news for Aceh. First, his unwavering support for the military solution which, according to LBH, saw on average seven people die in Aceh every day last year. "This year already the average is 10," says Arie. Yusuf suggested that in three years the situation in Aceh will be resolved, and in less than one year the armed separatist movement will be all but eliminated. The intensifying military operation of the last few months is already responsible for the increase in civilian deaths.
The second problem in the General's approach is his unequivocal denial that the military is responsible for the continuing violations of human rights. On this issue, Yusuf replied simply "I have conducted my own investigation and there is no proof that the military is involved in operating outside procedures. We have learned that the military belongs to the people. I have issued strict orders that all operations must follow procedure."
The third (and related) problem is Yusuf's insistence that the military is not involved in extortion in the province. Yet there are numerous examples of their involvement in various money-making activities. Probably the most visible are the illegal "fees" charged at most of the numerous checkpoints along the main roads. The police are also involved in such extortion, but to deny the military's involvement is to ignore fact. Anyone who travels in Aceh can witness Gen. Yusuf's troops receive such fees.
Spokesperson for the ASNLF's central bureau of information, Ibnu Isnander said "the new Kodam is the military's way of establishing a permanent military operation here in Aceh. The armed struggle for independence is well prepared to fight combatant to combatant. But we urge the military to respect the lives of the civilian population who have already suffered so much. The ASNLF would prefer to solve this problem through dialogue, but it appears that the government has committed itself to a military approach. The new Kodam will surely only mean further suffering for those non-combatants."
Apart from the limited circles of the Acehnese political and religious elite, there seems to be little support for the new Kodam. Most are convinced that what commitment there was to dialog on the part of the government will all but vanish with the establishment of the military command.
Certainly, I left the interview with Gen. Yusuf with a sense that he is convinced of the need for a security solution, is unwilling to deal with continued actions of impunity by the TNI because he believes Aceh should "move on"; will not tackle the issue of military extortion as he says this is relegated to history; and has thrown his full support behind the new Kodam. As he said "yes, I would like to be the commander of the new Kodam. It is my very great wish."
I am convinced of only one thing. In Aceh three commodities are driving the pursuit of the military solution: Power, money and politics. The calls of the Acehnese for justice for past abuses has been lost in the scrabble for these commodities by the military and civilian elite in both Aceh and Jakarta.
The recent death of ASNLF military commander in Aceh Abdullah Syafi'ie has, according to Isnander, saddened the ASNLF members, but has not depressed them. He says, "The death of our military leader has not affected morale or our operational capabilities." Certainly, many people here in Aceh have secretly expressed sadness at Syafi'ie's death, which appears to have strengthened support for the independence movement.
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