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blood on Indonesian tracks « Previous | |Next »
May 26, 2003

Aceh just seems to get worse as the days from the broken December 2002 agreement increase.

The Indonesian army (TNI) is promising Jakarta a swift and short campaign against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). It promises President Megawati that it will be both militarially successful and humanitarian, as it will concentrate on winning the hearts and minds of the Aceh population and groups in civil society. Megawati wants this to be humanitarian war that blends tough action against the rebels with protection of civilians. The TNI talks in terms of a "hunt and crush" operation and plans to forcibly move villagers into secure compounds in an effort to starve guerrilla fighters into submission.

That implies a break in history of the Indonesian state marked by three decades of repressive, authoritarian rule under the regime of General Suharto. That New Order regime was characterised by state terror and violence: from the massacre of up to a million people when Suharto came to power through to the brutal aggression against East Timor including state terror in Aceh and West Papua.

But times change. A new regime is in power in Jakarata and civil society is flourishing. Yet the military plays a dominant role in Indonesian politics and
behaving badly is par for the course the TNI. Thus in Aceh, according to Tapol:

"...almost five thousand cases were recorded, including killings, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention, perpetrated by the Indonesian security forces. From 1989 till 1998, more commonly known as the DOM period, when special military operations were underway in Aceh, tens of thousands of Acehnese were victims of military brutality. None of the perpetrators has been brought to justice."

Then you read this comment by Endriatono Sutarto, the Indonesian military Chief, that the TNI will "hunt them down and exterminate them." The TNI has documented history of brutality and human rights abuses. The TNI's solution to a political problem is to bang people on the head then shoot them, whilst saying that it has come to Aceh to protect people from the terrorism of GAM. It probably has ethnic cleansing on the program. It may not. But behaving badly is par for the course the TNI, and state terror continues to used within the shell of the democratic state.

East Timor indicated the terror tactics that are used by the TNI. Unrest and bloody incidents are deliberately created in the region at odds with the policies of Jarkata. Rogue military elements disguised as civilians carry out the dirty work. Provocation or the use of militia-groups becomes the daily scene and armed youth groups or militia groups have been a constant factor in creating the political violence and terror. State terror, not winning the hearts and minds of the civilian population, is the normal mode of operation of the TNI.

And Australia's response to the terrorism on our back doorstep in Aceh?

This is from Greg Sheridan:

"It is also important to note that GAM has rejected a generous autonomy package offered by Megawati's Government. This, too, is a fundamental difference with the history of East Timor. It had always proved impossible to get former president Suharto to offer real autonomy to East Timor.

THE Aceh deal gives the restive province the vast majority of its resources income and allows it to implement sharia law. It is true that the implementation of this package has been extremely flawed, with much of the money apparently disappearing as a result of corruption. This could have been tackled at the political level. Jakarta was prepared to concede almost anything short of formal independence. But GAM is determined to set up a fully independent, Islamic fundamentalist state."

By corruption Greg means years of mismangement by the provincal and central government during the decade of 1988-1998 --the years of special military operations. Mismanagement and corruption because the provincal government and military siphoned off the money earmarked for schools, roads and hospitals. There is little by way of liberation from the grinding poverty for a population in an oil-rich province. Since the problem has not been tackled at the political level so state terrorism will solve it. So much for winning the hearts and minds of the civilian population.

Greg seems to see it through the eyes of international terrorism:----the problem lies with the Muslems and it needs cleaning up. GAM is a Muslim separatist movement but there are no al-Qaeda links. People are going to be slaughtered but, for Greg, the political ends justify the military means. The ends? Greg is not clear on this point. I presume Greg means the unitary Indonesian state. What has to be avoided is the fragmentation of the Indonesian republic. What is ignored is the question of social justice for human rights abuse.

And Canberra? It sees Aceh as a problem of internal stability:--Aceh is a part of Indonesia, and the Indonesians have to sort out this problem themselves. Canberra supports Aceh remaining part of Indonesia. It sees a sovereign Aceh as as weakening regional stability; as setting off a chain reaction and evokes the image of a disaster. It urges moderation and dialogue.

The TNI and moderation? What happened to state terrorism.

Canberra sees the region through the eyes of the deputy sherriff of the US. And it comes down on the side of Jarkata as it deploys the violence of GAM and not that of the TNI. The national interest, it is said, requires the continuation of an Indonesian state.

Yet that state was the clumsy creation of Dutch colonial power. The Indonesian Republic inherited the empire of the Dutch East Indies. Every Indonesian president since 1945 has been dedicated to keeping the inheritance intact, as a unitary state, centralised on Java. Does not Aceh indicate that Indonesia state might function better as a federation? This has never been seriously considered so we have state terror deployed to ensure unity.

Will Canberra continue to avert its eyes from the civilian slaughter in Aceh from state terror, ignore the question of social justice in Aceh and warn about the disintegration of the Indonesian state.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:02 AM | | Comments (0)
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