Subject: 'TNI Maintains Anti-Rebel Paranoia, Impedes Aid Distribution'

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

also: Laks.Net: Army Maintains Anti-Rebel Paranoia; + texts of GAM statements

TAPOL the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign

Press release

Military control of Aceh emergency impedes aid distribution

4 January 2004 - Military control of the massive tsunami relief operation in Aceh, and its monopoly of aid distribution, is hampering the delivery of vital supplies to those most in need according to information received by TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign.

TAPOL is calling for the status of civil emergency, which replaced martial law in May 2004 but retained a special role for the military, to be lifted immediately. There are fears that the military will take advantage of the crisis to consolidate its control of the territory and step up its offensive against the separatist Free Aceh Movement, GAM. Senior military sources have already stated that the war against GAM will continue despite the humanitarian catastrophe.

The civil emergency should be replaced by a humanitarian emergency status providng for civilian control of local government and relief operations, a limited humanitarian role for the military, and unlimited access to Aceh for international agencies, aid workers and journalists, says TAPOL.

The Indonesian government should use this tragic opportunity to end military operations against GAM and reinstate the peace process through dialogue and negotiation, it urges.

"The relief and reconstruction of Aceh will be a long and painful process which cannot be achieved without a commitment to peace by both sides of the conflict" says Aguswandi an Acehnese human rights defender working with TAPOL.

A number of problems have been highlighted by a source close to TAPOL who returned from Aceh on 3 January. A large amount of food and non-food aid has arrived in the provincial capital Banda Aceh by air, but distribution of this aid to those most in need has been very slow. According to the source:

• Most of the aid from Jakarta has been sent to Banda Aceh through the intermediary of government agencies and has arrived at the military airport, not the civilian airport. This means that access to and distribution of this aid is under the control of the military. • Offers to help with distribution have been made by civilians and activists who survived the tsunami, but have been rejected. The result is that people are having to queue up at military posts in order to receive food. This is difficult in itself, but they also have to present identity cards which they do not possess or have lost. • Organisations sending food aid to Aceh are not well informed about the political situation and the government and military procedures now in force.

• Aid that has reached Banda Aceh by air is piling up at the military airport as there is insufficient transport to distribute it. It is difficult to confirm the arrival of the aid or to track its subsequent distribution.

• Consequently sending aid by air is not necessarily the most effective way of ensuring supplies reach those most in need.

• The fastest way of ensuring effective delivery is by truck, which would take three days from Jakarta rather than by air to a military base with no guarantee that it will reach the intended recipients. • In Meulaboh, the worst-hit city, the military have full control over food aid and distribution due to the difficulty of access. Attempts to make direct contact with people in Meulaboh to learn of their current situation has not yet been possible.

• In Banda Aceh, local NGOs have plenty of volunteers ready to help but they have nothing to distribute. At the same time government officials say there is a shortage of volunteers to help with distribution.

Local activists believe the best way to deal with the problem is to send aid directly to Aceh for distribution by local civilian groups or international agencies [see footnote].

Concerned organisations and individuals are asked to lobby their governments to take account of these concerns in order to ensure that vital supplies are delivered to starving children and displaced people in Aceh without delay and that the military is not allowed to control the relief operation for its own political purposes.

ENDS

For information on how to send donations through TAPOL, see tapol.gn.apc.org/st041230.htm or telephine 020 8771 2904

For more information, contact Aguswandi on 0794 756 7449 or 020 8771 2904.

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Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email: plovers@gn.apc.org Internet: http://tapol.gn.apc.org

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Laksamana.Net January 5, 2005

Army Maintains Anti-Rebel Paranoia

Amid increasing concerns the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) is using the tsunami disaster in Aceh to crack down on the province's separatist movement, the military has claimed that troops are needed to stop rebels from "infiltrating" refugee camps, stealing aid and carrying out attacks.

Army chief General Ryamizard Ryacudu on Tuesday (4/1/05) said he had ordered all soldiers in Aceh to be on alert to secure all transport routes from possible rebel attacks.

He accused the outlawed Free Aceh Movement (GAM) of infiltrating refugee camps in order to steal relief assistance.

"If GAM was really humane it would not do that, but instead would help, rather than seek opportunities," he was quoted as saying by detikcom online news portal.

"We must keep up our guard against GAM's strength because GAM is rather uncivilized. It has already been infiltrating. It has already made its mark by burning unused TNI posts on the western coast and in southern Aceh toward Meulaboh, close to Blang Pidie, where there was also an exchange of fire recently," he said.

Aceh's Security Restoration Operation Command on Monday issued a statement accusing GAM rebels of ambushing a convoy that had been delivering humanitarian relief to a distribution point in East Aceh district. It said the rebels attacked the convoy on Saturday at Julok village in Idi Rayeuk subdistrict.

The statement also said another group of rebels intercepted a separate convoy delivering medical aid to Malayati village in Aceh Besar district.

GAM officials living in exile in Sweden have denied the rebels are responsible for any attacks, as they declared a temporary ceasefire immediately after the December 26 earthquake and tsunamis that killed more than 100,000 people in Aceh.

Rebel spokesman Bakhtiar Abdullah accused the government of using the relief effort to send more troops to Aceh to combat GAM.

He also claimed that government relief workers were harassing and beating rebel sympathizers. "The reports we received [are] that they are moving in more troops under the guise of relief operations," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Aceh Military spokesman Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki freely admitted that reinforcements had been deployed and only two-thirds of them were being used in relief efforts. He said the remainder were needed to "prevent the rebels from attacking vital installations and relief operations".

TNI spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Nachrowi last week also said the military was continuing its attacks against GAM, but had also been spending much time assisting with humanitarian relief efforts.

In a statement issued Tuesday, TNI headquarters said it had deployed 3,424 reinforcements to Aceh to assist with "humanitarian operations".

Rights groups say that about 14,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Aceh since GAM commenced its low-level war for independence in 1976.

TNI Business As Usual

Acehnese community leaders in Australia on Tuesday expressed concern that TNI was exploiting the tsunami disaster to further combat GAM.

Liaison officer Nurdin Abdul Rahman was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying Acehnese in Australia had received reports the military was not respecting the temporary ceasefire.

He said TNI had arrested several people during anti-rebel operations in Peureulak and Bireuen districts. "In reality they have breached the ceasefire. It is window dressing for the international public," he was quoted as saying by AFP.

He said the military had reportedly banned people from going to vegetable gardens in the hinterland to gather food, where many GAM rebels are based. "People are desperately in need of food but the Indonesian military have the nerve to prevent or ban people to go to their farm for food - this is so inhumane. They say they want to keep people from contact with guerrillas."

Rahman also said he had been informed that soldiers in Lhokseumawe city were selling instant noodles that were supposed to be distributed as free government aid.

Rights groups have condemned TNI for continuing to attack alleged rebels and their suspected sympathizers, saying the military should put down its arms and devote all of its resources to saving lives in Aceh if it truly wants to win the hearts and minds of the province's people.

GAM has also been accused of violations in Aceh, but of a far less serious extent than those perpetrated by TNI.

The military said an Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) team on Monday captured a "16-year-old GAM member" who had collected illegal taxes from a refugee camp coordinator in North Aceh district.

A military statement said the rebel tax collector, Fitiradi, had taken funds from refugee coordinator Saefudin at Nune Tutong village in Gandapura subdistrict.

"He thought that as a refugee coordinator, I received much money from the government whereas in reality I only get food to be distributed to tsunami survivors," said Saefudin.

Weapons Recovered Ryacudu said the military had recovered hundreds of its weapons that had been lost as a result of the Aceh tsunamis.

"Hundreds of weapons were found on the beaches in piles of sand. We are continuing the search. Many were lost at Uleuleu Beach and many more in the Long Nga area, where two companies lost up to 500 or more weapons," he said.

Deadly Omen?

A nationalist youth group, somewhat lacking in compassion, on Tuesday urged GAM to give up its struggle for independence following the cataclysmic natural disaster.

"The disaster can be construed as a warning to the local political elite and separatists to stop their rebellious movement," Indonesian Democratic Youth Organization (GMDI) advisory board chairman Alex Asmasubrata was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.

He claimed that Indonesia's founding fathers had sent a warning to the people of Aceh, particularly the rebels, to stop entertaining the idea of breaking away from the Republic of Indonesia.

Separate Relief Operation Proposed

Parliament on Tuesday suggested the government should establish a "non-combat military operation" in Aceh to completely focus on aid work in order to improve the coordination of the disaster relief effort in the province and surrounding areas.

Effendi Choirie, deputy chairman of parliament's Commission I on defense affairs, said the creation of a separate military operation would distinguish between regular combat troops and soldiers tasked to provide relief aid.

"In accordance with Chapter 17 of Law No.34/2004 on TNI, non-combat military operations can be conducted in natural disaster areas, such as Aceh. And this can be agreed to by the government and parliament," he was quoted as saying by detikcom.

He said the formation of a special operation would end uncertainty over whether the Aceh relief effort was being coordinated by a cabinet minister or the military.

Choirie stressed that his proposal would not halt the current military operation in Aceh or end the province's martial law status.

Director General for Strategic Defense Planning, Mas Widjaja, praised the proposal and said he would submit it to the Defense Minister for consideration. "Coordination in Aceh is certainly difficult to carry out now. The proposal is good because TNI is carrying out most activities in the field, so it's appropriate that TNI be put at the center."

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng gave a less enthusiastic response to the proposal, saying that Aceh was already virtually under the status of a non-combat military operation.

"A non-combat military operation has already been in place since the president appointed the Army Chief [Ryacudu] as TNI coordinator for social services in the field," he was quoted as saying by detikcom.

"The social services operation by TNI in conjunction with the National Police could be seen as a non-combat military operation. They are both conducting a non-combat operation, he reiterated.

He brushed aside concerns the relief operation had changed Aceh's status and should have first been discussed with parliament. "I don't know about that. Ask the commander about that."

State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra also gave a cold response to Choirie's proposal. "Who said that? Whose proposal is it? If it's only something he said, I don't want to respond."

Also on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry submitted to Commission I its budget of Rp235,786,514,046 ($25.4 million) for TNI to conduct relief operations in the first 30 days following the natural disaster in Aceh.


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