Subject: Kingsbury: Growing Doubts on Aceh's Relief Effort

Also: Quake-Hit Indonesia Drops Russia Jet Deal - Source; WSJ: Jakarta's Unusual Step: Seeking Foreign Advice on Aceh Conflict

The Australian January 12, 2005


Growing Doubts on Aceh's Relief Effort

By Damien Kingsbury

THE arrival in Aceh of militant Islamic fundamentalist groups has raised the prospect of conflict with foreign aid workers and troops, including Australians, who are helping the tsunami relief operation. Indonesian and Australian authorities have claimed the Islamist organisations do not pose an immediate threat, and that the Indonesian military (TNI) can provide sufficient security.

But this was the claim made in East Timor in 1999, when the TNI actively supported militias. There are some parallels with Aceh.

The leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has already threatened foreigners by saying un-Islamic behaviour in public, such as drinking alcohol, will not be tolerated. The even more militant Laskar Mujahidin (LM), which is also in Aceh, has engaged in sectarian warfare against Christians in Ambon and Central Sulawesi.

The presence of these organisations in Aceh has disturbed many Acehnese, not least the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has rejected them as corrupting Islam. While GAM members are devout Sunni Muslims, GAM itself is not an Islamic organisation and it rejects Islamic fundamentalism.

Radical Islamist organisations have attempted to work in Aceh in the past, in particular the Laskar Jihad and, more recently, Jemaah Islamiah. GAM rejected their advances and they found no support among local Acehnese.

For a province that has suffered almost three decades of conflict, the presence of TNI-backed militias is not new, and many see the FPI in particular as just another imported militia organisation. The FPI began life in August 1998 as a civilian militia, organised by military leaders to attack pro-democracy protesters.

Under the leadership of a Saudi educated Arab-Indonesian, Habib Rizieq, the FPI took on a more explicitly Islamist hue, smashing up bars and nightclubs it claimed offended Islamic faith. The FPI also operates "protection" rackets in Jakarta and elsewhere, and is comprised mostly of street thugs.

LM is a much more disciplined and focused organisation, being the military wing of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI), which was established and headed by alleged Jemaah Islamiah leader Abu Bakar Bashir.

LM fielded the most highly trained and well-armed militia in the Ambon and central Sulawesi conflicts. The TNI retains active links with the FPI, and although its association with LM is far more murky, being through military intelligence, the LM was armed with standard issue TNI weapons and uniforms during combat in Ambon.

There is an increasing view in Aceh that these organisations have not been brought in to help, but to act as a third force in the conflict between GAM and the TNI.

This view is supported by official Indonesian Government financing of the organisations to travel to Aceh. The strategy of introducing militias has proven effective where predominantly Javanese militias operate in central Aceh. But the Javanese have not been welcomed in the more populated coastal areas. Hence the arrival of groups that some believe can appeal to the Islamic faith of the local population.

Meanwhile, the TNI is trying to present GAM as the only security threat to the aid program. It has claimed that GAM guerillas have dressed as TNI soldiers and redirected refugees and aid. The TNI has a history of being less than frank about its own activities and it is unlikely that GAM has the capacity or interest in dressing as TNI, especially when it is currently under sustained TNI attack.

GAM declared a ceasefire the day after the tsunami struck, and says it has stuck to that despite being attacked (the two TNI losses have been acknowledged as being from "friendly fire").

The deteriorating security situation, therefore, appears to be largely of the TNI's making. The question is why at this time of great disaster?

Outsiders have had limited access to Aceh for many years and after May 2003 it was effectively closed off during the TNI's bid to finally crush GAM.

The TNI was initially reluctant to allow in foreign aid workers and it has been clear that it wants them to leave as soon as possible. As it did when the UN was bundled out of East Timor after the ballot in 1999, a deteriorating security environment provides the perfect justification to achieve that.

The TNI cannot conduct its campaign against GAM and many ordinary Acehnese with the eyes of the world fixed on it. Nor, under such scrutiny, can the TNI rake off a large share of the aid that is currently flowing in to Aceh, although even with their presence some TNI personnel are selling food aid to refugees. It has been a rule of thumb in Indonesia that only about 10 per cent of aid arrives where it is intended.

There are various unofficial "taxes", and inflated construction and transport costs by TNI companies. Aid officials in Aceh are hoping they can keep losses down to about 30 per cent.

Access to some of the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid money would, however, help fund the TNI's campaign in Aceh, which ran out of money in mid-2004. As a largely self-funded institution, the TNI has a quick eye for a dollar. The TNI is also committed to containing GAM, at least to the extent that it only provides an excuse to maintain a military ­ and business â– presence in Aceh. Therefore, if Aceh's security is now an issue, one need not look far for the principal cause.

Damien Kingsbury is director of International and Community Development at Deakin University and author of Power Politics and the Indonesian Military (RoutledgeCurzon) and The Politics of Indonesia (third edition, Oxford). He recently completed an Australia Research Council project on TNI business activities.


Reuters, January 13, 2005

Quake-Hit Indonesia Drops Russia Jet Deal - Source

By Maria Golovnina

MOSCOW - Indonesia is likely to ditch a planned order for Russian warplanes because the money to pay for the jets has been diverted to the tsunami relief effort, a high-ranking Russian defense official said on Wednesday.

Indonesian officials signaled in the past few days that the deal worth $890 million to buy at least six Russian-made Sukhoi jet fighters was off, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It's all about the tsunami basically ... It has already affected Indonesia's previously announced plans to buy Sukhoi planes and combat helicopters. It's a serious situation for us," the official told Reuters.

Indonesia was one of the countries hit on Dec. 26 by huge waves, triggered by an earthquake, that killed more than 158,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

Asia is a key market for Russian arms sales, especially Indonesia which is under an embargo from Washington that prevents U.S. arms exporters selling to Jakarta.

Moscow's arms exports in the region have already been hit by Thailand's decision in October to pick an Anglo-Swedish consortium over Sukhoi to replace its aging fleet of 16 American-made F-5s.

Sukhoi and Indonesian government officials were not immediately available for comment. Jet sales make up two-thirds of Russia's arms exports, mainly Sukhoi aircraft sold to Southeast Asia. Before the U.S. embargo, Indonesia's military imported about 70 percent of its weapons from the United States.

Separately, Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted sources on Wednesday as saying total losses to Russian arms sales because of the tsunami could be up to $1.5 billion.

But an official at Rosoboronexport, Russia's state arms trader, said the disaster would not have any serious effect on Russian exports.

Russia's arms trade has an order book of about $12 billion. It sold more than $5 billion worth of arms and hardware in 2004.

Indonesia announced plans in November to buy more Sukhoi fighters, adding to the four it already owns.

The Russian defense official said on Wednesday the order was for six Sukhoi-30MKs and Sukhoi 27SKs and a number of combat helicopters.

Washington imposed the arms embargo on Indonesia after the outbreak of mass violence in East Timor when the territory voted for independence from Jakarta in a U.N-sponsored ballot in 1999.

(additional reporting by Anton Doroshev)


The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Indonesia Seeks Foreign Advice On Aceh Conflict

Government Sees Chance To End 28-Year Rebellion, But Military May Interfere


JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The government is taking the unusual step of seeking the advice of other nations on possible solutions to the 28-year separatist rebellion in Indonesia's disaster-hit Aceh province.

Still, military and political analysts here warn that Indonesia's powerful armed forces could prove an obstacle to a negotiated peace. Some expect the military to try to reassert control over Aceh and nudge local and foreign aid agencies out of the province as soon as initial relief operations are over.

Yesterday, Indonesia told aid workers not to venture beyond two large cities on Sumatra island because of what it said were militant threats. Indonesia's head of relief operations said agencies would need permission to work outside the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, and the west coast town of Meulaboh, ravaged by the Dec. 26 earthquake and resulting tsunami. However, separatist rebels said they would never attack aid workers -- who in turn said they aren't overly worried.

With 30,000 to 40,000 troops in Aceh fighting an estimated 5,000 armed Free Aceh Movement rebels, and a state of civil-emergency in force since September, the Indonesian armed forces largely had free rein in combating the separatists before the quake and huge wave devastated the isolated province at the northern tip of Sumatra.

But Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former general, since has signaled that the foreign aid coming into Aceh and reconstruction effort that will follow could open the door to a peace settlement that eluded his predecessors.

"It all depends on how much power and control Yudhoyono is willing to exert," said Sidney Jones, the Southeast Asia director of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels think tank. "It ultimately comes down to who is in control in Jakarta -- Yudhoyono or the military -- and what kind of political battles each is willing to fight."

On Monday, Mr. Yudhoyono called in the ambassadors of six countries for their views on ways to end the conflict -- a move that marks a notable shift in government thinking. Previous Indonesian leaders have been wary of foreign involvement in Aceh.

The consultations included the ambassadors of the U.S., United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, Sweden and Libya. Sweden has been home to exiled Free Aceh Movement leaders. Libya, once a source of arms and training for the Muslim rebels demanding an independent Acehnese state, previously has offered to act as a go-between.

Despite an informal cease-fire declared in the disaster's wake and Jakarta's overtures to foreign governments, senior Western military officers familiar with Indonesia contend the military doesn't want foreign aid agencies to gain a permanent presence in Aceh once the initial crisis has passed. They predict Jakarta will attempt to reassert control of the military situation as soon as possible to prevent rebels from using the respite to regroup and rearm.

For hard-line nationalist politicians and military officers, foreign troops and aid workers in the Aceh relief effort also revives uncomfortable memories of East Timor, which voted for independence from Indonesia in a United Nations-sponsored referendum in 1999. Following that vote, Indonesian soldiers and army-backed militias went on a rampage of looting, arson and killing that destroyed almost all East Timor's major towns.

Since the Timor episode -- which drew wide condemnation of Indonesia's military -- distrust of international humanitarian agencies has run deep among some Indonesian politicians and senior armed-forces officers.

But retired Gen. Luhut Panjaitan, a former minister for trade, plays down parallels between East Timor and Aceh and said Jakarta is sincere in its attempts to involve foreign governments in a solution to the rebellion. "We would like to see the support of foreign countries to settle the issue," he said. He added that Indonesia has a "golden opportunity" to resolve the separatist problem.

How such a settlement might take shape is far from clear. Neither side has shown any willingness in the past to back down from basic positions: The rebels want full independence and Jakarta won't countenance the loss of sovereignty over the province of 4.2 million people, which is rich in natural gas, timber and other commodities.

Political analysts also are concerned that the apparent enthusiasm of the government for a negotiated peace will last only as long as the international community is engaged in the massive humanitarian relief effort. "If there is talk of going to the negotiating table [with the rebels] I think we will see the use of proxy groups" by the military, said Ms. Jones of the International Crisis Group.

Indonesian democracy activist Smita Notosusanto, who is also in Banda Aceh to help with the relief effort, expressed worries that militia groups could put pressure on nongovernment organizations to leave the province, especially if there is any suggestion their presence assists the rebels.

"All the civil-society leaders in Indonesia are here now," she said. For militia groups, this presents "a golden opportunity" to harass civil-society organizations. "I think it's going to happen pretty soon and the military will try to take control again."

---- Timothy Mapes in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, contributed to this article.

Write to Donald Greenlees at

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