149-150 December 1998
Bulletin no. 149 - 150
In a sudden reversal of strategy, the forces of occupation in East Timor have lashed out against the population in the remote region of Alas while more troops flood in amid reports of new military operations against Falintil. This is in response to the many public meetings held in the occupied country, calling for a referendum and the release of Xanana Gusmao.
Already in June, students from the University of East Timor and from a number of academies, meeting under the umbrella of the Dewan Solidaritas Mahasiswa Lorosae (East Timor Students' Solidarity Council), decided to initiate discussions on the question of East Timor's future. According to the Council's leader Antero Bendito da Silva, during a brief visit to London, the aim was to build an awareness among the East Timorese of their existence as a nation and to strengthen people's knowledge about the principles of democracy and differences of opinion.
Teams were dispatched to many parts of the country where meetings were held to discuss these issues and East Timor's right to a referendum. In many places the meetings were held without too much interference, but elsewhere, the military stepped in, blocking students on their journeys or preventing meetings from taking place.
In June, Indonesia's president announced that 'special status' was on offer and Foreign Minister Ali Alatas started talking about 'wide-ranging autonomy' for East Timor. Although the proposal is now under discussion at the UN talks between Indonesia and Portugal, it has aroused widespread opposition in East Timor where it is seen as a move by Jakarta to maintain control over the territory. The Indonesians also allege that a referendum would only provoke conflict and even civil war because the East Timorese are so divided on the issue.
Recognising the need to bring together all sides in the argument over autonomy or referendum, the two Catholic bishops, Carlos Filipe Belo in Dili and Basilio Nascimento in Baucau convened a two-day dialogue in Dare on 10-11 September attended by many parties and groups. An 11-point statement was adopted, acknowledging the right to differences of opinion and the need for 'further efforts to realise a common platform to unite the people of Lorosae, leading to the establishment of a representative forum for all East Timorese'. [Jakarta Post, 14 September]
Meanwhile, more than seven hundred East Timorese graduates from universities in Indonesia and overseas have set up a Graduates' Forum for a Referendum and the Development of East Timor called Forsarepetil. In its very first communiqué it called for the release of Xanana and all East Timorese political prisoners, an end to all forms of violence and the disarming of Indonesia's para-military units.
Soon afterwards, fourteen political prisoners being held in Becora Prison, Dili, began a hunger strike calling for the release of all East Timorese political prisoners, especially Xanana Gusmao. As the strike wore on and some of the strikers were being given intravenous feeding, others joined in, bringing the number to 35. Fearing for the lives of the prisoners, Xanana Gusmao called on the men to abandon their action, saying he did not want yet more sacrifices when so many lives had already been lost.
Fearful of the mounting support for a referendum among government employees, Governor Abilio Orosio Soares announced on 6 October that all government employees who did not support East Timor's integration into Indonesia should 'voluntarily' resign or else face the sack. This provoked an immediate response from the newly-established Forsarepetil, most of whose members are government employees. They condemned it as being in breach of the spirit of reformasi and the reconciliation agreement so painstakingly drafted at the September Dare meeting.
On 10 October, a huge protest strike brought public transport and commerce in Dili to a virtual standstill. On the following day, Sunday, thirty thousand people rallied on the streets of Dili condemning the governor and calling for his resignation. People arrived in the capital on scores of trucks and motorbikes to join in the protest. An attempt to gather in the forecourt of the Governor's residence was prevented by anti-riot police so the crowds marched round the city and ended the rally with a free-speech forum in a square near the residence. Even larger numbers rallied in Dili two days later as thousands converged on the city from Liquica and Ermera. [Suara Timor Timur, and Report by the Peace and Justice Commission, Dili, 12 October]
The next day, thousands of Timorese returning to Becora were confronted by 600 riot police bristling with semi-automatic and automatic rifles, blocking their way home. The danger of open confrontation which could have led to bloodshed was averted by the intervention of representatives of the Dili office of the CNRT, the National Council for Timorese Resistance, who stood between the security forces and the demonstrators and negotiated a way out of the conflict. [Canberra Times, 19 October]
While these public manifestations of support for a referendum were underway in many parts of the territory, things were definitely far from quiet on the military front.
Claims that the army was in the process of cutting back the number of troops in the territory were hotly disputed by local reports of thousands of troops arriving. On 12 October, ten thousand people from the sub-districts of Baguia, Laga, Quelicai, Venilale and Vemasse rallied in Baucau to protest against the arrival of more troops in the area as witnessed by the populace. [See also separate article analysing leaked military documents.]
For months, the military commander of Korem 164/Wira Dharma, Colonel Tono Suratman, had been claiming that the army was no longer engaged in operations against the armed guerrillas in Falintil. He even suggesting that guerrillas were welcome to take part in meetings provided that they first reported to the local authorities. However, behind this facade of camaraderie, a very different situation was developing.
On 3 October, the deputy-commander of Falintil, Taur Matan Ruak sent a message to the outside world saying that he and his company of guerrillas had been encircled by two battalions dispatched from Baucau, numbering around two thousand troops. The guerrillas managed to escape due to their superior knowledge of the terrain but small detachments were still trying to discover the guerrillas' whereabouts.
The military commander later hinted that the army's strategy was about to change when he told Andrew Perrin, a journalist from Australia that 'there is a limit to the new era of openness..., a limit to our tolerance'. At the same time, a guerrilla leader in the Los Palos region was quoted as saying that military operations were taking place in his region which might lead to the guerrillas being forced to retaliate, to secure their position. [Canberra Times, 24-25 October]
At the time, the armed wing of the resistance showed no signs of engaging in military operations. When Richard Lloyd Parry of The Independent went into the bush to meet Lere Anak Timor, the second man in Falintil, in late October, he was told in no uncertain terms: 'The only solution is a peaceful solution based on international law and based on the support of the international community and the United Nations.' [The Independent, 4 November]
But a relentless build-up of Indonesian troops was underway, presaging new military operations which might force the guerrillas to respond. According to a report from the Third Military Zone of Falintil on 27 October, the Indonesian army was bringing in reinforcements for a surprise attack on all guerrilla positions in November. The reinforcements included more Brimob (the elite police corps) units and more East Timorese soldiers for incorporation into Battalions 744 and 745 which are permanently based in East Timor. The report also monitored the arrival in Kupang, West Timor of more combat troops, including air-borne army units, marines and Kostrad troops, for immediate dispatch to East Timor.
This reversal in the army's strategy was triggered not by the threat of an offensive by Falintil but by the recognition that the forces of occupation had lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the population. They thought that greater openness would make the Timorese more kindly disposed towards their oppressors, but the contrary was happening: the openness was giving people the opportunity to voice their true feelings and organise themselves for an independent future.
As the storm clouds gathered, it was in the sub-district of Alas, about 175 kms due south of Dili, that the army launched a campaign of terror against the civilian population in November.
Alas sub-district in the district of Manufahi is not easily accessible by road especially during the rainy season because of thick forest and poor communications. First reports that something was amiss came when a small detachment of Indonesian soldiers was attacked in the village of Weberek which is the site of a transmigration site for Indonesian farmers. The army claimed the men had gone out on patrol unarmed and were later found dead from stab wounds. It appears that the patrol infiltrated a public meeting of Timorese discussing their own problems. Their presence aroused suspicion and they were hounded out. According to Major Wisnumurti, intelligence chief of staff of the Dili military command, the soldiers had been set upon by about three hundred local people. [Jawa Pos, 1 November] Intentionally or not, their presence had acted as a provocation.
The killings prompted the security forces to initiate a campaign of terror to hunt down the perpetrators and terrorise the population. Hundreds of extra troops were sent to Alas and young people were warned that they were at risk of arrest. As tensions mounted, there was an attack on the Alas Koramil (military command) on 9 November. Three soldiers were killed, thirteen soldiers were taken captive and 36 firearms and ammunition were seized. Eleven of the captives were released immediately while two East Timorese are reportedly being held by a local Falintil unit. It was suggested at the time that Falintil was responsible for the Koramil attack, but other sources say that villagers from Taitudah were the ones who carried out the attack in response to the terror.
More Battalion 744 and 745 troops descended on the region in retaliation for the attack. While many young people fled, women, children and elderly people took refuge in a local church.
On 20 November, high-level bilateral talks at the UN in New York were suspended by the Portuguese government. UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan expressed concern about reports coming from East Timor and called for restraint on all sides.
Meanwhile, reports were emerging of summary killings. The village chief of Taitudah, Vicente de Andrade, was shot dead, two of his nieces were arrested and a group of youths seized by the army disappeared without trace. The names of eleven people killed during the crackdown were confirmed by the Peace and Justice Commission in Dili while former governor of East Timor, Mario Carrascalao, told the press in Jakarta that he had been informed that 44 people had been killed in Alas.
Since the whole area had been sealed off, on-the-spot verification of the killings proved impossible. Human rights activists were prevented from entering the area. Water supplies and electricity had been cut and food was scarce, prompting Bishop Belo to demand that relief teams be allowed to enter. He also urged the military commander to withdraw his troops from Alas.
On 23 November, four thousand students from the Students Solidarity Council occupied the building of the provincial assembly, the DPRD, to demand the cessation of military operations in Manufahi. They also said that Indonesian troops should be withdrawn from East Timor and called on the United Nations to place a peace-keeping force in the country to monitor the repressive actions of the Indonesian army against the civilian population.
After 24 hours, the students marched to the governor's residence to demand permission to enter the area. They succeeded in holding face-to-face talks with the governor and the military commander who agreed to allow student representatives to take part in a joint investigation into the reported killings in Alas, along with human rights groups. Although this was hailed as a victory for the students, many of their supporters were sceptical about the chances of this happening. [The Irish Times, 25 November]
Meanwhile, under pressure from foreign governments who were pressing for information through their embassies in Jakarta, the military commander Colonel Suratman announced on 21 November that military operations in Alas were to end. A spokesperson for the Peace and Justice Commission told The Irish Times he feared that even if they did end, they would only shift to other areas. 'There is no substantial change in how the military arrest, interrogate and torture people.' he said.
In November several incidents occurred in North Aceh between ABRI and the local population. The nature of the incidents points to a similarity with recent incidents in East Timor [see separate article]. A diplomat told The Age [19 November]: 'The view is that Aceh is exactly the same as East Timor - there was a staged withdrawal of special forces and then they were sent in again through the back door.'
The downfall of Suharto has been used effectively by the population of Aceh. Taking advantage of the openness and political transparency, there has been an upsurge of social and political activities which would have been unthinkable in the Suharto era. The armed forces have been the main target for they were the cause of all the sufferings and misery in Aceh.
These actions forced ABRI to promise to end DOM, the special military status [see TAPOL Bulletin No. 148] and with it the withdrawal of all troops that had been brought in from outside including special units and non-organic units from elsewhere.
An unprecedented show of force occurred early in the morning of 2 November in Lhokseumawe. A convoy of about 100 motorcycles, 35 minibuses and many trucks drove into town. Many of the people in the convoy were heavily armed. They first went to the grave of an Acehnese hero named Malikul Saleh near Kota Geudong and then continued their journey to Lhokseumawe.
They were flying Free Aceh (GAM) flags and shouting slogans in support of Aceh Merdeka. Red-and-white Indonesian flags flying on official buildings were torn down. The action ended after midday at Desa Kandang, a village regarded by the security forces as a GAM stronghold. Kandang is very close to the oil and gas capital of Aceh and home to Mobil Oil Indonesia.
In the afternoon ABRI arrived with reinforcements and sealed Lhokseumawe off for three hours. Incidents like this are being used by ABRI to justify increasing the number of troops in the region.
Two weeks later, on 15 November, there was a shoot-out in Kandang. The anti-riot police Brimob were allegedly seeking to arrest a GAM leader who recently returned from Malaysia. The shoot-out which took place very early in the morning resulted in two deaths - one Brimob and one member of GAM. A number of villagers were taken to hospital with bullet wounds.
After being twice postponed, the findings of the TGPF (Joint Fact-Finding Team) were eventually made public in early November. Its task was daunting: to explain what happened during the hectic days in May just prior to Suharto's removal from power, days which were marred by riots, large-scale looting and the mass raping of mostly Chinese women. Its findings had been eagerly awaited.
Initially, human rights organisations had serious misgivings about the TGPF, the Joint Fact-Finding Team, primarily because it had been set up by five government departments. The outrage at home and abroad as news of the riots and rapes began to emerge forced the government to initiate an inquiry. This is how the TGPF was born. Its brief was to undertake an investigation and make recommendations, though it would be up to the government to decide whether or not to act on the recommendations.
The Team started its work on 23 July. The members included three army officers and two police officers as well as representatives from the justice and home affairs departments, the foreign ministry, the department for women's affairs and the attorney-general's office. Non-governmental organisations were also represented including the NU, the main Muslim organisation, and several civil society organisations such as the Legal Aid Institute YLBHI, Elsam, APIK and the Volunteers Team for Humanity. Marzuki Darusman of the Komnas Ham, the National Commission of Human Rights, was chosen to chair the Team.
When the TGPF called a press conference on 3 November to announce its findings, hundreds of people from the press and the public were present but the four cabinet ministers and the Attorney-General who should have been there to receive the report were conspicuous by their absence. It was not difficult to conclude that they already knew that the findings would be very damaging to the government and ABRI.
One of the fundamental flaws of the Team was the inclusion of several people from ABRI. The most critical question for the Team was to examine the involvement of sections of the security apparatus in those horrific events in May. Some human rights organisations refused to participate on the grounds that the TGPF lacked independence while others decided to participate, arguing that the investigations should not be left to the authorities. Tim Relawan, the NGO which had done so much to monitor the acts of violence, hesitated but in the end was persuaded to join after a special plea was made to Father Sandyawan, the group's coordinator, known widely as Romo Sandy.
Not long after the May events and long before the TGPF was set up, Tim Relawan had announced its own findings which were widely reported in the press. [See TAPOL Bulletin, No 148, September 1998] Tim Relawan untuk Kemanusiaan (Team of Volunteers for Humanitarian Causes) is widely respected and has a large network of volunteers. It has won esteem for its reliability in monitoring many human rights abuses especially at the time of the assault on the headquarters of the PDI in July 1996.
The Tim Relawan's conclusions were that the violence in May was systematic and well organised. Witnesses had testified that there were men inciting people to loot and burn property and participate in gang-rapes. They were described as muscular men wearing military boots who looked very much like hit-men.
In a statement to members of the US Congress during a visit to Washington earlier this year, Romo Sandy said that the May tragedy was part of a series of events having their roots in the elite politics of the Orde Baru. The Tim Relawan's investigations had led them to conclude that a fierce power struggle was underway at the time of the riots. Romo Sandy said that bloodbaths and riots were part of a pattern of bloodshed that characterised politics during the Orde Baru. Many political observers in Indonesia had concluded that Suharto loyalists and Suharto himself were worried about the growing ferment of protest which had spilled onto the streets. They believed that by provoking violence and mayhem, it would be possible to justify the imposition of martial law. But internal ABRI conflicts and the strength of opposition in civil society put paid to these intentions.
The death of Ita Marthadinata
By adopting such a strong position against the security apparatus, Tim Relawan became one of the spearheads challenging militarism, making it the target of dark forces. During the course of their investigations, several leading members of the Tim Relewan had received mysterious phone-calls and other forms of harassment warning them not to continue.
The intimidation continued after the TGPF started its own investigations and came to a head with the murder (date???) of Ita Marthadinata, an 18-year old high school student and active member of Tim Relawan just as the TGPF investigations had reached a critical point. Ita's mother helped run a Buddhist centre that was providing counselling for the rape victims and she and her daughter were planning to escort four rape victims to the US to testify.
Ita was found dead in her room with multiple stab wounds and a slashed throat. Her death inevitably spread fear among Tim Relawan volunteers many of whom refused to continue with their work.
Ita had hardly been laid to rest before the authorities started a smear campaign. In clear violation of professional ethics, Sarlito, a senior psychologist close to the military, alleged in a statement to the press that a post-mortem had shown that Ita had been sexually active and was probably a drug addict. Acting with a speed that rarely distinguishes police investigations, a young man living next door was taken into custody and charged with Ita's murder. It was clear that the authorities were bent on creating the impression that Ita's murder was just a straight-forward crime.
The impact of Ita's tragic death was devastating for the TGPF, making the task of cross-checking the Tim Relawan's findings almost impossible. Some rape victims changed their minds about testifying or simply disappeared and several doctors who were treating rape victims now denied that this was so.
TGPF's impossible task
In a way TGPF was replicating the investigations that had already been carried out by the Tim Relawan. The conclusions by the Tim Relawan had been widely acclaimed and had further eroded ABRI's image. During the Suharto era, independent fact-finding teams had been set up by NGOs but their conclusions had been largely ignored. On the few occasions when ABRI had been compelled to carry out investigations, the findings were nothing more than a whitewash with a few low-ranking soldiers taking the blame for horrific bloodbaths such as the Santa Cruz Massacre in November 1991.
The composition of the TGPF did little to inspire confidence that now, things would be different. In theory the Team's investigations were supposed to be confidential but there were a number of leaks, highlighting conflicts between members of the Team about practically everything, in particular the political thrust and the conclusions of its report. The ABRI members refused to accept that the riots and mass rapes had been systematic, a clear example of violence perpetrated by the state apparatus. Although the contradictions were deeply entrenched, the TGPF eventually reached a compromise. After three months' work and two postponements, the findings were made public on 3 November.
The Team concluded that the riots had been provoked by provocateurs who were not local people and who identified the targets, were trained in the use of instruments of torture, had the means to communicate with each other. It said that there was evidence that implicated members of the security forces.
Prabowo and Sjafrie to go on trial?
However, at his press conference, the TGPF chair Marzuki Darusman went much farther. He made it clear that members of the military and political elite were directly involved in the riots and had instigated the atrocities in the hope that by provoking chaos, they could justify the imposition of martial law. Marzuki mentioned the name of Lt General Prabowo, Suharto's son-in-law, suggesting that he might have been the brains behind the operation. Another name mentioned who also, like Prabowo, was a senior member of Kopassus, the notorious red berets elite troops, was Major-General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin who was the military commander of Jakarta at the time of the riots. He said that these officers should be held responsible for the riots. Regarding Sjafrie in particular, Marzuki said that he should take responsibility for the fact that the security forces under his command had done nothing to contain the spread of violence. With such strong accusations levelled against him, the chances are that Major-General Sjafrie could soon face prosecution. The chances of Prabowo facing court-martial following his expulsion from the army appear to have diminished as he is now reported to be in Germany 'for reasons of health'.
Another burning issue raised by Marzuki was a mysterious meeting or series of meetings that took place at the headquarters of Kostrad, the army's strategic command, on 14 May, while the rioting and rapes were at their height. Several top-ranking army officers including Prabowo and Sjafrie and a number of civilians including the lawyer Buyung Nasution, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Prabowo's brother, and others were present the meeting. Analysts suggest that other, more strategic meetings took place on the same day in Kostrad. The discussions which took place still remain a mystery.
The TGPF came to the conclusion that 85 persons had been victims of sexual violence, of whom 52 had been raped. Fifteen of the 52 victims of rape had given personal testimony or their cases had been verified by the Indonesian Medical Association. The other 37 cases were based on evidence from family members, witnesses or medical counsellors. Given the pressure under which it had operated, it is a wonder that the TGPF was able record so many cases. Members of the Assistance Team which had undertaken the investigations on behalf of the TGPF later commented that if they had been given more time, they would have been able to track down many more victims. Considering its limitations, the TGPF is to congratulated for achieving these results. This is a victory for civil society and a defeat for the military.
An Acehnese who was forcibly repatriated back to Aceh from Malaysia has gone on trial on charges connected with his activities in support of the Free Aceh Movement. His prosecution gives the lie to the Malaysian government's assertions that he and other Acehnese who have sought asylum in Malaysia should not be regarded as political refugees.
Ishak Daud, 36, went on trial in Lhokseumawe district court at the end of August. He was forcibly repatriated from Malaysia in March this year despite the fact that he had been granted permanent residence. His repatriation was in flagrant violation of the UN Convention on Refugees. The government of Mahathir Muhamad has refused to acknowledge that any of the Acehnese who fled from their country in the past decade are refugees entitled to political asylum.
Daud was a member of the Acehnese Refugee Committee in Malaysia at the time of his abduction. His wife, who was pregnant at the time, was kept in the dark about his whereabouts for many months.
According to the indictment, he is charged with conspiring with others, not yet arrested, to murder soldiers at a military post in the district of Lhokseumawe on 20 May 1990 and of seizing weapons and ammunition from the post. The maximum penalty is death. The indictment makes no mention of Daud's political motivation as a member of the Free-Aceh Movement but says only that the motive for the attack was 'hatred for the armed forces or out of a sense of revenge'.
In a demurrer challenging the indictment, his team of lawyers said that the prosecutor had completely failed to take account of the defendant's political views which are central to the case. It also questioned the prosecutor's use of no fewer than six alternative charges and articles for the court to choose from.
The defence lawyers described how the defendant had been kidnapped in Malaysia on 25 March this year, in flagrant violation of the human rights Malaysia is reputed to uphold, and transported to Indonesia in extraordinary circumstances (see below). They said the government of Mahathir Muhamad should be held responsible for his kidnap and deportation.
Dragged behind a speedboat
Ishak was kidnapped by unidentified men in Kuala Lumpur on 27 March along with two colleagues, and handed over to the Malaysian police, handcuffed and hooded, and bundled onto a speedboat manned by members of the Indonesian security forces for the trip across the strait to Riau. They were nearly drowned on the perilous journey during which they were tied to inflated rubber tubes, pushed off the boat and dragged from behind as the vessel sped its way to Riau. One of the three, Burhan Sjamaun, 40, has subsequently disappeared and is thought to have died as a result of torture.
Ishak Daud and Syahrul Syamaun who survived the horrific ordeal were flown by military helicopter from Riau to Banda Aceh. After three weeks they were removed to prisons in Lhokseumawe and Langsa.
Trial a 'time bomb' for local security
The trial of Ishak Daud has come at a time when Aceh is traumatised by daily revelations of the discovery of mass graves and of killings, disappearances and torture perpetrated by members of the Indonesian armed forces during a decade of unmitigated terror. It will not be lost on the tens of thousands of victims that while Ishak Daud, a declared member of the Free Aceh Movement, is being charged for killing two Indonesian soldiers at a military post, not a single Indonesian soldier has been taken into custody, let alone charged and tried for the thousands of crimes committed against civilians in Aceh since 1989. A school-boy was also killed in the attack; it would be interesting to know why he was at the army post - in custody perhaps?
Initially, Daud refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court, declaring that he was not an Indonesian citizen and demanding to be defended by a Malaysian lawyer. He later agreed to be assisted by a team of Indonesian lawyers, arranged through the intermediary of Suaram, a human rights organisation based in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur.
During the early stages of the trial, security forces entered the prison in Lhokseumawe where he was being held and opened fire on the inmates. Daud was wounded in the arm and from then has lived in fear for his safety.
By the time it entered its fourth session, the trial was being described in the local press as a 'time bomb', threatening to cause major security problems. The crowds who gathered for each hearing grew in number, with thousands unable to gain entry to the courtroom. The crowds expressed sympathy for the defendant and contempt for the court and its proceedings.
Serambi Indonesia [19 September] reported that local officials were afraid the trial might lead to disruptions in Lhokseumawe, a key industrial centre, where riots erupted a week before the trial commenced. They took the unusual step of making a request to the judicial authorities for the trial to be transferred to Sabang, 437 kms north of Lhokseumawe. (Trials are supposed to be held in the district where the crime was committed.) There was also concern that Daud did not deport himself with the deference expected of a man facing serious charges. He was behaving 'like a film star', said one observer, using the courtroom as a 'free-speech forum' to expound on his views about the conflict in Aceh.
Although the presiding judge regarded Daud's rebuttal of the prosecution charges as being 'irrelevant', he did not dare stop him for fear of causing uproar in court. His rebuttal was said to be full of 'separatist propaganda', capable of arousing the passions of his supporters inside and outside the court.
The local authorities also alleged that Daud had 'contaminated' his fellow prisoners with his political ideas. [Serambi Indonesia, 19 September]
Defendant goes on the attack
After the prisoner was transferred to Sabang Prison, he was placed under heavy guard. [Serambi Indonesia, 8 October]
Following the transfer of the trial to Sabang, the hearings appear to have been dragged out even though it was said initially that 'marathon' sessions would be held to complete the trial within a couple of weeks.
In a statement to the court on 27 October, the defendant rebuked the local press for misrepresenting his case and even alleging that he and his movement, the Free Aceh Movement, had instigating the riots that erupted in the city of Lhokseumawe on 31 August this year. The riots had been provoked in order to give the army justification for maintaining its troops in Aceh, he said. Such lies were a danger to him as the defendant and to his movement striving to liberate Aceh from the Javanese yoke. He also strongly objected to the press referring to his movement as Gerombolan Pengacau Liar or 'wild disrupter gang'.
'Since we proclaimed an Independent Aceh on 4 December 1976, tens of thousands of Acehnese have been killed, thousands of women have been raped and thousands of children have lost their parents while the wealth of the region had been plundered by the colonisers. Scores of Acehnese are languishing in prisons in Banda Aceh, Bireuen, Lhokseumawe, Lhoksukon, Langsa and Medan.'
He said that the fact-finding team that recently visited North Aceh had concluded that 93 per cent of the killings and disappearances during the military operations era had been perpetrated by the Indonesian army, another 2.7 pecent by their lackeys while the Free Aceh Movement were responsible for only 4.3 per cent with the killing of members of the armed forces. Yet, not a single member of the army had been charged court for their crimes.
Unfair procedures in court
Ishak Daud also complained that defence witnesses had been prevented from testifying in his trial on a variety of pretexts. A co-prisoner named Syahrul Syamaun, who was deported together with him from Malaysia and is now being held in Langsa Prison, had written to tell him that the authorities would not permit him, Ishak Daud, to appear as a witness in his trial. These and other injustices made a mockery of the principle of a fair trial, he said, and should be exposed before the international community.
He complained that he was being denied facilities to care for his health and was even being refused medicines unless he paid for them himself.
During a court hearing on 5 November, the defendant defiantly refused to collaborate with the court because he insisted that a police officer be summoned to testify. The conflict remained unresolved until the judge finally ordered the defendant to leave the court.
At the following hearing, the prosecutor Summed up his case against Daud and asked the court to sentence him to life imprisonment. The session was again disrupted by the defendant who again insisted on not collaborating with the proceedings unless the police officer was called.
The defence lawyers also complained that the decision to shift the trial hearings to Sabang had made their work much more difficult.
The verdict in the case will be reported in our next issue.
Calls for ABRI to get out of politics and for Suharto to be put on trial reverberated on the streets of Jakarta for a whole week as tens of thousands of students and hundreds of thousands of citizens protested against the Supreme Consultative Assembly (MPR) special session. On Black Friday, 13 November, eight students were slain as troops opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, almost six months to the day after student demonstrators forced the dictator, Suharto, to step down.
The mass campaign against the MPR's special session began on 28 October, when tens of thousands of students demonstrated peacefully in Jakarta, protesting against the meeting scheduled for 10-13 November and denouncing the dwifungsi which gives ABRI, the armed forces unrestricted powers in all the affairs of state.
The demonstrations that began on 10 November grew in size as the week progressed. The students raised three main demands:
* reject the Special Session of the Supreme Consultative Assembly, the MPR,
* abolish the army's dwifungsi (the dual function) which allows ABRI to play a dominant role in political affairs, and
* put Suharto on trial for corruption and human rights violations.
By Thursday, hundreds of thousands were out on the streets, clamouring to get near to the MPR building where the one thousand members were cloistered behind a huge wall of troops.
The tens of thousands of students came from universities in Jakarta and West Java. The groups included Forkot, or City Forum, FKSMJ or Communications Forum of Greater Jakarta Student Senates, HMI or Muslim Students Association, Kobar or Workers' Action Reform Committee, Komrad or Committee of Students and People for Democracy, Famred or Students Action Front for Reform and Democracy, Forbes or Collective Forum, KPM or Youth Committee to Support Megawati, the Students' Family of the Bandung Institute of Technology, and many others.
With students trying to approach the MPR building from different directions, some succeeded in breaching the blockade and were set upon by troops. Pitch battles ensued between soldiers wielding rifles butts, truncheons and sticks and unarmed students who resorted to throwing stones. Throughout the week, armoured vehicles and water cannon supplied to the Indonesian armed forces by British companies, were used to quell the protesters.
In addition to the troops, the armed forces had hired gangs of men to join a vigilante brigade called PAM Swakarsa armed with sharpened bamboo sticks (bambu runcing), to set upon the demonstrators. In many incidents, these gangs were the first to start throwing missiles from behind the lines of troops. These gangs played such a disruptive role that the Jakarta police chief tried to have them disarmed and removed from the streets. In several parts of the city, inhabitants repulsed vigilantes who tried to enter their kampungs. In the clashes that ensued, several of the vigilantes were killed.
The first student casualties fell on 12 November when a 20-year old man named Lukman Firdaus was fatally injured by gunfire and scores of people were wounded. Thousands of students intent on encircling the MPR building confronted the troops and the vigilantes in four different parts of the city. After being assailed with truncheons and bambu runcing, the demonstrators were attacked with water cannon, teargas and gunfire.
The Semanggi Tragedy
On the next day, which was to become known as Black Friday, even larger crowds filled the streets. The worst clashes occurred around the Semanggi cloverleaf bridge near Atma Jaya University, which is about a kilometre from the MPR building. By early afternoon, according to Waspada [14 November], tens of thousands of students joined by workers and other Jakarta citizens, had gathered near the cloverleaf. Their intention was to march to the MPR building but they were prevented from doing so by large numbers of troops and vigilantes, many on armoured vehicles below. They were attacked with water cannon and tear gas, and when this failed to disperse the crowds, shots were fired. The Waspada account describes troops on armoured vehicles careering from place to place in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators, and prevent them from approaching the MPR. Most of the troops were from KOSTRAD, the army's strategic command, and BRIMOB, the police anti-riot corps.
According to other reports, the sound of gunfire rang out for seven hours and by the end of the day, it was clear that at least seven students had been killed in the vicinity of Semanggi and hundreds injured, many from gunfire.
Richard Lloyd Parry of The Independent who was in the thick of it wrote:
'... a few thousand students began to gather in front of Atma Jaya university, to be joined by several thousand... young men from poor neighbourhoods nearby. They were unarmed, they were 20 minutes' walk from the parliament and the worst offence being committed was obstructing the traffic. The soldiers I saw ... were energetic combat troops. They began firing at 3.40pm as armoured cars and water cannon advanced down the road. The legitimate job of clearing the road was achieved in five minutes. But the barrage of shooting continued unabated for a full 15 minutes. At least four people were fatally wounded during that first round of firing...' [The Independent, 19 November]
Police chief Rusmanhadi later denied that the troops had been equipped with live ammunition. However, doctors who carried out autopsies on the dead students told the press that they had found metal fragments from 'high-velocity type' bullets in the bodies of the seven students. The head of the forensic department of the Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, Dr Mu'nim Indris said the fragments had been handed over to the military. [AP, 20 November]
Several injured students have described how they were shot by soldiers after they had fallen to the ground. Ferkin Susanto, a history student, said he fell to the ground in the lobby of a bank where he had fled to take cover when a soldier aimed his gun and fired a rubber bullet into his chest. 'I tried to get up but the soldiers kicked me again and I knew I had to run, even if I couldn't breathe.' [Sydney Morning Herald, 21 November]
Hired to inform on the students
Wiwid Prawito, 21, who is a student at Trisakti University, Jakarta, was recruited as an informer for the intelligence operation to protect the MPR against the students. Full of remorse for having betrayed his fellow students, he decided to tell the National Human Rights Commission of his experiences and seek its protection for himself and his family.
He was hired back in August by a soldier, a second-class private from a military police unit attached to the presidential guard, whom he knew only by the initials BL. They had met at a bus stop. The soldier made several visits to the family home to win their confidence.
Then one day, BL took Wiwik to a place in Tanah-abang, Jakarta, where he was introduced to an ABRI officer and asked to sign a contract agreeing to help safeguard the MPR. When he refused, he was warned that they knew all about his parents and sister who might suffer the consequences.
He was assigned to recruit civilian guards and monitor universities for information about the student movement. One of his assignments was to transport people from a number of locations to Cijantung, (headquarters of Kopassus, the army's elite corps). He made trips to Pandeglang, Banten, Solo, Yogyakarta, Semarang and Surabaya, by army truck. At each place, he handed over an envelope to a local government official who then supplied several dozen men. In all, he transported about 160 men to Cijantung.
He was instructed to mingle with students at Atma Jaya University during the MPR session. On 13 November, he received a message from BL through his pager warning him to move out as there would be a 'shooting spree' from 1 to 4 pm.
'I was promised Rp 10,000 for each piece of information I supplied but I haven't received anything.' he told the Commission members.
Munir, the director of Kontras, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, who accompanied Wiwid, said: 'This is part of the political terror, taking advantage of people's economic plight to recruit them for military operations.' [Kompas and Jakarta Post, 22 November]
Many of those recruited were unemployed men from across Java. Several interviewed by Jakarta Post while the MPR session was still in progress said they were paid Rp 10,000 ($1.25) a day plus food,. which, in these difficult times, 'was better than sitting at home doing nothing'. [Jakarta Post, 12 November]
Seventeen dead, 456 injured
In a statement issued on 14 November, Father I. Sandyawan Sumardi SJ, the secretary of Tim Relawan Kemanusiaan [Volunteers' Team for Humanity], said that the bloody events had shown 'how difficult it is for the majority of people in this country to articulate their choices, even though this is supposed to be the Era of Reformasi'. He said it was the Tim Relawan's policy to be present at such events to provide medical assistance to those in need. A Team member named Bernardinus Realino Norma Irmawan, 'Wawan', an Atma Jaya student, was on duty at the time of the Semanggi Tragedy. While attending to a wounded person who was waiting for an ambulance, he was shot in the chest. He was rushed to hospital but died at 6pm on 13 November. 'The bullet which killed him was a live bullet, not a rubber bullet,' the priest said.
According to the Tim Relawan's on-the-spot investigations, seventeen people were killed, of whom six were university students and two high-school pupils. Two police officers were among the dead as well as four members of the PAM Swakarsa brigade and one member of another vigilante unit. Two local inhabitants who also died had not yet been identified.
Altogether 456 people were injured, in most cases by gunshot wounds or from being struck with hard, sharp implements. They include students, journalists, members of the security forces and ordinary people of all ages. Among the wounded is a six-year old child who was hit by a stray bullet.
The decision by the Habibie government to convene a Special Session of the Supreme Consultative Assembly, the MPR, had been widely condemned by the pro-democracy forces for months. President Habibie, whose mainstay in office is the Indonesian Armed Forces, ABRI, under commander-in-chief General Wiranto, knew very well that the Special Session would trigger mass opposition yet pressed ahead regardless. When Wiranto announced that 30,000 troops would be deployed in the capital to 'secure' the meeting and tens of thousands of civilian vigilantes would be recruited as part of a massive operation to prevent anyone from disrupting the event, it was clear that the ABRI chief was determined to protect the MPR at all costs.
The MPR which was convened to adopt decrees regarding forthcoming elections was the very same body which rubber-stamped Suharto's appointment for a seventh term in March this year, two months before his overthrow in May, and adopted a decree granting him yet more special powers. Well over half the members are Suharto appointees, with GOLKAR controlling the lion's share. The remaining seats are held by the two parties that were allowed to exist under Suharto's New Order, plus 75 ABRI appointees. Several dozen MPR members from GOLKAR were replaced before the special session to bolster the position of the party's new chairman, Akbar Tandjung, who as Secretary of State is Habibie's right-hand man. These manoeuvres meant that forces within the Habibie government were bent on ensuring decisions that would promote their own chances of clinging on to power in next year's general elections and the presidential election six months later.
Nothing could be farther removed from the spirit of reformasi which is supposed to inspire Indonesia's transition from dictatorship to democracy. In the past six months, scores of new political parties have been born, representing a wide range of political and social interests. The removal of Suharto has given birth to a totally new political situation. These are the forces whose rights have to be safeguarded in new laws that will determine the way in which the forthcoming elections are conducted. No genuine democrat could be expected to entrust this to a New Order relic like the MPR.
These new laws will be enacted by the DPR, the Parliament, whose 500 members also sit in the MPR. This DPR is the result of the fraudulent elections held in 1997; 75 seats are occupied by ABRI appointees. In the wake of the campaign against the MPR special session, meetings of the DPR are becoming the target of new protests.
Abolish the dwifungsi!
But the main obstacle to democracy in Indonesia is ABRI's dwifungsi or dual function. Since the downfall of Suharto, a Pandora's Box of atrocities by members of the armed forces has been opened up. Revelations of killings, disappearances and rapes in Aceh have filled the columns of national and local newspapers. Massive human rights abuses in West Papua have been exposed and diverse groups have demanded inquiries into the numerous massacres perpetrated by troops in Tanjung Priok (1984), Lampung (1989), East Timor (1991), all of which are laid at the door of ABRI. Investigations into the mass rape of Chinese women during the riots in Jakarta on 13-14 May this year when at least 1,200 people died have highlighted the role of members of the security forces (see separate item).
The reputation of the Indonesian armed forces, which claims to base its special role on being a 'people's army' has never been so low. Commander-in-chief Wiranto, who was seen by many Western governments as a moderate and reasonable officer, has gone out of his way to project a more friendly image. He has apologised for the atrocities in Aceh, announced the withdrawal of special forces from the region as well as from West Papua and East Timor, and set up an Honour Council within ABRI which led to the expulsion of Lieutenant-General Prabowo and two other senior officers of the elite corps, Kopassus for their involvement in the abduction of pro-democracy activists in the months preceding Suharto's downfall.
In a further attempt to salvage the dwifungsi, he announced just before the MPR session began that the sos-pol directorate within the armed forces was being disbanded. This is the sector which appoints serving and retired officers to non-military posts, the so-called karyawan appointments through which ABRI permeates the national, regional and local administrations. Lt-General Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono, who was sos-pol chief of staff in ABRI, was shifted to a newly created post as ABRI chief-of-staff for territorial affairs. Most people see this as nothing more than a tactical move to make ABRI more acceptable to civil society.
The true face of ABRI
However, the massive deployment of troops during the MPR session showed that ABRI's true colours have not changed. With bullets flying in all directions and the dead and wounded being rushed to hospital with bullet wounds, stab wounds or stunned by water cannon and tear gas, Wiranto's mask fell to the ground.
As the tragedy of Black Friday unfolded, with continuous coverage on television while other programmes were taken off the air for most of the day, the students' demand for an end to the dwifungsi found resonance across the political spectrum with demands for the 'amiable' Wiranto to be sacked and tried.
The hapless Habibie, who according to his chief spokesperson, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, had little idea of what was going on [The Independent, 17 November], could only respond to the tragedy by announcing, with Wiranto at his side, that he had ordered the armed forces to 'take stern measures' against 'subversives' who were allegedly seeking to overthrow the government.
Thus far, the people who have been netted are a group of retired armed forces officers, members of a ginger group called Barisan Nasional or National Front who signed a statement shortly before the MPR session, calling for a presidium to be set up in place of the present government. The leading light is Kemal Idris, a former elite force general, and Ali Sadikin, a retired Marines officer; they were taken in for questioning and are likely to be charged for rebellion for 'inciting the students to disrupt the MPR session. Sri-Bintang Pamungkas, a former MP who has had repeated brushes with the law in the past few years and who heads PUDI, one of the earliest of the new political parties to be set up, has also been questioned. Another is Permadi, a well-known soothsayer who was also held and charged while Suharto was still in power.
According to official sources, they will face charges of rebellion and conspiring to overthrow the government which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Wiranto's strategy seems to be to blame the events during the MPR session on a sinister conspiracy between disloyal retired officers and students as their puppets, to topple the 'constitutional' government. Besides trivialising the student movement which has played such a decisive role in pushing Indonesia towards democracy, this ploy is intended to conceal the illegitimacy of the appointment of Suharto's protégé Habibie as president, brokered by Wiranto when Suharto resigned. While Habibie still harbours dreams of winning a second term as president, Wiranto is using his commanding political role in the weak Habibie government to preserve what he can of the dwifungsi.
More student demonstrations follow
While these events were taking place in Jakarta, students were out on the streets protesting in many parts of the country. They included an action to commandeer a plane in Medan, North Sumatra, to go to Jakarta and the occupation of Hasanuddin Airport in Ujung Pandang, South Sulawesi. Students also occupied the regional parliament building and used the assembly hall to air their demands. There was a day of demonstrations by students in Ambon, Maluku during which at least two dozen students were injured in clashes with the security forces.
In Yogyakarta, hundreds of students staged a rally to support the same demands as their colleagues in Jakarta. In Malang, East Java, students were prevented from occupying the local radio station to broadcast their demands. In Surabaya, also in East Java, dozens of students scaled the walls of the Mandarin Majapahit Hotel and waved flags and banners from the roof. Other actions took place in Bandung, West Java and Salatiga, Central Java.
After the events during the MPR session, more rallies were held. On 19 November, thousands of students gathered in Menteng, Jakarta, hoping to surround the residence of former dictator, Suharto, to highlight their demand that he be tried in a court of law for accumulating wealth unlawfully while head of state. They were prevented from reaching their objective by hundreds of troops and eventually dispersed peacefully. A few days later, they marched to the Attorney General's Office with their demands for Suharto to be put on trial.
Attempts to derail the movement
Following Black Friday, there was a day of rioting and looting in some commercial centres where ethnic Chinese businesses are located. This was quite unconnected with the student actions and there were fears that this would be a repeat of the riots in May following the killing of four Trisakti University students, when 1,200 people died and scores of Chinese women were raped. However, the rioting ended after a few hours.
Many observers have commented on the orderliness and discipline of the student demonstrators who refrained throughout from inflicting damage on property and vehicles.