152, May 1999
Bulletin no. 152
Recent events in East Timor, West Kalimantan and Maluku expose deep-rooted differences within the Indonesian armed forces, ABRI, both at the top and in the field. Indonesian contemporary history is marked by violent internal conflicts resulting in misery for the Indonesian people. The post-Suharto period contains all the ingredients of yet another eruption within ABRI.
The wide-ranging reshuffle in ABRI earlier this year [see TAPOL Bulletin No. 151, March 1999] was a sign of serious splits within ABRI but the internal conflicts are far from over. According to leaked reports in March, a second reshuffle was about to be announced but nothing happened, which suggests that there is a stalemate in Cilangkap, ABRI’s Pentagon and in Bina Graha, the presidential office. Formally, President Habibie has the final say as Panglima Tertinggi, the Supreme Commander. In this new reshuffle, already widely leaked and reported in the press, the Army Chief of Staff General Subagyo is slated to lose his ob. The head of BAKIN, the co-ordinating body for intelligence, Lt. General Z.A. Maulani would also be replaced. The documents for the reshuffle have reportedly been ready for some time and are now on the desk of the President awaiting his signature.
Reform or status quo
It could be argued that General Wiranto who holds two key positions, as minister for defence and security and ABRI commander-in-chief, enjoys the luxury of wielding great power. Not for a very long time has anyone held both these posts.
But in reality the four-star general is in a very weak po-sition. ABRI’s image in the eyes of the Indonesian public has never been so low. The involvement of officers in the killing and kidnapping of activists, ABRI’s vicious role in Aceh, East Timor and other places has been widely reported in the post-Suharto era. General Wiranto’s alliance with President Habibie is regarded by many as being very shaky. Almost daily, people demonstrate in the streets demanding the resignation of both men.
The Habibie government has so far failed to delivere anything substantial: the economy is still in shambles and political stability remains out of reach. The transitional gov-ernment is trapped in between reform and status quo. The public judge the government lacking credibility and legality. Most ABRI officers regard any reform as being an effort to minimise their political power. Students in the streets con-tinue to demand reform and an end to the dual function of ABRI while ABRI officers are increasingly involved in schemes to destabilise the country and derail the process of reform.
ABRI conflict at the top
General Wiranto and his group of reform officers still support the process of reform of the Habibie government, as far as it goes. Two of the most important events; the special MPR session in November and the general elections in June 1999 are top of the agenda. At the same time this reform group in ABRI continue to re-define and reshape ABRI so as to turn it into something distinct from its structure during the Orde Baru.
In a seminar held in London on 29 and 30 March by two think-tanks, the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the Portuguese IEEI, Air Vice-Marshall Graito Usodo, advi-sor to General Wiranto, presented a 14-point programme of reform. He said that ABRI would continue with internal reform and the changes would be significant and drastic.
The more important points were: ABRI is redefining its role for the next century and will reshape its role in confor-mity with political changes in society. This includes separation of the police force from ABRI [see separate item] and an overhaul of ABRI’s sospol tasks which manage the im-plementation of ABRI’s dual role in society, in other words, ABRI’s meddling in civilian affairs.
Air Vice-Marshall Graito Usodo also spoke about changes in the territorial duties of ABRI by redefining secu-rity and order at the village level. The reformed ABRI will no longer be involved in day-to-day politics and ABRI seats in the legislative bodies DPR/MPR will eventually be re-duced. ABRI will not favour any political party, including Golkar, the ruling party. ABRI will also redefine its doc-trines. While it is obvious that ABRI reformers are trying to develop a new format for ABRI, the big question remains: does the average ABRI officer agree with all the changes?
While at the conceptual level, ABRI seems to be pursu-ing a course of reform, the reality is that there are cracks all over the place. Lt. General Hendropriyono, presently Min-ister of Transmigration is known to aspire to the position of Wiranto. A notoriously brutal and ambitious man, Hendropriyono was given the choice by Wiranto of con-tinuing as a cabinet minister and retiring from ABRI or re-signing from the cabinet and returning to ABRI without a position. Hendropriyono soon realised that his bid for power was over and opted to remain in the cabinet.
Army chief of staff General Subagyo turned out to be more difficult to handle. As former commander of the 6,000-strong elite Kopassus squad, Subagyo represents an important segment of ABRI. His conflict with Wiranto is a public secret but Wiranto has not been able to muster the strength to remove him. Subagyo’s conflict with Wiranto is not only a power struggle but involves competition regarding arms procurement. Everybody knows that business deals with the arms industry in the west means juicy deals involving the transfer of large sums of money to private bank accounts in Switzerland. It was widely reported in the Indonesian press that Subagyo was due to become the next ambassador in Malaysia.
Another conflict is between the present ABRI leadership and retired ABRI officers. While the Wiranto group has more or less resigned itself to playing a lesser role in society, many veterans see this as a betrayal of ABRI’s achievements. Within the cabinet, Wiranto often has to deal with General Feisal Tandjung who holds the post of coordi-nating minister for politics and security. Feisal Tandjung is typical of a Orde Baru officer and not likely to abandon the idea that ABRI should be in the driver’s seat. He represents the feelings of many retired officers and poses a threat to the Wiranto group.
Conflicts in the field
While conflicts at the top remain unresolved, conflicts at lower levels are reaching danger-point. East Timor is a clear example of territorial commanders openly organising and conducting military operations by using para-military groups to attack villages in stark contravention of the policy of Habibie, their supreme commander.
Major-General Adam Damiri, the commander of the Udayana military command, publicly held a meeting with para-militaries, at which he gave the signal for Operasi Sapu Jagad to start, resulting in many casualties among the population in many parts of East Timor, including the capital Dili. With this act Damiri is in open defiance of Habibie’s decision to give the East Timorese the chance to determine their own political future. Some local Indonesian sub-district commanders are openly recruiting and organising the para-militaries. Should they fail to get enough recruits, territorial soldiers must disguise themselves as para-militaries. The cost of this operation is enormous and ana-lysts in Jakarta believe that the money is being supplied by a group of influential retired generals including Benny Mur-dani and Try Sutrisno. Most highly-placed officers in the eighties owed their senior positions in ABRI to their long terms of service in East Timor.
The role of the military intelligence
The eruption of unrest throughout Indonesia is one of the most hotly discussed topics in political circles. All the events of the past few months cannot but lead to the conclusion that the performance of both BIA, the military intelligence, and Bakin, the intelligence coordinating body, is woeful. None of the major clashes in Ambon and West Kalimantan [see separate item] were foreseen by either agency. During the January reshuffle, BIA chief Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim got the sack but his successor Major General Tyasno Sudarto has not made a difference. Formally speaking, Bakin is a civilian agency but it is always run by ABRI officers. Officially it is not within the ABRI structure and reports only to the president, like the national security council in Washington. The present Bakin chief, Major-General Z.A. Maulani is very close to Habibie. Since recently taking over, he dismissed all the senior officials, all of them senior ABRI officers.
At a more fundamental level, political analysts believe that it is not so much a question of the intelligence bodies performing woefully but that they are the source of the unrest. The theory that it is provocation that is causing all the unrest is still seen as the most likely explanation although it could be argued that this theory downplays the reality of antagonisms between rival groups in Ambon and West Kalimantan. Major General Zacky Anwar was present in Dili during the terrible events of 17 April, allegedly on a working visit. It seems obvious that Wiranto and his staff are not in control of the intelligence apparatus. In none of the major events of unrest have any of the perpetrators been arrested. Increasingly, the general public believe that the unrest has been triggered by certain forces to destabilise the political situation and render general elections virtually impossible.
The history of ABRI conflicts
The history of independent Indonesia is ridden with internal ABRI conflicts. The Madiun affair in 1948, usually described as a communist rebellion, was in fact an internal conflict within ABRI in which left-wing units were defeated by right-wing units.
During the fifties, Indonesia’s fragile democracy was trying hard to run the state along democratic lines while ABRI was straining to get out of the barracks and play a role in politics. Several efforts were made to topple the government, the most serious being in October 1952 when senior army officers, backed by troops and tanks, tried to over-throw the Sukarno government. The regional rebellions in 1958 when parts of Sumatra and the northern part of Sulaw-esi tried to break away from Jakarta were also an internal ABRI affair as the rebel leaders were virtually all military men.
The October 1965 event when six senior generals were killed by a faction within ABRI was also an internal ABRI conflict although the official version still blames the PKI, the Communist Party, for trying for trying to seize power. In all these conflicts, the people were the ones who suffered the consequences. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and millions were incarcerated as a result of the 1965 events.
The present conflict within ABRI is very dangerous. The killing of innocent villagers in East Timor is an act of insubordination by ABRI officers. Conflicts within ABRI will continue to pose a threat because of ABRI’s dominant role in Indonesia’s politics. Unless the military doctrine dwifungsi is abolished once and for all, and ABRI is limited to protecting Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty, human tragedies will continue to jeopardise the security and safety of the 210 million inhabitants of the archipelago.
In the first half of April, there were three massacres in East Timor, in Liquisa, Dili and Suai. All are part of Operasi Sapu Jagad, the military operation designed by ABRI. In a combined operation by para-military death-squads and ABRI troops, East Timorese civilians were butchered. For these killers nothing is sacred; church sanctuaries were attacked and Bishop Belo’s convoy was ambushed.
The killing spree, the first major operation of Operasi Sapu Jagad or Global Clean-Sweep Operation (see following article), started in the Liquisa sub-district on 4 April in a village called Dato, three kilometres west of Liquisa town. Two dozen members of the newly established pro-integration para-military group BMP (Besi Merah Putih, Red-and-White Iron) attacked the village, known to be a bastion of pro-independence supporters. They attacked and destroyed the house of the village head. The attacking force came from Maubara to the west where pro-integration forces were in control. The Dato villagers managed to chase the BMP group away and they fled to the headquarters of Koramil, the sub-district military command.
Early next morning, an attack was launched on Dato from two directions by the BMP para-military thugs backed this time by soldiers from Koramil. The BMP were armed with standard ABRI weapons including M16s, AKs and SKS semi-automatic rifles. Five people were killed and eight were seriously injured. A dozen houses in the villages were razed to the ground. Two priests from nearby Liquisa tried in vain to calm the situation by holding discussions with the Koramil commander. Most of the terrorised villagers fled and sought refuge in the Liquisa church.
Slaughter in the church
On the next day, 6 April, an even bigger force launched an attack on Liquisa church where two thousand refugees, many fleeing from the attack on Dato were taking refuge. This time, the attacking force consisted of soldiers from Battalion 142, from Kodim 1639 Liquisa, from Koramil Liquisa, police and Brimob troops as well as BMP death-squads led by Eurico Guterres. The two priests were taken from the church to the local military command and shortly after, the attack started. Under the protection of Brimob troops surrounding the church who fired into the air, the para-militaries started shooting into the church. A tear gas grenade was thrown into the church and the refugees taking sanctuary there scattered, trying to escape from the building. The scores of people trapped inside and outside the church were then set upon by men armed with knives, machetes and firearms and mercilessly stabbed, hacked and shot to death. The reports from human rights groups in Dili describe the sheer horror of that moment.
The parish priest, Fr Rafael dos Santos, published an account of what happened, explaining that the sadistic brutalities commenced after he and another priest had been removed from the premises and taken to the local military command. ‘Their aim,’ he said, ‘was to murder all the people in the church.’ When he returned a few hours later, all the bodies had been removed. ‘There was blood everywhere and my bedroom was full of blood. The Indonesian armed forces and government must be held responsible for the massacre at Liquisa church,’ he said. [Suara Timor Timur, 9 April]
The Liquisa massacre is undoubtedly the worst human rights atrocity to have struck the people of East Timor since the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991. While Bishop Belo sticks to a figure of 25 deaths, based on the number of corpses heaped outside the church, human rights groups have com-piled a list of 57 dead and 35 wounded. Fourteen more peo-ple are reported as having disappeared.
Later, two army trucks drove up to the church compound and loaded the corpses to be taken to an unknown destina-tion for mass burial.
On the following Sunday, Bishop Belo went to Liquisa for Mass but when he arrived, the church was empty as peo-ple were still too afraid to venture from their homes. He had never before found a church empty when he arrived to take a Mass. He asked for the church bell to be rung and gradually several hundred brave souls turned up. Later, on the way back to Dili, the Bishop’s convoy, with a number of Indonesian and foreign journalists, was attacked. Rocks were tossed into the cars, one of which nearly killed John Aglionby, correspondent of The Guardian in Jakarta.
The attack on Liquisa church was an attempt to spread the influence of para-militaries westward from Maubara to Liquisa where pro-independence support is strong. It was also aimed at terrifying East Timorese into accepting the will of pro-integration forces and a warning to Dili, little more than a hundred kilometres to the east, that it was next on the hit-list.
The Dili massacre
Eleven days later, the capital Dili was the chosen target of Operasi Sapu Jagad. The day of horror started with a rally convened by the Milisi Pro-Otonomi (MPO), the pro-autonomy militia, the structure headed by War Commander Joao Tavares and his deputy Eureco Guterres. The rally was held outside the governor’s office and attended by Governor Abilio Osorio Soares, military commander Colonel Tono Suratman, chief of police Police Colonel Timbul Silaen and other government and military officials. Members of para-military death-squads from other parts of East Timor were present. The large crowd consisted mainly of local residents trucked in from the suburbs of Dili who had been summoned from their houses by soldiers at local army commands and ordered to attend the rally.
Tavares said the pro-autonomy militias had a history dating back to 1975 of supporting the Indonesian invaders against FRETILIN. In a speech full of venom and hatred, Guterres said it was the duty of the para-militaries to deal with the ‘defilers’ of integration. ‘As from today, I order all pro-integration militia to clean up the defilers of integration. Arrest and kill them if necessary. I, Eurico Guterres. will take full responsibility.’ He then declared that the home of Manuel Carracalao in Dili was the main target of the day’s operations. Guterres is a close associate of the disgraced Lt General Prabowo and the elite force, Kopassus. Formerly chief of Garda Paksi, a youth killer squad set up at the instigation of Prabowo, Guterres now heads a para-military group called Aitarak (the Tetum word for ‘thorn’) which is based in Dili and liaises constantly with SGI, the intelligence network of Kopassus.
Following the rally, the paras careered around the town, shooting at random into the air to terrify inhabitants, and attacking a number of houses and buildings connected with pro-independence activities, during the course of which several people were killed. One target was the CNRT office which had been vacated following the Liquisa massacre, another the home of CNRT’s Dili chief, Leandro Isaak and the home of David Diaz Ximenes, another top CNRT ac-tivist.
In the afternoon, the paras went to the home of Manuel Carrascalao, a well-known businessman, formerly a member of the local assembly who has become vociferously pro-independence. His younger brother, Mario, served as gover-nor of East Timor for ten years. Several years ago, Manuel and others like him who had formerly been pro-Indonesia, set up the Movement for East Timorese Unity and Recon-ciliation (GRPRTT), the secretariat of which is in his home. More recently he has also acted as spokesperson for the CNRT in Dili.
In preparation for the attack, roads leading to the house were blocked off. Shortly before the attack, Manuel Marras-calao and his daughter Chris had left the house to go to the military commander’s office to warn him that the paras were causing havoc in the capital and were likely to attack their home. Colonel Tono Suratman who clearly knew what was going on as he had a few hours earlier, attended the rally at which MPO leader Guterres called for pro-independence people to be killed, told Manuel. ‘We have to be neutral. You Timorese must sort this out yourselves.’
There were about 170 people taking refuge at the Car-rascalao home. The attack was unrelenting; many people were slain in cold blood, including women, children and babies. Among the dead was Manuelito Carrascalao, the 17-year-old adopted son of Manuel who had been doing what he could to protect the refugees. He was shot in the head, stabbed in the stomach and had his shoulder sliced.
Several harrowing accounts of the sadistic killings inside the house have been given by survivors, one by a man who was gravely wounded but was not done to death as were other wounded people, because he pretended to be dead. He said he saw women being shot and slashed and babies snatched from their mothers, then held by the feet and their heads smashed against the wall.
Irish Foreign Minister in Dili
It so happens that the Irish Foreign Minister, David An-drews arrived in Dili on a scheduled visit just as these terri-ble events were unfolding. In his entourage was Tom Hy-land, Ireland’s leading East Timor activist. The Minister was with military commander Suratman when Manuel Car-rascalao arrived to ask for protection. A few hours later, while visiting Bishop Belo, Manuel and Chris Carrascalao arrived in great distress to say that Manuelito had been killed. He decided to cut short his visit to Dili and return immediately to Jakarta to start alerting other world leaders about the terrible events in Dili.
The death toll from Dili’s nightmare on 17 April cannot be accurately determined because many of the bodies as well as the wounded at the Carrascalao home were removed by the army to unknown destinations. The generally ac-cepted figure is that thirty people were slain in a day of un-bridled evil. Two days later, Bishop Belo was allowed to visit the hospital where twelve bodies were being kept, to say prayers and visit the many wounded. It took several days before the Carrascalao family were able to take possession of Manuelito’s body for burial. It is not clear whether the other bodies were buried in a mass grave or returned to the families.
Most of the wounded were treated in Motael Clinic, with families doing what they could to prevent relatives from being treated at the military hospital, Wira Husada. There is a severe shortage of surgeons and medication to cope with scores of people wounded in Liquisa, Dili and elsewhere. Since the massacres, Motael’s only surgeon has been joined by four volunteer doctors to help cope with the emergency.
Wiranto pays a visit
With many governments and world leaders as well as the UN secretary-general loudly condemning the slaughter and holding the Indonesian armed forces responsible for these events, ABRI commander-in-chief General Wiranto made a hurried visit to Dili for damage limitation purposes. While calls intensified for the para-militaries to be disarmed and disbanded, he made it clear that arms supplied by ABRI to these death-squads would not be withdrawn.
All that he could come up with was the ceremonial sign-ing of a so-called peace accord between ‘the two warring factions’. In fact there is only one warring faction in East Timor, the para-militaries and their ABRI backers and ma-nipulators. The signatories were from the pro-integration leaders and from the CNRT as well as from the East Timor military and police chiefs. The document is not worth the paper it was written on.
The Suai killings
At the time the peace accord was being signed in Dili, more killings were underway in Suai, a town located in the south-west corner of East Timor, not far from the border with West Timor. Information about these killings is sketchy because of communications difficulties and the fact that the area has been sealed off. There are reports of scores of peo-ple disappearing and bodies being thrown into a local river, some of them severely mutilated or decapitated. The local parish priest, Fr Hilario has told some callers that the death toll is probably as high as one hundred but he has only been able to identify a smaller number of victims by name. The family of one victim, Abilio Pires, told relatives abroad that his body was sighted lying in a field several days after he went missing but they were too afraid to go out and take it home.
Killings in Ermera
Ermera in one of East Timor’s most prosperous regions, benefiting from a lucrative trade in coffee. It lies not far from Dili, to the south-east, and hence is more accessible to visiting foreign journalists.
Visiting the region for The Observer, John Aglionby was informed that as Wiranto’s peace accord was being signed in Dili on 21 April, a village chief, Bartholemew Borromeu was being beaten to death by local army offi-cers. ‘His skull was completely smashed,’ said the local priest Fr Sancho Amaral. He was also the local representa-tive of the CNRT, according to the priest, and had survived a torture session the previous Sunday. ‘It’s all about intimi-dation,’ he said.
A vicious campaign of terror by the military had been underway for two weeks already. ‘People are being taken away every day to be interrogated and beaten,’ the priest said, and a massacre had occurred in the remote village of Talimoro. A bus driver said that at least six people are known to have been killed there, ‘but everyone is too fright-ened to go and find out what really happened’. Others be-lieve the death toll there could be as high as twelve. Since then, at least seven people have been killed in Ermera, in a campaign to pick off CNRT leaders. They include a local councillor, Antonio da Lima who was shot in the village of Gleno, followed in the next few days by four more deaths. ‘They were all killed by soldiers or East Timorese territorial troops,’ said Fr Amaral. He described the past few weeks as the worst in his two and a half years in Ermera. [The Observer, 2 April]
Five shot dead in Cailaco
Following an attack by FALINTIL on 13 April when a pro-integration figure Manuel Soares Gama in Cailaco, Bobonaro district was killed, the local military commander in Bobonaro, Lt-Colonel Burhanudin Siagian rounded up five people in the district and shot them dead in the presence of the local administration head and the police chief. This military commander who operates in liaison with the Halilintar para-military death squad is quoted elsewhere in this issue (see next item) as saying he will stop at nothing to sabotage the Habibie initiative on East Timor.
Killings in many parts of Indonesia
The post-Suharto era has been marked by unspeakable ethnic and religious violence. The bombing of the Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta’s main mosque, indicates that dark forces are trying to destabilise the country. The killings in West Kalimantan, South-East Maluku and West Java during March and April has caused many to doubt whether the general elections can take place in these regions.
Violence erupted in West Kalimantan between local Malays and Dayaks and the Madurese minority. The conflict was located in the Sambas district, near the border with Malaysia. By late March, Indonesian press reports said that at least 33,000 Madurese refugees were sheltering in the capital, Pontianak. The district of Sambas has a population of around 800,000 people, of whom eight per cent are Madurese. Official sources say that two hundred people have been killed in the carnage but observers believe that the death toll is far higher. Many Madurese settlers were forced to flee into the jungle where the chances of survival are slight.
Madurese have been moving to Kalimantan since the sixties and they are now into the third generation. These are people who were born in Kalimantan and have never lived on their island of origin, Madura.
The international press has reported extensively on this latest conflict, not least because of the grotesque brutality of the killings. The conflict has been bitter and merciless and the security forces were unable to do anything. Whole Madurese settlements were slaughtered. Along the road from Singkawang to Montrado which is a Madurese settlement, severed heads were on display. Some of the killings were ritual. In the second week of the conflict, the security forces were given orders to shoot on sight, as a result of which several people were shot dead.
The conflict between the Dayaks and Malays, the two local communities, and the Madurese, the newcomers, has been going on for several years. In late 1996 and early 1997, there was a new eruption which became extremely violent. On that occasion, it was between the Dayaks and the Madurese [see also TAPOL Bulletin No. 139, February 1997]. But tension between the ethnic groups goes back to 1968 when the first forest concessions were granted and Madurese transmigrants started to arrive.
In many parts of the Indonesian archipelago, there are simmering conflicts between locals and newcomers. Ac-cording to one explanation, problems emerge because of deep-rooted differences between local people steeped in their communal lifestyle and newcomers who bring a mer-cantile lifestyle with them. These problems are universal. The Orde Baru economic system has only deepened the rift between the two entities, fostering business opportunities for the mercantile class while the communal people are margi-nalised, sinking deeper and deeper into misery and impov-erishment. The Dayaks are rurals and the Malays live in the coastal and urban areas. Often the ethnic distinctions are not clear because of inter-mingling and inter-marriage over sev-eral generations. Central government policies have only ex-acerbated the problems.
Strictly speaking, it is not correct to identify the Madurese in Kalimantan as the mercantile class because most commercial activities are in the hands of Chinese or Sumatran traders. Some Madurese have emerged as small traders in the cities but their role in the economy is mar-ginal. The locals accuse the Madurese of being aggressive and violent. Madurese are often portrayed as being quick-tempered but the fact that many of them live in isolation in transmigration sites has resulted in a lack of communication and social intercourse with the local communities.
Military way of resolving conflicts
It was in 1979 that the first serious conflict erupted and it flared up again in 1983 and 1993. During the last conflict in 1996/1997, which lasted several months, at least three thousand Madurese were killed and tens of thousands were evacuated. The present outbreak is a virtual replay of 1997 only worse, because most Madurese settlements have been razed to the ground and a large number of Madurese settlers are now refugees.
The conflict between the communities was never prop-erly resolved. The military authorities simply brought some elders together for a peace ritual which has obviously failed. A monument to commemorate a peace treaty signed after the 1979 conflict was destroyed during the 1997 con-flict. Such peace rituals do nothing to tackle the social and economic problems dividing the communities. Human rights groups also complain that none of the people guilty of the killings and other human rights abuses have been brought to trial.
The fate of the Madurese
The severity of this latest conflict will have serious re-percussions for the Madurese community. In the short term, it is impossible for them to go back to their burned-out vil-lages. Nor is the option of returning to the overcrowded is-land of Madura feasible. The only idea that the government has come up with so far is a proposal to resettle the Madurese on an island near Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan.
In our last issue, we reported on the ethnic conflict in Ambon, the largest island in the Maluku archipelago. While the troubles there have calmed down somewhat, killings have since flared up in other parts of Maluku.
The violence in Ambon has forced many people to flee their homes and 39,000 refugees are now sheltering on Buton, a small island off the south coast of Sulawesi which is hardly able to cope with this huge influx. Another 75,000 refugees, mostly from Ujung Pandang and Bugis, have also fled back to their places of origin.
On 30 March violence erupted in Tual, the capital of the Kei islands in south-east Maluku. In a five-day clash between the Christian and Muslim communities, at least fifty people were killed. The reason for the outbreak is unclear but some local residents claimed that graffiti defaming Islam was the trigger. Residents blame the violence on instigators, the same ones who fanned the earlier conflict in Ambon and Haruku where at least 300 lives were lost.
The two communities, both armed with machetes and Molotov cocktails, attacked each other. Powerless to stop the carnage, the security forces resorted to the method they used in Ambon and started shooting at the feuding crowds. Many of the victims have died or been wounded by gunfire. During the first week, at least 18,000 people sought refuge in police stations and the local air and naval bases.
Very soon the conflict spread to Kei Besar island where people from two villages attacked another village and burned down sixty houses. Three people were killed and dozens wounded. On 14 April, Antara reported that 112 had died and twenty-six villages had been destroyed on three islands in south-east Maluku.
On 23 April, another conflict, which lasted three days, erupted. Thousands of feuding Muslims and Christians fought a fierce battle, which started when several policemen opened fire on the opposing groups, injuring at least ten people. At the end of the first day, press reports said that eleven people had died. The total number of deaths is still unclear but it could reach into the hundreds.
While all this was going on, violence erupted on the his-toric spice island of Banda in Nusatenggara Timur, where seven people lost their lives on 21 April. Two churches, forty-seven buildings and a kindergarten were gutted.
A week earlier, violence had erupted again in Central Maluku in the district of Amahai, where two people were killed and twenty-one houses were torched.
A series of assassinations has so far resulted in more than a hundred deaths in Ciamis, West Java. According to Kontras, the Commission for Missing People and Victims of Violence, the murders have been committed by people who have received military training. There are strong indications that the hundreds of assassinations last year in Banyuwangi, East Java, are being replicated in Ciamis. The victims are similar: soothsayers, Muslim clerics and people known for their anti-Suharto views.
The killings in Banyuwangi were never resolved by the authorities despite the many warnings from local organisa-tions about the perpetrators. The people of Ciamis have been stricken by fear and prefer to remain silent.
Why the spiralling violence?
Social scientists and politicians have come forward with many explanations for the violence that has spiralled since the downfall of Suharto last May. Everybody agrees that the tight grip on society during the Suharto period was bound to lead to explosions once the iron-fist stability imposed by ABRI under the dictator was lifted. Conflicts between com-munities have existed for ages below the surface but they were never properly addressed.
On the contrary, as some local leaders in Kalimantan have said, instead of dealing with the real issues, commu-nity leaders have been forced to shake hands in meaningless peace rituals. During the recent outbursts, the security forces have busied themselves primarily with evacuating terrified refugees instead of hunting down and arresting the perpe-trators.
Suharto’s Orde Baru created a culture of violence. As Professor Ben Anderson from Cornell University said dur-ing a recent visit to Indonesia, it started with the killings of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in 1965/1966. ABRI’s tradition of fostering criminal and para-military groups to do its dirty work has contributed to this tradition of resolving problems with machetes and guns.
Disastrous government policies like the ambitious trans-migration programme have significantly contributed to dis-rupting fragile, complex social structures in many regions outside Java, as pointed out by indigenous leaders at their Congress in March (see separate item).
The role of provocateurs
It is undoubtedly true that dark forces are deliberately trying to destabilise the country, in particular in the run-up to the general elections which, as everyone agrees, is a criti-cal first step towards building democratic political structures in the post-Suharto era. The bombing of the Istiqlal Mosque which was clearly designed to trigger feuding between Muslims and Christians, the fanning of religious conflicts in Maluku and the killings in West Java are clear examples of conflicts triggered by gangsters in the pay of forces linked to Suharto’s New Order.
So far, the security forces have shown themselves to be powerless, incapable even of making meaningful arrests, let alone producing any answers to why violence is now so widespread. In truth, they are part of the problem though it has not yet been possible to substantiate the many suspicions that members of ABRI are the ones who are causing the riots.
On 1 April, POLRI, the Indonesian National Police, was separated from ABRI, the Indonesian armed forces. This is an important step forward but much more is needed to transform the force into a democratic institution in charge of upholding law.
Some analysts in Jakarta called the 1 April ceremony an April Fool’s joke but the fact is that political changes in Indonesia compelled the ABRI leadership to make a start with this separation. In most countries, there is a strict separation between the police force and the army. The police are responsible for upholding the law while the army are in charge of defending the state’s sovereignty. But things have been very different in Indonesia. In 1964, during the Sukarno era, POLRI was incorporated into the armed forces by Presidential Instruction KepPres No.290, 1964 but it was under Suharto that steps were taken to militarise the Police by means of the National Defence Law of 1982 and the Police Law of 1997.
Although POLRI has been separated from ABRI, it remains under the jurisdiction of the Defence Minister, General Wiranto, who continues to be the commander-in-chief of ABRI, a fact which casts doubt over the true significance of the change. Since the change, the army has begun to use its former name, Tentara Nasional Indonesia or TNI; the term is increasingly being used instead of ABRI which also includes the navy and the air force.
POLRI structurally part of ABRI
As part of ABRI, the Police Force has taken on all facets of army structure, including ranks, budget, duties and even wage structure. The 1997 Law placed POLRI within the integral command structure of ABRI.
This has created huge problems for the average policeman on the beat. Most organised crime such as gambling, smuggling, prostitution is connected to members of the army, meaning that the police are powerless to arrest the culprits.
The police academy has a military curriculum which does not recognise the force as the guardian of the general public but is based on the military credo of treating everybody as a suspect.
Expenditure on the police has been ridiculously low be-cause most of ABRI’s budget has gone to the army, the su-perstar. The general public has always had a low opinion of the understaffed, poorly-trained police. Police have a track record of violence and many people have died in police custody. Police officers have also been involved in numer-ous killings of criminal suspects on the streets, with no at-tempt to charge the perpetrators. Corruption is rampant and the average policeman lacks authority. The force is justifia-bly regarded as the illegitimate child of ABRI, maybe not quite as brutal as its foster parent but the difference is mar-ginal.
In the early years of Suharto’s Orde Baru, the police force had practically no function. The army was in charge of law and order in general and its powerful security body Kopkamtib had virtually unlimited powers to arrest and detain people. Under Indonesia’s procedural code, the police force is the arresting agency also responsible for interrogating suspects, but in many instances, especially in political cases, it was the army that arrested and held people. It was not until the early nineties when popular protest became more frequent, that POLRI’s role became more up front.
POLRI against demonstrators
Domestic and international criticism of the excessive role of ABRI in curbing internal dissent forced Suharto and the ABRI leadership to adopt a new policy. By 1993 the police were beginning to deal with popular unrest.
It was now the role of POLRI to arrest and interrogate suspects, while a special POLRI force was responsible for dealing with demonstrators on the streets. This new policy was first tried out in so-called ‘troublespots’ like East Timor. This resulted in a change in Dili, the capital of East Timor, when police officers began to arrest demonstrators who were taken to the police station instead of the military command posts, although the army’s special force, Kopassus did not relinquish its special intelligence role.
POLRI’s special force Brimob (Brigade Mobil, Mobile Brigade) became a much feared and hated force. This is the most militarised force in POLRI and is trained to deal with mass demonstrations. Brimob possesses sophisticated equipment, including UK-made water cannon and armoured personal carriers. Since the May 1998 upheaval, some forces within POLRI have received special anti-riot training and have re-emerged as PHH (Pasukan Anti Huru-Hara, Anti Riot Unit). It has become a daily scene in urban centres to see PHH and Brimob units chasing and clubbing demonstrators.
In places of violent unrest like Maluku and West Kalimantan [see separate item], police officers were given or-ders from their superiors in Jakarta to shoot on sight, and they have acted accordingly.
Conflict at the top
Senior police officers are frequently in conflict with their army counterparts. Seven years ago Police Major-General Koesparmono Irsan, then head of the Police Acad-emy, proposed that the police should be separated from ABRI. Most POLRI officers favour this, not least because POLRI is often called on to do the dirty work of the army, such as arresting students, with their officers having to take the blame, while the overall strategy and command is in the hands of the military.
In particular the tragic shooting of students at the Tri-sakti University in May 1998 upset the police force. A num-ber of police officers were scapegoated and tried for the shooting while the army came out relatively unscathed. Na-tional Police Chief General Dibyo Widodo publicly pro-tested at the way his officers had been sacrificed; not long afterwards he was replaced. The present police chief, Gen-eral Roesmanhadi has continued to press for separation. Finally on 1 April the first grudging step was taken.
The next steps
The most difficult part is how to demilitarise the police force. A whole generation of police officers have been trained to think like the military. Before the average police officer can be seen as protector of the general public in poor urban neighbourhoods, there will have to be a complete overhaul in mentality and training. The curriculum at the Police Academy will also need to be changed.
Another key problem is the territorial structure of the army. Territorial military commands function as shadow administrations down to the village level. If POLRI is to act as the upholder of law, the army’s territorial structure should be abolished. This is what ending the army’s dwi-fungsi (dual function) should really mean. But this territorial structure is the backbone of the army’s stranglehold over society which means that a lot of political will is needed and many battles will be need to be fought before the army is willing to relinquish this power structure.
An essential part of the civilianisation of the police is its location in the government structure under a civilian minis-try. In most countries, the police are under the interior min-istry but in Indonesia, this ministry is also controlled by the army.
The widely-condemned anti-subversion law is now in the process of being repealed, but it will be replaced by six new articles in the Criminal Code to deal with anti-state ‘crimes’. Justifying the change, the Justice Minister, Muladi, said this was to prevent a ‘legal vacuum’. In other words, there is no intention to relinquish state powers to convict and punish people for political activities.
The new articles will penalise activities endangering the Pancasila, propagating Marxism-Leninism, acts of sabotage and attacks on military installations. The maximum penalty under these articles will be twenty years instead of death as under the anti-subversion law. These anti-state ‘crimes’ will now be regulated under the criminal procedural code, which allows detention without charge of up to sixty days, instead of the one year period under the anti-subversion law.
In addition, a new law on state security is being drafted by the armed forces commander General Wiranto and will be submitted to Parliament for adoption before the June elections. According to Muladi, the new law will allow the armed forces to take measures to cope with unrest. [Jakarta Post, 1 April]
Leading human rights lawyer, Munir, who has seen the draft of the bill says it is modelled on Malaysia’s Internal Security Act and will be even more of a threat to the public than the discredited anti-subversion law. Warning people not to underestimate ABRI, Munir said that if the new law is enacted, it will empower the authorities to ‘to silence or arrest anyone regarded as a threat to (their) vested interests’. [Jakarta Post, 6 April]