Information und Analyse

Fragile cease fire in Aceh

10 January 2005

by Alex Flor

Aceh_Drawing

Children's drawing

Source: http://www.urbanedjournal.org/notes/notes0024.html

Other than initially reported, the exchange of gunfire on the premises used by the UN for aid distribution was most probably not a clash between members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian Armed Forces. According to an eyewitness account, an Indonesian soldier snapped and opened fire for reasons so far unknown. Nobody was hurt in the incident.

The incident did, however, show very clearly the vulnerability of the international aid workers and their humanitarian mission. Over the past days, armed clashes between TNI and GAM have increasingly been reported, especially in areas in the interior of the province not affected by the tsunami. But also in the coastal regions and in aid distribution centres where international presence is frequent, tensions are on the increase. The ceasefire, unilaterally announced by both conflicting parties but never formally agreed upon, is becoming ever more fragile. Since January 1st, 2005, a petition is posted on the internet calling on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to abide by the voluntarily announced ceasefire
<http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Aceh2005/petition.html>.

It is still unclear whether or not the state of civil emergency in Aceh remains in force after the province has been opened up for foreign aid workers and journalists. The Indonesian military does not make a secret of its continuation of fighting the GAM while at the same time participating in humanitarian relief operations. Armed Forces spokesman Col. Ahmad Yani Basuki frankly admitted that only two-thirds of the troop reinforcements that had arrived in Aceh after the disaster had struck were involved in rescue and relief operations. The remainder were needed to “prevent the rebels from attacking vital installations and relief operations” /Laksmana.Net, 5/1/05/. Col. Djazairi Nachrowi, head of information analysis at the national military headquarters, even declared bluntly that there had been no ceasefire /The Australian, 5/1/05/.

GAM and TNI eye each other in deep distrust. In the past, they have accused each other of using ceasefires for the strengthening of their respective forces.

Both sides confirm that clashes have taken place over the last days. They differ, however, on the course of events. TNI claims that GAM attacked aid convoys in Idi Rayeuk, East Aceh, and Malayati in the district of Aceh Besar, due to which TNI felt compelled to open fire. GAM denies any such attacks and accuses TNI of having conducted raids in the mountainous regions of Idi Rayeuk, in Bireuen, Gandapura and Pasongan. They allege that local people were prevented from leaving their villages in order to search for relatives or aid the same.

According to unconfirmed field reports by GAM, the following incidents took place:

“At 20h.15 on January 2nd, 2005, an armed contact occurred between Acheh Armed Forces (TNA) and Kostrad (Indonesian Army Strategic Command) Bat. 312 at Bayeuen Ranto, East Acheh.

On January 3rd, at Alue Beurawe, East Langsa, East Acheh, TNA clashed with Brimob (Indonesian police paramilitary corps). Villagers who are mostly family members of local GAM fled to a Meunasah (village mosque).

On January 4th, at 14h.15 at Matang Glem, East Peureulak, East Acheh, Indonesian marines based at Leuge shot dead a villager

Commander of Raider Battalion 500, code named Mahasra 2, radioed orders to his troops based at Karang Inong village and Mess Asamera, Ranto, Peureulak, to shoot down low flying planes if they pass at night because he suspected they were used to drop weapons for GAM.”

In other unconfirmed field reports it reads:

“January 4th, 2005 – 14h.30: Darwin bin Yunus, 24, TNA soldier from Paloh Peradi village, was shot dead by TNI troops at Alue Krup, Peusangan at 14h.30. Enemy forces are now occupying hills overlooking Matang Geulumpang Dua, Cot Gapu and Krueng Mané in Bireuen District.”

“January 6th, 2005: More than 50 Brimob (paramilitary police) conducted an operation and shooting wildly in all direction at Gurah, Lambaet, Lamteungoh, Lampageue villages in the district of Peukan Bada. No casualty reported.”

“January 6th, 2005 – 08h.30: Rahmadi, 20, farmer, and Ibrahim, 19, farm worker, both of Jambo Reuhat village, Bandar Alam, shot dead by TNI troops, Kostrad 330, based at Blang Rambong, Bandar Alam.”

“January 7th, 2005 – 11h.00:
- Armed contact with TNI troops at Paya Pasi, Julok, 4 km from the Acheh-Medan trunk road.
- Abdul Latif ben Rani, 35, farm worker, Bumi Flora Plantation, M7 Settlement Block, shot dead by TNI on operation in the area.”

“January 8th, 2005 – 07h.15: TNI troops ambushed a GAM platoon at Lueng Angen, 3 km from [the main road] Banda Acheh-Medan. At 09h.15, the same TNI troops were engaged at Lhok Tambo, Ranto Seulamat, about 6 km from the same road.”

The paper “The Australian” reported on Friday, January 7th, 2005, that journalists had witnessed armed clashes between TNI and suspected GAM fighters, 40 km from Banda Aceh. Shots had been fired on TNI soldiers who answered with shots into the air and then tried to get hold of the gunmen while acting quite brutally against bystanders. A commander of the Special Forces Kopassus ordered the journalists to leave: “Your duties here are to observe the disaster, not the conflict between TNI (the Indonesian army) and GAM.”

The Indonesian military has troubles coming to terms with its new dual task of providing relief aid and granting security. Criticism and praise are no longer delivered along the familiar lines, which leads to some confusion among the troops. Staunch supporters of TNI acknowledge the professionalism with which the US troops based on the USS Abraham Lincoln provide food, water and medicine for the local population. Nobody disputes that the TNI is not capable of performing this task. On the other hand, NGOs known for their TNI-critical stance now freely admit that Indonesian soldiers are currently providing indispensable aid in the disaster regions. Aid workers, however, also complain that TNI abuses its role as coordinator and admits aid supplies only to areas that suit the military. Aid was channelled predominantly into areas to TNI’s liking while supplies for alleged GAM strongholds were obstructed.

NGOs report about considerable difficulties concerning aid distribution. Goods were piling up at airports and distribution centres. Only citizens who were able to produce a red-and-white identity card would directly receive supplies. These ID cards had been introduced in Aceh only during the past months and had been issued only to citizens free of any suspicion of sympathising with the independence movement. People who either never possessed such a document or lost the same in the floods remain empty handed.

Similar complaints are heard from staff of local aid organisations wishing to pick up supplies at airports in order to distribute them to the local population. Arguing that illegal sale of goods has to be prevented, aid workers are asked to show documents which they can hardly ever produce in the midst of such chaotic circumstances. At the same time it is reported that TNI members sell food at exorbitant prices. <>

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