Major Security Concerns in Indonesia

USINDO Open Forum

Major Security Concerns in Indonesia

Sidney Jones – Indonesia Project Director, International Crisis Group – Jakarta

February 23, 2004

Washington, DC

Director of the International Crisis Group’s office in Jakarta, Sidney Jones, spoke to an overflow crowd about three major security problems Indonesia faces: Papua, Aceh and terrorism conducted by Jemaah Islamiah. She believes the most virulent form of JI terrorism may be brought under control in the short and medium term, but predicts long term lower intensity terrorism. She is not sanguine that violence in Papua and Aceh will diminish any time soon.

Papua: Sidney Jones noted that central government plans to divide West Papua into three provinces, which had caused such a furor, had now been modified to divide the province in half. The present situation calls for a province of West Irian and a province comprised of all the rest of the area, while plans for a central province have been frozen. But there remains no less outrage among Papuans most of whom — although not all — are concerned that the division undermines promised autonomy.

There is an additional problem on the horizon: the division of the provinces into multiple sub-districts divided along ethnic lines. Each would be headed by a tribal leader, each of whom would fill the local governing bodies with unqualified loyalists. Poor governance is liable to result and as Indonesia moves towards elections, competition among districts and ethnic groups over resources will increase. There will not necessarily be destabilization, but the TNI [Indonesian Military] will be sure to exploit divisions and conflicts in order to strengthen its own control.

Another source of concern in Papua is the explosion of HIV/AIDS. Five to ten percent are now infected and the situation is being exacerbated by substantial movement among the population.

Finally there are the problems posed by the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM) with members ranging across Papua and rebels supporting them from across the border. The prospect for increased tensions in Papua is increasing.

Aceh: Martial law continues with no resumption of negotiations that might end it in sight. Nor are there any incentives for Jakarta politicians to move toward negotiations while elections are underway.

The TNI is succeeding in sharply limiting access to the province by human rights and other humanitarian workers; only a few ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] members and none of their international employees have been allowed entry. The limited access together with blanket control over the media, means too little is known about what is actually going on and it has become impossible to make accurate assessments. That said, military operations appear to have become even more aggressive as raider battalions have been added to the mix and planned reductions among existing troops have yet to take place. Casualties would seem to be increasing.

In some areas such as the cities, where more is known, the TNI is getting better marks for handling security, but there is no evidence of that in areas where aggressive action is underway. The elite Police Mobile Brigade or Brimob’s reputation remains as bad as ever. Nor is there an exit strategy, although there has been some talk of a downgrading of the situation to a civil emergency. This option holds little promise either, however, since the provincial government which would take charge is immensely corrupt and inefficient.

Hostage negotiations have been underway for some time, with the GAM [Gerakan Aceh Merdeka = Free Aceh Movement] holding some 40 hostages. When one being held (Ersa Siregar, a senior reporter for RCTI [Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia]) was killed by the TNI, there was outrage among Indonesians generally that might have led to a change of approach by the central government. However, the GAM’s demands were studded with unacceptable conditions, the public turned against the GAM, and there are no prospects for release.

Nor are the TNI and the government making distinctions between GAM members and sympathizers, trials are unfair, no legal counsel is being allowed. The Acehnese negotiators arrested on their way to the Tokyo negotiations last year have been unfairly convicted of terrorism.

On top of it all, it seems the TNI is committing the same military mistakes and excesses made in the past, and it is no accident this is occurring as elections approach. Replacement troops are less well trained and equipped. GAM forces are bad also, but the TNI is worse.

Special autonomy legislation is dead as long as the TNI remains in control. No transition plan is in the works. It would seem in sum that neither the GAM nor the government have any interest in negotiating a solution, at least for now.

Jemaah Islamiah: Sidney Jones discerns separate levels of activity at work.

First there are the Bali and Marriott bombing faction of JI which was led by Hambali. Hambali and this group looked to Al Qaeda and in fact to a degree divided JI against itself as some followed the Al Qaeda crusade against the west and others stuck to JI’s original guiding purpose: creation of an Islamic state in Indonesia. As the result of good police work, only about eight or ten of the leaders of this first group remain at large; there is a good chance they will be caught; and the immediate threat of another Bali type attack against western targets should recede.

The second group is comprised of the non-bombing majority of JI, with goals similar to Darul Islam and its long term plan to create an Islamic state. But the apparent major split in JI may not in fact exist and this wider group appears to have become a home for Hambali types. Members of this group are being sent to Mindanao for weapons and explosives training and some may again resort to major violence.

Darul Islam members comprise a third group and it is itself sending people to Mindanao for training. This group has its own organization and capabilities. Jones thought it fascinating that those who commit violence are recruiters for the next group and there is a linear connection between events in 1983, 1989 and events today. She believes that even if there is a split among top leaders members at lower levels retain a lot in common.

Finally the major risk today comes from locally organized groups who are carrying out local bomb attacks. The bombings in south Sulawesi are attributed to such a group.

Questions and Answers:

The United States failure to date to provide direct access to Hambali or his taped interviews has become a big issue among Indonesians who conclude that the United States sees cooperation as a one way street.

JI members are recruited from certain mosques and are winnowed down to a select few through a rigorous process. They come originally from a small number of schools and colleges. Those selected come from conservative, modernist backgrounds – not just anybody is chosen and in fact there are no known NU members. It would be difficult to stem the flow from within Muhammadiyah since the leadership is conflicted due to internal rivalries. There is no correlation with socio-economic backgrounds.

No one in JI is working for a caliphate – only for an Indonesian Islamic state. Members see JI as a religious organization. Since they do not support democracy they do not work through existing political parties.

The Bali and Marriott bombing investigations have largely dispelled the conspiracy theories that contended the west was responsible. Still batting down conspiracy theory is a constant necessity.

Given the irreconcilable differences in Aceh, Jones sees no solution until Hassan diTiro is dead and GAM’s ground commanders gain greater say. Now GAM is not interested. The government needs to consider establishment of local parties. Not much pressure to cease as in the case of Vietnam can be expected.

via the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawai‘i

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