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Indonesia/East Timor News Digest No 50 - December 11-17, 2000

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East Timor

Guterres charged for death of UN personnel in West Timor

Kyodo News - December 15, 2000

Jakarta -- Eurico Guterres, a former pro-Jakarta East Timorese militia leader, has been charged in connection with the death of three foreign workers of the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) in Indonesia-ruled West Timor in September, a leading Indonesian newspaper said Friday.

Kompas said Indonesian authorities filed the charges with the North Jakarta District Court on Thursday. A trial is expected to begin in January. Indonesian authorities reportedly confiscated 10 rifles from Guterres and plan to use the firearms as evidence during trial.

Guterres was arrested in October in connection with a spree of violence unleashed by pro-Jakarta militia forces in East Timor in September last year after the former Portuguese colony voted overwhelmingly for independence. The three UN workers were killed September 6 after a mob of militiamen stormed their UNHRC office.

Since then, Indonesia has been under intense pressure from the international community to disarm the militia and facilitate the repatriation of about 130,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor or resettle them elsewhere in Indonesia.

Parliament to review joint probe into Timor terror

Agence France-Presse - December 14, 2000 (slightly abridged)

Jakarta -- Anger over an international probe into last year's atrocities in East Timor on Thursday prompted Indonesia's parliament to review its agreement with the United Nations. The move follows repeated threats by the army and MPs to reject the accord with the UN administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

House speaker Akbar Tanjung, speaking after a meeting between parliament leaders and Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, said the review would take place next month, after the year-end parliament recess. The house would propose changes to articles in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UNTAET, if they were not in line with Indonesia's law on international treaties, Tanjung added.

Thursday's meeting was called after the top brass of the Indonesian army, and the defence lawyers for military and police officers implicated in the East Timor violence, protested the presence of UNTAET lawyers at a planned questioning session last week. None of the witnesses or suspects turned up and the UNTAET team returned to East Timor empty handed.

"Our meeting resulted in an agreement to discuss more thoroughly articles in the MoU in the next parliamentary session," Tanjung said. "Should there be articles which are not in accordance with our law, the government, through the attorney general's office, will be asked to talk to UNTAET to make modifications," he added.

Darusman said the government would implement the accord only after it had been reviewed by the house. But he insisted that the uproar over the accord -- which allows UNTAET officials to be present during questioning of suspects and witnesses in the Timor violence -- stemmed from an "unnecessary misunderstanding".

Darusman also urged the house to remember that the accord, signed in February by Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab, was intended to prevent members of the Indonesian military and police from facing an international tribunal. The move has been threatened by UN human rights chief Mary Robinson if Indonesia fails to bring those responsible to trial.

Marzuki said that although he agreed with the military's stance on rejecting foreign involvement in the investigations, the MoU was "not tantamount to intervention, this is an accord which is based on law". Lawyers for the suspects, MPs and the military have branded the agreement "illegal and unpatriotic".

UN calls on Jakarta to punish attack on its officials

Agence France-Presse - December 12, 2000

Jakarta -- The UN administration in East Timor said on Tuesday it has called on the Indonesian government to punish the perpetrators of an "unpleasant and shocking" attack on two of its officials in Jakarta.

The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) issued a formal protest to the Indonesian government Monday over the December 11 assault on UN officials at the lower house of parliament, an UNTAET statement said.

The incident took place shortly after UNTAET Chief of Staff N. Parameswaran and the director of UNTAET's Jakarta office, Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, came out of a courtesy call on House Speaker Akbar Tanjung, the statement said.

In its protest note, UNTAET said it was "regrettable that such a sizeable crowd" was allowed to enter the lobby of the parliament building and was then let loose on the UNTAET delegation, which was on an official visit.

UNTAET underlined that the security was clearly inadequate, "deplored" the incident, and requested the Indonesian authorities "to take stern action against the perpetrators of this attack and ensure that this type of incident is not repeated". It further requested appropriate security arrangements in the future to protect UN personnel and ensure their immunity.

In reply, the Indonesian foreign ministry assured UNTAET that "The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia is firmly committed to ensure that such regrettable incident will not recur in the future."

Some 40 people from the nationalist Red-and-White Force mobbed the car transporting the two UNTAET officials out of the meeting with Tanjung, shouting anti-UNTAET slogans. The sedan was pelted and thumped, and one protestor jumped on the roof of the car.

The group was demonstrating against what they termed foreign intervention in Indonesia's internal affairs. The campaigners were also opposing UN investigators' attempts to witness the questioning of Indonesian officers who allegedly masterminded last year's post-ballot terror in East Timor. Such monitoring had been agreed to in a memorandum of understanding between Jakarta and the UN.

Hundreds of people were killed in the wave of violence that followed the territory's independence vote on August 30, 1999. Indonesian army-trained militia led the violence. More than 250,000 people were forced to flee to neighbouring West Timor where 120,000 still remain.

A team of UN investigators is currently in Jakarta for the officers' interrogation, but so far the witnesses and suspects have failed to show up.

Army chief backs lawyers refusing UN probe over Timor

Agence France-Presse - December 12, 2000 (slightly abridged)

Jakarta -- Indonesia's armed forces chief on Tuesday threw his support behind lawyers who have rejected UN attempts to quiz officers accused of masterminding last year's wave of terror in East Timor.

The statement came as Indonesian prosecutors said they were issuing a third summons to five Indonesian military and police officers to be questioned in the presence of representatives from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). The officers ignored two previous summons last week.

"As far as the legal process is concerned, no TNI [military] officer is to be investigated or questioned by UNTAET," Admiral Widodo Adisucipto told journalists after meeting Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The Indonesian authorities' stand on the issue was clear, he added. "The government rejects any intervention or meddling by foreign parties. We have our own procedures, regulations and national legal system," Widodo said.

Defence lawyers for the military and police officers last week rejected the questioning, as UNTAET legal officers waited in vain at the attorney general's office. A letter outlining their refusal was sent to the heads of the Indonesian armed forces and police and to the home affairs minister, one lawyer said.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said a memorandum of understanding signed on April 5 by his office and UNTAET had laid out the procedures for the questioning. UNTAET investigators would only attend the questioning by prosecutors from the attorney general's office and would not themselves quiz the suspects, he said.

The five in question are former East Timor police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, former Liquica district chief Adios Salova and three senior police officers formerly posted in East Timor. The five were all on the list of 22 suspects named by the attorney general's office in September.

UN human rights chief Mary Robinson has warned that if Indonesia fails to bring those responsible to trial, the suspects could be tried by an international tribunal.

UN takes a small step toward justice in East Timor

Christian Science Monitor - December 13, 2000

Dan Murphy -- A United Nations prosecutor in East Timor indicted 11 men Monday for crimes against humanity in what promises to be a first step on a long and contentious road to justice.

Among the accused is Lt. Sayful Anwar, a deputy commander of Indonesia's feared Special Forces Command (Kopassus) -- the first Indonesian soldier ever to face international prosecution for war crimes.

The UN said it would seek Lieutenant Anwar's extradition from Indonesia to face trial in East Timor. The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) is administering the newly independent territory until elections, which are tentatively scheduled for next year.

The 10 others were members of Team Alpha, a Kopassus-trained militia group based in the northern town of Los Palos. Nine of them are already in custody.

Mohamed Chande Othman, the UN's chief prosecutor in East Timor, said the indictments would send a message to Indonesia's military that there would be no impunity for the rampage that followed East Timor's independence vote in August 1999. More than 100 people were killed and 250,000 driven from their homes in a week of violence orchestrated by pro-Indonesian militias that were trained and organized by the Indonesian Army.

But the feeling in Jakarta was that Mr. Othman, a Tanzanian who was formerly chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, was putting the best face on an increasingly grim situation. The Indonesian military has said time and again it will not cooperate with Othman's efforts.

And human rights experts say it's now unlikely that the Indonesian government will be either willing or able to force the military to cooperate.

"The pressure has decreased so much compared to early this year," says Asmara Nababan, the secretary-general of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights. "There's been this increasing ultranationalist flavor in our parliament, which has created sympathy for officers and for those who actually committed the crimes." Mr. Nababan also says that "the willingness to pressure Indonesia is no longer there."

The military has effectively stonewalled the efforts of UN prosecutors to question five military and police officers in Jakarta this week, despite the full cooperation of Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman.

"No... officer is to be investigated or questioned by UNTAET," Armed Forces Chief Admiral Widodo Adisucipto told journalists yesterday after meeting with President Abdurrahman Wahid. "The government rejects any intervention or meddling by foreign parties."

Against that backdrop, it's unlikely that an extradition will be allowed. While there was some sentiment for an international tribunal last year, UN support for one -- particularly among the Security Council members who would control the process -- has evaporated.

With the threat of an international tribunal removed, the chance for credible Indonesian prosecutions now appears "slim and none" says an official familiar with the UN's prosecution in East Timor. Mr. Darusman has promised to begin trials of 22 suspects accused of human rights abuses by the end of January.

The Team Alpha members were charged with massacring nine people on September 25, 1999, near Los Palos. The victims were nuns, priests, aid workers, an Indonesian journalist and a 14-year old bystander. They have also been charged with forcing the entire population of Leuro village into Battalion 745's base in Los Palos.

Anwar, deputy commander of Kopassus in Los Palos, was charged with the mutilation, torture, and murder of Averisto Lopes on April 21, 1999, at the Team Alpha base.

Though Anwar's charged with a different crime, the move against him is part of an effort by Othman to tie Team Alpha more closely to Battalion 745, and particularly to Kopassus, members of which were seeded throughout the battalion.

UN investigators in East Timor say that 745's commanders are responsible for the murder of former Monitor contributor Sander Thoenes last September, and an extensive investigation by the Monitor early this year found that Team Alpha worked hand in glove with Battalion 745.

Othman made the strongest charge by a UN official to date in early December, saying "[Mr. Thoenes] murder is, we think, linked to the whole conduct of Battalion 745." He also added that further investigations "will definitely implicate Battalion 745" in Thoenes' murder.

Though Mr. Darusman has described the murder of Thoenes as one of his "priority cases" for prosecution, none of the battalion's officers is on his list of 22 suspects.

Australian soldier injured in militia attack

Sydney Morning Herald - December 12, 2000

An Australian soldier was injured in a suspected militia attack in East Timor overnight, the East Timor Australian National Command said today.

The soldier, serving with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in East Timor, suffered minor shrapnel wounds to the lower left leg and buttock in an explosion at Aidabaleten, about 27 kilometres northeast of Batugade, a statement said. The attack occurred at 10.15pm yesterday local time, the statement said.

The soldier, Private Christopher Carter, was treated at the site of the attack and then flown by Black Hawk helicopter to the UN Military hospital in Dili.

The statement said Private Carter, from 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, was in a stable condition. The United Nations and the Australian National Contingent were investigating the incident.

Time for leadership in Jakarta is at hand

Straits Times - December 16, 2000

Susan Sim, Jakarta -- As an article of faith, the logic is sound: Once the economy picks up, the government will be strong again and happy hours will be over for the opposition parties.

A less querulous parliament, especially one that meddles for lack of a real policy agenda of its own, means more time for the executive branch to implement policy and actually govern. Greater political stability will in turn attract capital investment. Ergo, real productive growth: more jobs, higher wages.

Sustain that for another three or four years and a satisfied people will vote for the President again in 2004. But wait, can the economy even sustain the current spurts of growth? Consumer spending on cars and other durables is peaking, or has already plateaued.

The record-breaking US$7.7 billion worth of exports in September included a huge shipment of shrimps to the United States -- now Indonesia's largest trading partner -- accounting for 20 per cent of non-oil exports. With the US economy set to slide into the downturn of the business cycle, just how many shrimps can Americans eat? And, of course, the foundering rupiah is not going to budge until there is a new team at Bank Indonesia.

Maybe. Who is going to reinvigorate the banking sector and start lending money to the small and medium enterprises which are, surprise, surprise, growing into the vacuum left by the dismantling of the Suharto-era monopolies but will soon suffocate for lack of capital?

Cut to the chase: The Indonesian economy has been growing in spite of the government and parliament. No one will go hungry because the International Monetary Fund is delaying its next aid tranche for another three months and the big-fund boys continue to stay away for the time being.

But the time for leadership, for innovative leaps of strategy, for someone to dazzle the world's entrepreneurs with the scope and audacity of his economic blueprint for Indonesia is at hand.

Can a government that now owns almost 80 per cent of the country's assets afford not to? "Somehow the IMF has turned Indonesia into the world's largest communist country," said one- time adviser to the Ibra restructuring agency, Mr Hasyim Wahid, also better known as President Abdurrahman Wahid's youngest brother.

He thinks it might be time for the government to cut the moral rhetoric it has offered before, accept that it can no longer pretend Ibra will be able to fully recover the liquidity credits it gave the conglomerate owners and allow them to run their businesses again.

Other observers pray not for economic genius, but sheer common sense. Stop chasing away foreign investors by projecting a xenophobic image, especially when the country at large is not, a senior Western diplomat advises.

Do not, for instance, have the highest legislative official in the land, Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, threaten to nationalise American companies on the eve of a visit by some 40 of the world's largest pension funds and money managers.

The Russell 20-20 group, which has some US$7 trillion in capital to invest in emerging financial markets, simply decided to stop its South-east Asia visit in Singapore instead of exploring how it can boost the Indonesian economy, after Mr Rais' anti-American outburst. "It is the art of the self-inflicted wound," the Western diplomat notes. "Somehow Indonesia has become very good at it."

Suharto maintains frail grasp on reins of power

Los Angeles Times - December 13, 2000

Richard C. Paddock, Jakarta -- For Suharto, once the all-powerful ruler of Indonesia, life today is a tangle of medical tubes, criminal charges and political intrigue.

Now 79, the former military dictator who ruled for 32 years lives quietly in seclusion in his Jakarta home as family members struggle to save his reputation and their own vast fortunes.

Ailing and sometimes bedridden, Suharto is powerless to protest as police search his house -- even his bedroom -- looking for his youngest son, a fugitive.

On his bad days, Suharto is hooked up to an oxygen tank to help him breathe. His doctors say strokes have left him with the mental ability of a child. But that has not stopped the government from reviving criminal charges alleging that Suharto stole at least $571 million from charitable foundations he controlled while president.

Even in his troubled retirement, Suharto remains a central figure in the political turmoil of Indonesia as new leaders try to reshape the nation into a democracy.

The ruthless former dictator, who stepped down in May 1998, has not been held accountable for the human rights abuses or widespread corruption that were the hallmarks of his rule. Similarly, few of the business cronies and military officers who carried out his wishes and benefited from his largesse have been prosecuted for their misdeeds.

As a result, national reconciliation remains a distant hope. "Elements of the old regime are still intact in many levels of the government and the society," said Asmara Nababan, general secretary of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights. "We have to make sure an authoritarian regime does not return to power in Indonesia, whether it is a military dictatorship or another form."

As Cold War-era dictators go, Suharto is in a class of his own. The numbers show that he was more brutal than Augusto Pinochet of Chile and more rapacious than Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

Whereas Pinochet is accused of being responsible for the deaths or disappearance of 3,200 people, Suharto is blamed for the deaths of 500,000. And while Marcos was accused of stealing as much as $10 billion, Suharto has been accused of siphoning off as much as $45 billion through corrupt practices, fraudulent charities and enforced monopolies.

Suharto, like Pinochet and Marcos, long enjoyed the support of the United States at a time when Washington worried far more about fighting communism than preventing mass killings or large- scale theft.

For Indonesia, moving beyond the Suharto era has been difficult. President Abdurrahman Wahid, an eccentric and nearly blind Muslim leader, maintains only a tentative grip on power 13 months after being elected by Parliament.

Even Wahid's press secretary, Wimar Witoelar, conceded recently to foreign journalists that the president "does not have the competence to govern." But he said Wahid has a good heart and is still the best hope for saving the country. Witoelar called on democratic-minded Indonesians to rally around the president and help him.

The nation remains racked by separatist fighting that claims lives almost daily, and it still struggles to recover from Asia's economic collapse of 1997. Increasingly, many Indonesians long for the stability of the Suharto regime.

Just how ill Suharto really is remains in dispute. His attorneys portray him as a sick old man who is near death's door and understands little of what goes on around him. Prosecutors contend that he is healthy enough to understand the charges against him and withstand a trial. Some members of the public suspect that the wily former general continues to concoct plots and manipulate events behind the scenes.

His house is more modest than might be expected for one of the world's wealthiest families. The home is big but not palatial; the interior is crowded with possessions and the furnishings are dated, visitors say. Numerous security guards sit in front of the house, but the street remains open.

One recent visitor who is sympathetic to Suharto described the former president as "a bit senile" and said he passes his time watching television and reading the paper. "He can talk, but slowly and it takes him a long time to start," the visitor said. "Mostly he was smiling or just nodding a lot. He can walk but also very slowly and sometimes with a walking stick. The family now is just submitting to his fate. If God wants to take him, well, take him."

It is unclear whether Suharto knows that prosecutors have refiled the corruption charges against him that were dismissed in September because of his poor health. Suharto's attorneys have appealed.

Many of Suharto's six children have acquired houses on the same block, and their back yards are connected. One was bought by Suharto's youngest son, Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known as Tommy Suharto. He is being hunted by police after failing to turn himself in to serve a prison sentence.

Tommy, 38, said to be Suharto's favorite son, symbolizes the excesses of the dictatorship. Known for his love of beautiful women and fast cars, he amassed a fortune through questionable deals and monopolies, including his control of the lucrative clove industry. Before the economic collapse, his companies bought a controlling interest in auto maker Lamborghini, which he was later forced to sell.

Wahid has accused Tommy Suharto of being behind bombings that coincided with each stage of the corruption case against his father. A car bombing September 13 at the Jakarta Stock Exchange killed 15 people. Wahid ordered the younger Suharto arrested, but the police merely questioned and released him, saying they had no reason to hold the former dictator's son.

Soon after, the billionaire playboy was sentenced to 18 months in prison when the Supreme Court reversed an earlier ruling and found him guilty on charges that he stole $11 million from the government in a land scam.

Tommy Suharto went into hiding, saying through his attorneys that he feared for his safety in prison. The police have been unable to find him since issuing a warrant November 3 for his arrest.

Police have searched more than 40 locations for Tommy Suharto, including the homes of relatives and the grandiose Suharto family mausoleum in the central Java town of Solo, where Suharto's mother is buried.

Authorities have also seized five properties belonging to the son, including his house on Cendana Street, to cover a $3-million fine levied by the court.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said he doubted that the younger Suharto was being shielded so that he could one day step forward as heir to the throne; his life as a jet-setter and race-car driver hardly has prepared him to rule. Indeed, one of Suharto's biggest mistakes would appear to be not grooming a successor.

The attorney general, who recently won a Supreme Court ruling that allows the case against the elder Suharto to proceed without the ailing defendant in court, said he will not let up in his pursuit of the corruption charges. "Mr. Suharto is a symbol of the past," Darusman said. "Resolving this case could be a way to settle the past also. That will be the time a reconciliation could be effected."
Regional conflicts

Two injured, dozens of houses burned in Kalimantan riot

Jakarta Post - December 17, 2000

Kereng Pangi -- Unrest broke out in Kereng Pangi, Katingan Hilir district, Kotawaringin Timur regency, Central Kalimantan on Saturday, leaving two migrants in critical condition.

Antara reported that some 100 Dayak ethnics attacked the houses of migrants at Kereng Pangi, some 100 kilometers from the Central Kalimantan capital of Palangkaraya, early Saturday morning.

The attackers burned some 20 houses belonging to migrants, two cars and a motorcycle. They destroyed several stores and stalls belonging to migrants at the Kereng Pangi market and looted the merchandise. They also managed to burn down four karaoke halls.

The attack on the migrants was allegedly triggered by a brawl on Friday night between three migrants and a Dayak man named Sendong, 36, at a prostitution complex, 19 kilometers from Kereng Pangi. Sendong was killed in the brawl.

Central Kalimantan Deputy Governor Nashon Taway, accompanied by three leading Dayak figures M. Usop, Sabran Ahmad and Simal Penyang, went to the site to calm the angry residents.

Imil, who led the attack, said the residents were angry over the unsolved murder cases of the Dayak people. "We [Dayaks] can no longer be patient because the police have yet to arrest the suspects of these murders," he said.

Central Kalimantan Deputy Police chief Sr. Supt. Moh. Djatmiko said he had deployed two companies of police officers to prevent another brawl. "We have identified the three men who had killed Sendong and the police are trying to track them down," he said.

Three dead, 40 missing in Maluku boat attack

Agence France-Presse - December 14, 2000 (slightly abridged)

Jakarta -- Three bodies were found and some 40 people were missing and feared dead after an attack on a boat carrying Muslims from Indonesia's Ternate island to a port in northern Halmahera, a port official said Thursday.

"Three bodies and 15 survivors have been found so far and six of the survivors were injured, some with bullet wounds," said a staff member of the port administration in Bastiong on Ternate island, which is part of the Northern Maluku province.

"Forty other people are still missing and although search efforts are continuing we have little hope that they are still alive," said the staff member, who identified himself only as Udin.

He said the Hasil Karya-2 motorized sailboat had left the port of Bastiong on December 7, and that four days later the port was notified that the boat never reached its destination in Kahatola island in Loloda Bay some 100 kilometres north of Ternate.

All the people on board the ship were Muslims, Udin said, and the first survivor, found by fishermen in Loloda Bay on December 11, spoke of the boat sinking after it was rammed and attacked by a tugboat on December 7.

"The tugboat, which was manned by Christians, had forced the Hasil Karya-2, to enter the Loloda Bay instead of going to Kahatola," a small island in front of the bay, Udin said.

When the captain refused, the tugboat rammed the ship and a volley of shots and arrows were fired from the tugboat. "The captain's son, who was among those found injured and currently being treated at the hospital, has bullet wounds on his right hand," Udin said.

He said the search for those missing involved ships from the naval base in Ternate as well as fishing boats from the Loloda area.

A probe team has been sent to the area by the governor, the administrator of the State of Civil Emergency imposed on North Maluku in June following more than a year of bitter and violent Muslim-Christian conflict there, the Antara news agency said.

The probe team, headed by an army major, arrived in Kahatola on Tuesday, Antara said. The agency also said that nine people were confirmed killed in the attack, but added that only three bodies had been buried so far.

Maluku leaders form plan to end civil war

South China Morning Post - December 12, 2000

Chris McCall, Jakarta -- Grassroots leaders of Indonesia's devastated Maluku Islands left a conference yesterday with a provisional plan to end two years of civil war.

Christians and Muslims greeted the plan with cautious optimism, anxious to end the tit-for-tat violence that has killed thousands on both sides across the archipelago.

Unlike most previous attempts at reconciliation, this one has been built from the ground up, not imposed by officials. It was based on the concept of baku bae, an Ambonese expression roughly meaning "end of fighting".

Dozens of representatives met last week at a hotel in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta, chosen as neutral ground. The meeting was heavily imbibed with Malukan community symbolism in the hope of uniting the islands.

Despite the intense blood-letting of the past two years, most Malukans share common ethnic ancestry and cultural traditions. The only successful attempt to stop the bloodshed so far has been in the southeastern Kai Islands, and based on concepts of adat ("community tradition").

Among the facilitators were two Malukan charities, Hualopu from the Christian side and Inovasi from the Muslim side. Also closely involved was the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, a body that has won international acclaim for its work in protecting human rights.

Budi Santoso, director of the foundation's Yogyakarta branch, said the result was a provisional long-term agenda to resolve the conflict. It is to be publicised at several major Indonesian cities before further discussion in Ambon, the Malukus' capital, hopefully early next year. All sides accept that full reconciliation will take several years at least. "It was very productive," Mr Santoso said. "They hope these results can be fulfilled in Ambon."

The participants put the number of dead in two years of fighting at more than 8,000, making it possibly the bloodiest of the many conflicts to have hit Indonesia since the fall of Suharto in 1998. Fine details of the plan had deliberately been left vague, Mr Santoso said, to avoid feelings that decisions had been forced upon Malukans from outside, the stumbling block on which several previous peace agreements had failed.

"They left these things so there would not be misunderstanding by people in Ambon," he said. However, the broad ideas include a major public forum in Ambon some time early next year, division of troubled areas into Christian and Muslim safe zones and provision of peacekeepers drawn from the two sides. A road show is expected to tour Indonesia's major cities of Jakarta and Surabaya to publicise the plan, as well as Ujung Pandang in Sulawesi, which is flooded with refugees.

Febry Tetelepta, a member of a crisis centre set up by the Indonesian Communion of Churches, said: "We are trying to stop the conflict. Once the conflict is over we can talk about the law." His centre's work largely involves protecting the rights of the beleaguered Malukan Christians. "There must be a campaign. I am optimistic but this must be seen through." But many Malukans feel outsiders have been fomenting the violence for political motives.

15 dead in Indonesia Maluku's sectarian clashes

Associated Press - December 13, 2000

Jakarta -- At least eight people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a boat carrying Muslim refugees in Indonesia's troubled Maluku islands, witnesses were quoted as saying Wednesday.

The motor boat, with 135 people on board, was attacked last week, said Asdi Albar, an official with a group monitoring the violence. Gasoline drums on board the vessel caught fire and the craft ran aground on a small islet near Halmahera, the main island in North Maluku province, he said.

Local police confirmed the incident, saying they couldn't yet identify the attackers. "We are still investigating," Lt. Col. Harrison said from Ternate, the provincial capital. Rescue workers have so far found eight bodies, Albar said. The fate of the other passengers is unclear.

About 4,000 people have died since January 1999, when sectarian violence first broke out in Maluku province, a chain of islands located about 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) northeast of Jakarta.

Meanwhile, at least seven people were killed as fresh fighting between Muslims and Christians on Teor, a small island in the southeast of the province. Details were sketchy, but witnesses said clashes broke out Sunday and continued until Tuesday.

Government officials predict the bloodshed could worsen with the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, which this year falls a day after Christmas. In 1999, violence peaked around the time the two faiths celebrated their holy days.
Aceh/West Papua

Separatists behind attack in Irian Jaya: rebel commander

Agence France-Presse - December 11, 2000

Demta -- The separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM) in Indonesias remote Irian Jaya province was responsible for a market attack near the capital Jayapura last week in which they killed two policemen and a security guard, their reclusive top commander told AFP.

"The attack was discussed during a meeting of the highest commanders of the National Liberation Soldiers (TPN) of the OPM near the border with Papua New Guinea on November 23," Brigadier General Richard Hans Joweni said in an interview conducted over the weekend.

"The details and targets I left up to our armed forces commander, Mathias Wenda," he said at a camp near the coastal town of Demta, some 100 kilometers west of Jayapura, where recruits and members undergo guerrilla training.

Early last Thursday, rebels armed with bows, arrows, spears, axes and crude guns descended from the hills that ring Jayapuras outskirts and killed the two police officers and a security guard, and burned down shops on a street named "Guerrilla."

Yoweni said the attack was to alert the public his rebels had mobilised following the national government's enforced lowering of the separatist Morning Star flag on December 1, the anniversary of an unrecognised declaration of Papuan independence.

"The aim was to attract public attention. That is, to draw the peoples attention to the fact that the OPM, especially the TPN soldiers, are moving. To show that we are here, and we are ready to act," he said.

In retaliation, crack Indonesian police troops attacked a dormitory in the hills above the marketplace area and killed three students. Police also wounded four others with gunshots and beat dozens. They arrested 99, and three remained in custody Monday.

Yoweni is known within the group as the supreme commander and minister of defence. His position is above that of Mathias Wenda, the group's self-described armed forces commander, and Kelly Kwalik, the chief of general staff.

Students recounted to AFP how the separatist rebels ran through the Ninmin dormitory shouting: "Wake up, get down and help! Were (OPM commander) Kelly Kwaliks men, OPM, OPM!"

The students said they refused the rebels' appeals, but later saw them pointing to the dormitory and telling people they had come from the building.

Asked why the attackers had apparently drawn police in the direction of the students, Yoweni replied it was a "complex matter." "The [guerrilla] attackers should have hidden their trail, to protect any supporters they had among the students," he said. "[But] it is a possibility that [the police] seeing they got no support from the students, they countered by making the students the subsequent targets."

Yoweni said the OPM-TPN viewed the police attack on the students "very seriously." He continued: "They [the guerrillas] attacked. But then other people became the targets. We are taking that into account." Yoweni said the group blamed by police for the attack, Satgas Koteka, was actually a name used by TPN fighters to "hide their identities."

Since November 29 hundreds of highlander people have been massing across the 200 meter neutral zone between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia at Muara Thami, which is under the control of a man who identifies himself as an OPM commander acting on the orders of OPM military commander Mathias Wenda to attack Indonesia.

Yoweni said a draft plan to mass people at the border was drawn up at the November 23 meeting, as part of a "guerrilla military strategy for the future." "But the concept didnt involve gathering them there as refugees," he said. "We are preparing our troops to launch a kind of military offensive, so people are being massed there as part of a political strategy."

Irianese rebels attack Sentani police post, one wounded

Jakarta Post - December 12, 2000

Jakarta -- Irianese rebels attacked an elite police (Brimob) post in Sentani, Jayapura regency, Monday at around 9pm, leaving one wounded.

John Malauw, 28, one of the attackers, was shot in the leg after policemen fired back at the rebels who were armed with machetes, spears and arrows, Antara reported. Malauw is now being treated at Dr. Manansang Hospital in Sentani district.

Chief of the Jayapura Police, Brig. Gen. S.Y. Wenas, said among the attackers were members of the Papua Task Force who attacked the Abepura police post on December 7. They went into hiding in Sentani and when news reached them that police had discovered their hiding place, they launched the attack.

Wenas said beginning Tuesday police would disband the task force and demolish all its offices in the province due to its violent acts.

The police chief threatened tough legal actions against anyone who would try to prevent the police from carrying our the order. According to Antara, police pulled down the task force's main office in Sentani on Monday evening, which was located in front of the house of Theys Eluay, chairman of the Papua Presidium Council. No incident were reported during the demolition of the office.

Troops on presidential security detail attacked in Aceh

Agence France-Presse - December 16, 2000 (slightly abridged)

Banda Aceh -- Armed men on Saturday attacked army troops securing the capital of Indonesia's troubled Aceh province ahead of next week's presidential visit, police said. A skirmish broke out between a team of military and police and rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

It occurred just minutes from the city's airport, where President Abdurrahman Wahid is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, police operations spokesman Superintendent Yatim Suyatmo told AFP. Suyatmo said there were no casualties in the incident, at around 9am near Sultan Iskandar Muda airport, although one incoming domestic flight had to be delayed.

However he denied any of the troops involved were members of the Jakarta-based elite presidential guard, who had arrived in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, on Friday, to prepare for Wahid's visit. "The actual presidential guard arrived here on Friday. The shoot-out did not involve the them," Suyatmo said.

Independent sources here said the attack tool place as the troops were on their way to pick up members of the presidential guard. Greater Aceh GAM spokesman, Ayah Muni told AFP he had not heard of the incident and denied his organisation was involved.

Suyatmo said the troops had been conducting a search of the area following an incident on Friday in which alleged rebels confiscated scores of weapons from the district military headquarters. "They [GAM] had stolen our weapons and that's why we launched the search operation, and when we passed through the area we were ambushed," he said.

GAM sent a letter last week warning of intelligence reports that "hard-line Indonesian military elements" could be plotting to assassinate Wahid during the visit. The rebels group, which has been fighting since the mid-1970s for an independent state, said in the letter that they had no quarrel with Wahid.

Army wants to crush rebels as police fail

Indonesian Observer - December 16, 2000

Jakarta -- The Army Chief General Endriartono Sutarto yesterday said police have not been able to fight a separatist movement in Aceh. Speaking in the Central Java capital of Semarang, he said an immediate military operation could be the only way to end the bloodshed in the troubled province.

It is up to the government and the nation whether the military operation will be implemented, Sutarto was quoted by Antara as saying. He said the police are prepared to guard the law enforcement, but they are not prepared to face guerrilla actions like what happens in Aceh.

We [the military] believe that troops should be deployed there. The police would not been able to fight against guerrillas. A political decision is needed [for the deployment], he said.

Last week, Defense Minister Muhammad Mahfud said the government would no longer extend the truce which has taken into effect since June and was prolonged in September. The government is ready to conduct military operations if the negotiations remain at an impasse and if the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) insists on demanding independence, he stressed.

A poll says that Indonesians back a tough stand against separatism in Aceh and another troubled province of Irian Jaya. The poll also shows that Indonesians have denounced the governments slow action in dealing with separatists.

A whopping 74.26% of 571 people polled by the Media Indonesia daily in 10 regions and among expatriates abroad agreed it was time for the government to act firmly to eradicate separatism.

Security beefed up More than 2,000 troops have been deployed to Aceh amid rising violence and assassination threats against President Abdurrahman Wahid, who will visit the province next week.

The soldiers will be on standby with police to maintain security during Wahids visit planned for Tuesday, in light of worsening security conditions and the threats made to assassinate the president, National Defense Forces (TNI) spokesman Rear Marshall Graito Usodo said yesterday.

During the visit, the president will declare Islamic Sharia law and hand over Rp100 billion (US$10.5 million) of humanitarian aid in an attempt to defuse demands by rebels for independence.

Separatist groups yesterday downplayed a possible attack on Wahid during his one-day visit to the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. He can come here. Deaths threats against the president did not come from us, Cut Nur Asikin, a GAM spokeswoman, was quoted by AP as saying.

Asikin referred to a warning from the GAM that it had intelligence of a possible hardline military plot to assassinate the president in Aceh. In recent weeks, the provincial governors office was hit by a grenade attack, prominent figures were murdered and three human rights workers killed. Several government offices have been bombed.

Wahid, who is facing mounting criticism over his performance, has promised greater powers of self-rule for Aceh. But he has rejected demands that the province be allowed to break away from the Indonesian state.

Kidnapped migrant student found dead

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2000

Jakarta -- A 22-year-old migrant student Achmad, who was allegedly kidnapped by the Free Papua Movement (OPM) last Saturday, was found dead and mutilated on Tuesday evening, Antara news agency reported.

During the Saturday attack in Skouw, some 80 kilometers from Jayapura and mainly inhabited by migrants, the rebels also allegedly killed Zakaria Sogi (31) and Udin (30), and injured Sukardji (41), Murdianto (29) and Parto (26).

Jayapura Police chief Superintendent Daud Sihombing, told reporters that the attack in Skouw was being investigated. Sihombing however admitted that it would not be easy to identify the attackers, who had escaped across the border with Papua New Guinea, only 14 km away from Skouw.

The attack in Skouw was the second by the OPM rebels in Jayapura. On December 7, the OPM armed rebel group raided a police station in Abepura, 15 km away from Jayapura, killing two policemen and a civilian guard while injuring three other policemen.

Human rights worker 'held for publicising police killings'

South China Morning Post - December 16, 2000

Agence France-Presse in Jakarta -- A human rights worker in the troubled Irian Jaya province was arrested yesterday for discrediting police by publicising the killing of three students by police, a fellow activist said.

Johannes Bonai, the director of the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Elsham), was presented with an arrest warrant when he answered a summons to appear at the district police headquarters in the provincial capital, Jayapura, John Rumbiak of Elsham said. "He's charged with discrediting public officials," Mr Rumbiak said.

Irian Jaya police chief Brigadier-General Sylvanus Wenas confirmed police had served an arrest warrant on Mr Bonai and taken him in for questioning. "He ... was summonsed to clarify his statements that police had tortured and killed several people in detention," General Wenas said.

Mr Rumbiak said Mr Bonai was still being questioned five hours after his arrest. Earlier, Mr Bonai said he was facing arrest over a press conference on Thursday. He reported victims' accounts of an incident on December 7 in which police killed three students after a separatist attack.

"He must be able to prove his reports. If he is able to do that, I would question the Jayapura police chief ... but if he can't, he must take responsibility for slander," General Wenas said.

Mr Rumbiak said Elsham had stated in the conference that police were suspected of summary killings and torture.

A group, believed to be tribesmen from the central highlands of Irian Jaya, attacked a marketplace and a police station on the outskirts of Jayapura, killing two policemen and a security guard and setting fire to shops.

Enraged police immediately swooped on several nearby dormitories, home to hundreds of students from the central highlands, beating occupants with rifle butts. Police admitted killing three people, shooting one dead and killing two more with "other methods".

Neighbours and students said they saw police stab two male students after dragging them from the dormitory and beating them until their faces were "totally destroyed". Mr Bonai said police should have told their side of the story instead of arresting him.

Unending violence identified in Aceh

Tempo - December 15, 2000

Banda Aceh -- The situation in Aceh during the year of 2000 has not significantly improved, said Coordinator Deputy of Aceh Commission for Missing Persons & Victims of Violence (Kontras), Fouad Ismail. The government still commits violence, which adds the long list of human rights violation in Aceh.

Moreover, the state is not serious enough to settle the problem in Aceh. "Dispatching huge number of military personnel to Aceh for the sake of maintaining unity means extending violation to Acehnese," Fouad told the press on Thursday afternoon.

In his opinion, Indonesian Military (TNI)/National Police (Polri) should be held responsible for violence and human rights violations since military status was implemented in Aceh. TNI/Polri still used old patterns such as terrors, kidnapping and murders to commit their action, which blows the second Humanitarian Pause.

According to Kontras, at least 1,632 people become the victims of violence, murder, torture, rape and kidnapping committed by military personnel in 2000. The dominant military role in the state keeps the military violation going on. "The stigmas are also used to arrest and terrorize the humanitarian workers," Fouad said. "Violation to the civilians is legalized in each military operation when it comes to Free Aceh Movement and separatist movement. It is also an excuse to kidnap and terror the humanitarian workers," he added.

Therefore, Fouad said, Kontras Aceh urged the government to stop the politics of violence in Aceh. "The cessation of all military operations and the responsibility of human rights violation in Aceh should be determined by international court of human rights," he said. He also called the world to monitor and put pressure on the Indonesian government for the sake of human rights and democracy enforcement in Aceh. "We are saying this because we are really concern about the human rights situation in Aceh," he added.

2,000 troops sent to Aceh ahead of Gus Dur visit

Straits Times - December 16, 2000

Jakarta -- More than 2,000 troops have been deployed to the troubled Aceh province amid rising violence and assassination threats against President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is to visit there next week.

The soldiers will be on standby with police to maintain security during next Tuesday's visit, "in light of worsening security conditions and the threats made to assasinate the President", said military spokesman Air Vice-Marshall Graito Usodo.

But, he said, the soldiers' primary mission was not security but to help the Aceh provincial government re-build homes, places of worship and infrastructure destroyed by floods and landslides in recent weeks.

During the visit Mr Abdurrahman is scheduled to declare a form of Islamic or Sharia law and to hand over US$10.5 million in aid in bid to defuse demands by rebels wanting to break free of Indonesian rule.

Faced with the big security effort, separatist groups yesterday downplayed the potential for trouble during the president's one- day visit to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh. "He can come here. Death threats against the President did not come from us," said Cut Nur Asikin, a spokesman for Free Aceh Movement, whose guerrillas have been fighting for independence for the gas- and oil-rich province since 1975.

"Wahid's visit to declare Sharia law and give aid is a futile gesture," said Faisal Ridha, a spokesman for SIRA, a student group that wants a referendum on Aceh's political future. "His trip is not in the best interests of the Acehnese, but will be made for his and the Jakarta elite's political benefit."

Irian Jaya: Will it be another Timor?

Straits Times - December 14, 2000

Marianne Kearney, Jakarta -- Over the past week, Irian Jaya has witnessed two lightning attacks by unknown rebels. One last Thursday on a police station and a regional government office and another on Indonesian logging camps.

Were they really conducted by pro-independence guerillas or one of their splinter groups, as police claim, or were these attacks conducted by rogue elements linked to the military?

Groups such as Elsham, a non-government group documenting the attack, suspect the latter because the group attacking the police station gave indiscreet warnings of its attacks. "If these are really independence fighters why are they attacking civilians?" asked leading non-government activist John Rumbiak.

Mr Rumbiak, Elsham's director, believes these attacks are part of a worrying pattern indicating that the government has resorted to using an East Timor-style plan to staunch the independence movement.

Under this plan, hatched by the office of Home Affairs, intelligence operatives would infiltrate the independence movement in order to minimise violence and village-style militias would be created in the province, now known as West Papua.

Mr Rumbiak and other foreign observers, however, fear the infiltrators will not be staunching violence but whipping it up, so that pro-independence groups oppose pro-Indonesian groups.

Security experts said Satgas Papua, the pro-independence militia headed by Yorrias Rawiyai, an army-trained thug with connections to the Golkar party, appears to have been set up for just such a purpose.

Like the pro-Indonesia militia, which numbers around 5,000, Mr Yorrias' men have benefited from military style training. They have been recruited from the unemployed and their members appear to have no clear idea of what they are fighting for apart from operating as loyal body guards for their leaders.

So far both the pro-Indonesia and pro-independence militias are unarmed, but the pro-independence militias have already probably been infiltrated by army intelligence, security experts said.

With the number of migrants in West Papua numbering about 30 per cent of the population, most of whom are concentrated in a few towns, it would not be hard to quickly enlarge and mobilise the pro-Indonesia militias.

And as one foreign observer pointed out, unlike in East Timor, it would not take much provocation for real clashes between the opposing militias. "We're extremely worried it has all the makings of an East Timor," said the observer.

Mr Rumbiak said some militant pro-independent groups had already resolved that the only way to attract much needed global attention was "the pouring of blood in West Papua".

Ironically, while Jakarta's generals have warned ominously that Irian Jaya is in danger of going the way of East Timor, foreign diplomats and observers are also concerned this conflict has the ingredients of an East Timor but for entirely different reasons.

The generals, hardliners and nationalists in the Cabinet, fearing that West Papua's independence movement will become as vociferous and well supported as East Timor's or Aceh's, favour a civil emergency in the territory and an end to dialogue with independence leaders.

But foreign observers say it is not the fractured independence movement that poses the danger, but Jakarta's tough stance as its crackdown may result in more and more disturbing incidences of unarmed or primitively-armed Papuans being shot by heavily-armed troops. Foreign governments will then find it increasingly difficult to justify their support for Indonesia's control over the territory.

As Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew pointed out last month in Australia, a repeat performance of East Timor would be extremely damaging for Indonesia.

"They ought to be telling the President just how risky such unthoughtful acts can be for the reputation of the country," Mr Lee said. "I hope they have learnt from what happened in East Timor and don't allow the same syndrome to develop in West Irian."

In fact, while army-backed militias might pose serious concerns for Irian Jaya's security, the guerilla arm of the independence movement or OPM is no match for East Timor or Aceh's guerilla army.

Security experts say the OPM, which consists of just a few hundred highlanders, lacks the arms, organisation and sophisticated intelligence to launch anything more than sporadic hit and run attacks on the security forces.

And unlike East Timor's Falantil, which co-ordinated and launched attacks across East Timor, OPM is split into two main bands based on tribal groupings which operate in two strips along the PNG border.

A sign of the desperation is that unlike other guerilla movements such as GAM in Aceh or Falantil in East Timor, instead of bragging about the number of weapons they have, they even ask foreigners how they can buy guns.

But the government's hardline position might just produce another East Timor-style effect. If military force is used increasingly, moderates will be sidelined and Papuan's opinion will harden. And, as in East Timor, independence will be seen as the only way to end the violence.

Separatists call for UN-sponsored peace process in Papua

Kyodo News - December 14, 2000

Sydney -- Independence leaders from the Indonesian province of Papua issued a plea in Melbourne on Thursday for the United Nations to intervene in the escalating conflict between separatists and the Indonesian authorities.

The pro-independence Papua Presidium Council has called for a peaceful resolution to the current security crisis, "with the objective of protecting the Papuans from ... killings, mass murders, rape, violence and torture ... currently being perpetrated by Indonesia's state security 'instrumentalities'."

Council spokesman Franzalbert Joku said the UN should take immediate steps to reinstate "peace and normalcy" in Papua, also known as Irian Jaya. It should also sponsor peace negotiations between the council and the Indonesian government on neutral ground before February 26, 2001, he said.

The council's four-point peace plan also calls on Indonesia to release all Papuan detainees arrested during the latest crackdown and immediately cease repressive military interventions in the province.

Indonesian authorities have launched a major crackdown on separatist activity in the contested province in response to a rise in pro-independence activity from December 1, which marked the anniversary of a failed declaration of independence in 1961.

Police ban armed separatist force in Irian Jaya

Agence France-Presse - December 12, 2000

Jakarta -- The police chief of the restive Indonesian province of Irian Jaya on Tuesday banned the National Liberation Force (TPN), an armed civilian separatist group operating in the remote jungles of the province as subversive.

The ban was contained in a circular issued by Irian Jaya police chief Brigadier General Sylvanus Wenas, dated Tuesday, the Suara Pembaruan evening daily said.

The circular, the daily said, "bans the organisation which calls itself the TPN or any similar organisation affiliated to TPN or the embryo of the TPN organisation."

It said that the organisation "clearly was formed to provide resistance against the lawful government of the Republic of Indonesia with the aim of seceeding from the sovereign territory of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia."

The circular also warned of "firm measures in line with the prevailing legal regulations and laws" against anyone trying to incite people to, or help efforts or attempts, to secede from Indonesia.

It said that the ban was imposed after taking into consideration the security developments in Irian Jaya since December 1. Wenas could not be immediately reached for confirmation.

Irian Jaya police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel R. Siregar told AFP he was not yet aware of the circular. He said however, that the TPN was an organization which principally gathered armed civilians and was operating in the virtually inaccessible jungles that cover most of Irian Jaya.

"They are different from the Papua Taskforce which is visible, they are armed civilians, and we have so far not seen this TPN as an official organisation," Siregar said.

The Papua Taskforce is a moderate civilian security taskforce set up last December ahead of a pro- independence Papua Congress. Indonesian police ordered the Papua Taskforce disbanded shortly after police last week took over by force a building in Jayapura that the taskforce had used as its headquarters. The moderate leaders of the Taskforce have been jailed and charged with subversion.

The government has already outlawed the Free Papua Organisation (OPM), the armed wing of the independence movement in Irian Jaya.

Indonesian troops began infiltrating Irian Jaya in 1962, and in 1969 a UN-organized referendum ratified Indonesian sovereignty over the province after an "act of free choice," which independence leaders maintain was flawed and unrepresentative.

Irian Jaya is home to a native Melanesian population of 1.8 million people, most of them Christians, plus another 700,000 settlers from other parts of Indonesia.

Brutality replaces dialogue in Irian Jaya

Agence France-Presse - December 12, 2000

Jakarta -- Dialogue between the government and separatists in Indonesia's Irian Jaya province is giving way to brutality with moderates on both sides gagged, rights advocates fear.

Since the December 1 anniversary of an unrecognised declaration of independence, the last day the separatist Morning Star flag was allowed to fly in Irian Jaya, 18 people have been killed.

Both security forces and separatist guerillas in the province, on the western half of New Guinea island, have put their troops on full alert. Two of those killed were police officers, and four were non-native settlers, killed with the arrows, axes and crude spears of their native Papuan attackers.

Eleven were students or independence supporters, shot or beaten to death by police. In the capital Jayapura alone, 155 independence supporters and students have been rounded up in the past fortnight, of whom 12 are still being held.

Among those still behind bars, leaders of the predominantly- moderate Papua Presidium, which has been spearheading calls for independence while preaching non-violence and dialogue.

Despite their proposals to make West Papua a zone of non- violence, and their agreement to ban the flag, police jailed and placed subversion charges on them. Those not jailed have fallen silent.

The effective gagging has left a leadership vacuum in the struggle for independence, a sentiment felt deeply and widely across the former Dutch colony which had been promised independence by its colonisers as they departed in the early 1960s.

Indonesia, by gagging the moderate leaders have also gagged the advocates of non-violence and dialogue, the activists say. "The movement is completely rudderless now," Institute for Human Rights and Advocacy chief, John Rumbiak told AFP. "There is no- one to take responsibility."

In Jakarta, President Abdurrahman Wahid's pleas that the moderate leaders be freed so that dialogue can continue have fallen on deaf ears, with the military and parliament calling for tough action instead.

Public opinion polls suggest most of the Jakarta elite -- shocked by the loss of East Timor during a vote for independence last year, and fearing another rebellious province, Aceh, breaking away -- are behind force in Irian Jaya.

Even before the agreement to ban the flag after December 1 was enforced, Rumbiak called it "deadly," predicting an increase in grassroots frustration.

Guerillas from the Free Papua Movement (OPM) have been waging a rag-tag war with poison arrows and spears from dense jungles and remote mountains for more than 30 years against Indonesia, whose troops entered in 1962-63, and whose sovereignty was formalised in 1969.

Attacks on police and transmigrants in the past five days and comments by the movement's supreme commander indicate a heightened mobilisation by the guerillas.

"People saw the Presidium as the institution which would bring their aspirations to fruition," OPM commander Brigadier General Richard Hans Joweni told AFP over the weekend. "But they have shown themselves to be partners of Indonesia in supporting autonomy [under Indonesia] instead."

The OPM's highest military commanders met in the deep-jungle border region on November 20-26 to draw up a new manifesto. "The OPM fighters are committed to taking over the independence struggle and authority in West Papua before 2001," it states. "Without compromise, we will take tough action against each person or group who betrays or deviates from the struggle."

Yoweni said the draft guerilla strategies included a December 7 attack on police and the massing supporters at the border with Papua New Guinea. "We are preparing our troops to launch a kind of military offensive, so people are being massed there as part of a political strategy."

The December 7 attack, in which two policemen and a security guard were killed, was meant to "alert the public that we are out there, and we are moving," Yoweni said. The strategy, he said, was "hit-and-run" drawing Indonesian troops from their bases.

More separatist leaders detained in Irian Jaya

Associated Press - December 14, 2000

Jakarta -- Police in Indonesia's troubled Irian Jaya province have arrested five more separatist leaders on suspicion of subversion, their lawyer said yesterday.

The activists, all members of the pro-independence Papuan Presidium Council, are being questioned over a bloody riot in the remote town of Wamena in October, attorney Seth Waramori said.

Police confirmed the five had been detained in connection with the clashes in which up to 40 people died. The arrests are part of a crackdown by security forces on separatists in the province, also known as West Papua.

Five other senior members of the council, including leader Theys Eluay, were detained three weeks ago, also on subversion charges. All the men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Mr Waramori said the latest arrests were politically motivated. He said his clients, two of whom are Protestant clergymen, were innocent.

"When the incident took place, one of the men was in Jayapura," he said, referring to the provincial capital 400 km away. "The men were clearly not involved in what was a criminal offence."

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has been criticised recently by rights groups and foreign governments for the crackdown on secessionists in the province. Last week he ordered Theys Eluay released but his demand was ignored by security officers and hardline members of the government.

At least 18 people have been killed in clashes in the province since separatists held several days of independence rallies earlier this month.

Rebels in the province, which covers the western half of New Guinea island 4,000 km east of Jakarta, have been struggling for independence since Indonesia took control of the former Dutch colony in 1963.

Eight injured as Aceh rebels attack security forces

Agence France-Presse - December 12, 2000 (abridged)

Banda Aceh -- Eight policemen and soldiers were injured in separatist rebel attacks on security posts and a natural gas facility in Indonesia's Aceh province, police and residents said Tuesday. Three soldiers were wounded by grenade shrapnel when they came under attack while guarding the Exxon- Mobil Oil Indonesia's A-IV natural gas cluster in North Aceh's Matangkuli sub-district on late Sunday night.

Pasee district Free Aceh Movement (GAM) commander, Abu Sofyan Daud, claimed responsibility for the incident, saying it was in retaliation for the "abusive" attitude by troops in the area.

"We warned Exxon Mobil to immediately end its security contract with the TNI [armed forces] because security troops guarding the company have abused their authority by harassing residents," he said. "We have no intention to ban or disturb Exxon-Mobil's operation as long as they do not facilitate TNI soldiers' abuse of citizens," Daud told AFP.

Three elite police mobile brigade members were wounded after two suspected GAM members threw grenades at the Terbangan police post in South Aceh, said Aceh police spokesman Superintendent Yatim Suyatmo. "The three suffered injuries to their legs and chests, all of them are now being treated at the state hospital in Medan," the capital of neighboring North Sumatra province, Suyatmo told AFP Tuesday.

Suspected GAM rebels also attacked a police post in Geudong area of Samudera sub-district in North Aceh on late Sunday, injuring two duty policemen, Suyatmo added.

In Ulee Kareng area, six kilometers east of Banda Aceh, rebels also attacked the Syiah Kuala police post on late Monday night, residents said. No casualties were reported from the incident.

Rights worker recounts massacre

South China Morning Post - December 14, 2000

Agencies in Jakarta -- A human rights worker has given a chilling account of narrowly escaping a group execution in Aceh province in which four people were shot dead.

Nazaruddin, a volunteer worker with the Rehabilitation Action for Torture Victims in Aceh (Rata), watched in horror as three of his colleagues were gunned down and five others tortured by what he believes was a military death squad. When his turn came to be executed, Mr Nazaruddin untied the ropes binding his hands and fled into a forest as a volley of shots rang out behind him.

"I was too scared to look back to see what happened to the others. I ran for my life," the 22-year-old said. Bloodied and bruised, he hid for two days before being smuggled out of the territory to Jakarta by foreign human rights workers.

The United Nations and other international organisations have condemned the killings. It is the first time a witness has given a first-hand account of arbitrary executions in Aceh, a largely Muslim province on the western tip of Indonesia's archipelago where at least 6,000 people have been killed in a guerilla war between separatist fighters from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and Indonesian troops since the 1970s.

Mr Nazaruddin said he had been in a car in north Aceh with fellow Rata workers Ernita, 23, and two male co-workers, Idris, 27, and Bachtiar, 24, last week. They were pulled over by a convoy of men in civilian clothes who he suspected were soldiers, along with known government informants "led by a man called Ampon Thayeb".

"Thayeb ordered us to get out of the car. He ... took our wallets ... our watches, and Ernita was ordered to take off her necklace and bracelets," he said.

The informants accused them of divulging information about human rights abuses. "We explained that we were not political but humanitarian workers. Thayeb said we were lying, because the area was known as a GAM base and no one would be brave enough to go there, implying that we had to be GAM."

Mr Thayeb accused them of "stirring up the people" and only helping victims of military violence. Half an hour later, they were ordered out of the cars and beaten bloody with rifle butts. The beatings were filmed by one of the armed men. The convoy then drove through several military command posts. "Thayeb asked [a commander at one post] where he should get rid of us, saying 'Should we finish them off here?' The commander told him, 'No, not here'."

Arriving at a recently bombed village, the soldiers terrorised residents, seizing a local man, named as Rusli, who was trying to flee. The convoy then stopped in a forest, where Thayeb told the four aid workers they had 15 minutes to confess, Mr Nazaruddin said.

Near a ruined house, Ernita and Idris were shot in the head, the aid worker said. Then he ran. "I later heard two shots, and believe that Bachtiar and Rusli were killed then," he said.

Aceh's Human Rights Care Forum said on Saturday that 841 people had been killed in Aceh this year, more than twice the previous year's toll, with civilians making up more than two-thirds of the dead. A spokesman for Indonesia's security forces in Aceh denied policemen or soldiers were involved in last week's massacre.
Human rights/law

Human rights 'no better under Gus Dur'

Straits Times - December 11, 2000

Marianne Kearney, Jakarta -- A year under President Abdurrahman Wahid has led to a continuation of human-rights violations.

The total number of deaths, summary arrests, disappearances and tortures in some regions had reportedly far outweighed the violations during President B.J. Habibie's presidency.

The Aceh Human Rights Care Forum said last week that the death toll in the province was 841, far more than last year's total of 393. Of the 841 killed, 676 were civilians, 124 were members of the police or army, and 41 were members of the Free Aceh Movement.

A separate survey by rights group Kontras found that from Irian Jaya to Maluku, to Aceh, 2,119 people had died over the past year in incidents involving human-rights violations. However, the real total may be much higher as other officials in Maluku say the death toll from sectarian fighting from January to September was over 2,000.

Both the New York-based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the rising violence of security forces across the archipelago. This was particularly so in Aceh, where last week police executed three people working for an international humanitarian agency.

"The Indonesian government is allowing its security forces to target humanitarian workers in Aceh, just as it allowed militias to target such workers in West Timor," the two human-rights organisations said. "The international community should be every bit as outraged over these executions as they were over the brutal killing of three United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees workers in September, and take equally firm action."

The report also said Mr Abdurrahman, well-known for his humanism, had done little to reduce human-rights violations. "Throughout the year, he proved strong on the symbolism of human rights and weaker on the implementation of safeguards," it said.

The head of Indonesia's National Human Rights body, Mr Asmara Nababan, said it was not surprising a high number of human-rights violations continued to be committed in the strife-torn provinces of Aceh, Maluku and Irian Jaya.

He said abuses occurred because Mr Abdurrahman's government had failed to remove the armed forces' presence in territories across Indonesia, and especially because there was no significant legal prosecution for soldiers or police found to have committed abuses.

'The methodology of solving political and social conflicts is still to use repressive measures through the armed forces. As long as the armed forces are used to solve these problems, you will continue to have violations,' he said.

Abuses: Police take part

Irian Jaya

  • Dec 7: Following an attack on a police station, police raid student dormitories, beating and kicking up to 100 people. Three are beaten to death.
  • Dec 2: Police open fire on pro-independence supporters, killing at least nine people across Irian Jaya.
  • Dec 6: Four humanitarian workers assisting torture victims were stopped by police. Three were executed.
  • Sept 19: Two student activists with Sira -- a group that advocates a referendum on Aceh's political status -- were beaten by mobile police after being seized at gunpoint.
  • Sept 5: A volunteer with humanitarian organisation Save Emergency for Aceh was detained by the mobile police in the Meukek sub- district. He was released after having been punched, kicked and slashed.
  • Aug 27: Three staff of Oxfam working in South Aceh were hospitalised after being tortured by Brimob officers.
  • August: A US human-rights activist was killed and an Acehnese lecturer shot.
News & issues

Bulog probe 'offered bribe' to stop work

Straits Times - December 16, 2000

Jakarta -- A businessman offered a bribe to a special parliamentary committee to stop investigating a financial scandal that allegedly involves Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, a committee member has said.

Legislator Ade Komaruddin said one of his colleagues had been approached by the businessman, who promised a bribe of 25 billion rupiah (S$4.6 million) if the special committee immediately stopped its probe into the embezzlement of 35 billion rupiah from the National Logistics Agency (Bulog).

"My fellow legislator was offered the bribe by a businessman who wanted the committee to stop its activities. Unfortunately, my friend didn't mention the name," Mr Ade told reporters. He said the businessman presumably was a loyal supporter and close friend of Mr Abdurrahman.

If the special committee of the House of Representatives had accepted the bribe, each of its 50 members would have received 500 million rupiah.

Mr Ade said his friend had told the businessman that the committee would be disbanded only after Mr Abdurrahman gave an honest explanation and then resigned from the presidency. The parliamentary team has repeatedly denied claims that its main goal is to unseat Mr Abdurrahman.

Mr Ade also said the majority of the committee members would not accept a bribe. "But I can't ensure that all of them would refuse a bribe," he said.

The House has consistently supported the committee's probe into the Bulog scandal even though Mr Abdurrahman said the formation of the committee was illegal.

The President has long been on a list of officials to be summoned for their alleged role in the affair. He was supposed to appear at the House for questioning on Nov 15 but failed to show up because he was overseas.

Former National Police chief General Rusdihardjo has testified that Mr Abdurrahman confessed to him earlier this year that he was involved in the Bulog scandal. Mr Abdurrahman and his supporters have maintained their innocence.

Economic crisis causes 6 million children out of school

Xinhua - December 11, 2000

Jakarta -- The prolonged monetary crisis has resulted in six million children dropping out of school in Indonesia, according to the National Education Ministry.

This number does not include thousands of school-aged children who live in refugee camps due to natural disaster or social unrest, The Jakarta post daily on Monday quoted Director General of Elementary and Secondary Education of the ministry Indra Djati Sidi as saying.

As a result, the compulsory education program, that was only extended from six to nine years in 1994, is completely ineffectual, he said.

In an effort to salvage Indonesia's youth amid these inescapable realities, the government recently relaunched the Open Junior High School program for elementary school graduates aged 11 to 18.

The program provides free education for children of poor families, refugees and school-aged children outside the regular education system due to geographical problems, so they can complete the nine year compulsory education program consisting of six years of elementary school and three years of junior high school. Under the program, classes last only four hours a day so students can still help their parents earn money.

The ministry feels that more effort should be made to promote the program, especially under the current socioeconomic climate, said Indra. There are an estimated 400,000 students enrolled in 3,483 open schools in the country.

Enough, police warn hardliners

Straits Times - December 17, 2000

Jakarta -- Indonesian police have warned hard-line Muslim gangs raiding and smashing bars, discos and red-light areas in and around the capital, that they had gone too far.

The warning, by police spokesman Brigadier-General Saleh Saaf, came after members of the militant Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) shaved the heads of three alleged prostitutes with knives and killed a youth who came to the girls' defence.

"A young man named Eddie tried to stop the gang, but was beaten and stabbed to death," Brig-Gen Saaf said of the attack on Wednesday in Subang, 105 km east of Jakarta. "Nobody has the right to do such a horrible thing, especially since they claimed to be acting in the name of religion."

FPI members on Friday also attacked a police station in Karawang, some 80 km east of Jakarta, in retaliation over the police shooting out the tyres of one of its trucks. The truck had reportedly been driving off after an amusement arcade raid, loaded with stolen equipment.

Early this month, police said they had reached an agreement with the FPI on the operating hours of "recreational establishments". Despite this, FPI members had gone on their rampage.

Muslim extremists target nightspots

Associated Press - December 13, 2000

Chris Brummitt, Jakarta -- Posters plastered around Jakarta by the Islamic Defenders Front are clear enough: "Burn the nightspots that refuse to close for Ramadan," reads one. Another promises to destroy whoever "soils the holiness" of Islam's fasting month.

Sitting cross-legged in Islamic Defenders Front headquarters, the part-time preacher who heads the group's anti-vice squad strikes a more persuasive tone, but his message is the same.

"We let the owners of the discos know in advance. We write them letters," said Siroj Alwi, who wears a white Muslim tunic with military-style epaulets. "But if they refuse to shut, we close the places by force."

Attacks by Muslim groups on bars, discos, brothels and gambling joints have intensified since the beginning of Ramadan two weeks ago. Armed with swords and wooden poles, the gangs have smashed audio equipment, furniture and bottles of alcohol worth tens of thousands of dollars. Dozens of people were injured when waiters and thugs hired by the establishments resisted the raiders.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink during daylight hours. Family gatherings, prayers and meditation are encouraged after dark. About 90 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslim, making it the world's most populous Islamic nation.

The national constitution, however, provides for a secular government and promotes tolerance, and many of Indonesia's Muslims are influenced by pre-Islamic animistic beliefs and practices. As a consequence, official observance of the fasting month is less rigid than in neighboring Malaysia and Brunei.

Since coming to power 14 months ago, President Abdurrahman Wahid has urged harmony among different faiths. Wahid, a revered Muslim scholar who formerly led the nation's largest Muslim organization, often addresses gatherings of minority Christians and Hindus and has railed against religious fundamentalism.

But facing increasing pressure from Muslim groups, he has made some concessions. Most notably, he has agreed to introduce Islamic law, or Sharia, in the far western province of Aceh as a way of diluting support for separatists who want to establish an independent Muslim state. Thousands have been killed in a 25-year guerrilla war there.

Separately, Jakarta's own city administration also has bowed to the sensitivities of some stricter Muslims. It has ordered the closure of most nightspots during Ramadan. Many remained open, however, with their owners saying the rules are unclear.

The Islamic Defenders Front, which claims 70,000 members in Jakarta and branches in 19 provinces across Indonesia, says its attacks on nightspots are justified by verses in the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

Some Muslims also allege that police and officials accept payoffs from nightclub owners.

But critics say extremist groups are misinterpreting Islam for their own ends. "They are spoiling the image of Islam as a peaceful religion," said Nadjamin Ramli, chairman of the youth wing of Muhammadiyah, one of Indonesia's largest Muslim organizations.

Owners of the establishments say that if they suspend business they will not be able to pay their workers' salaries. "The staff need to eat," said Tegas Prita Soraya, who co-owns a salsa bar that was attacked recently. "Where will we get the money to pay them?"

Police fire at FPI truck after game centers attacked

Jakarta Post - December 12, 2000

Jakarta -- Responding to criticism against their sluggishness in enforcing the law to groups which continuously raid entertainment centers in the capital, policemen shot at a truck loaded with members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) who had just vandalized entertainment centers early Monday. A police report said that there was no injuries reported from the shooting since the West Jakarta Police officers only shot the tires of the truck that was used by the group in a bid to stop it.

The group had just returned from vandalizing four game centers at the Taman Duta Mas shopping complex in Jelambar, West Jakarta, police report said.

The report said that some 200 members of the group arrived at the complex at around 1am on a truck. Using several objects which included crowbars they broke into the game centers which were closed at the time. "The group destroyed several poker machines in the game centers. They also stole five air conditioners and one [drinking water] dispenser", an officer reported.

When police officers arrived at the scene, the assailants were holding two employees from one game center as hostage, before trying to escape in the truck. In an attempt to stop the truck police fired three warning shots. The truck kept speeding until police shot the truck tires. However, all of the group managed to escape. No arrests have been made in connection with this incident.

FPI is known to have raided several entertainment centers on the premise that -- as the group has claimed -- are being used for prostitution, gambling and drug transaction places. The group often reportedly destroys equipment in the entertainment centers during their attacks.

Many Muslim activists, however, have showed their opposition to FPI's way of fighting businesses they considered sinful.

Last week, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf announced that police would no longer tolerate such unlawful acts by FPI. Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Mulyono Sulaiman said that Monday's shooting was the police's way to prevent any further arbitrary unlawful acts from becoming a trend of the group. "We don't want to be arrogant, but [the shooting] was merely an effort to protect the people from any kind of lawless actions," Mulyono told reporters at the Jakarta Police Headquarters.

On Saturday night, an unidentified group attacked the Salsa Club Cafe and the Pasir Putih Seafood Market Grill and Bar restaurant in Kemang, South Jakarta. The attackers looted the restaurants and stole cafe patrons belongings, including wallets and cellular phones.

Separately, FPI condemned police for the shooting, saying that the action was erroneous since the police randomly shot FPI's car which was driving along peacefully. "It was such an uncivilized act," FPI's chairman Rezik told a media conference at their base in Petamburan, Central Jakarta.

Rezik said that the group had raided the game centers as they were used for gambling. He added that the officers shot a Kijang van, which was used by the group for "monitoring", not the truck used to transport FPI members in the predawn raid.

Rezik said that the shooting indicated that the West Jakarta Police condoned the businesses concerned. He also denied that the group members had tried to steal anything from the complex. "It is slanderous!" Rezik said in a raised voice, adding that the group demanded West Jakarta Police chief Supt. Iwan Nurisman Ismet should resign for his subordinates' actions.

FPI has also filed a report at the Jakarta Police Headquarters on the shooting. Rezik said that FPI vowed to continue raiding entertainment centers they believed to be used for any immoral activities.
Arms/armed forces

Wahid: punish people, not military, for abuses

Associated Press - December 15, 2000

Bangkok -- Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid said Friday that individual wrongdoers, not institution, must be punished in the crackdown against human rights violations by his country's military.

Speaking to members of human rights groups in Thailand, he said it was important to maintain respect for institutions such as the armed forces to maintain order. "The achievement of keeping law, keeping order, it's very important, but that's overlooked by everybody," said Wahid, who has come under increasing criticism, especially at home, for allowing his country's many urgent social, economic and political problems to drift.

Wahid was on a two-day official visit to Thailand, his fourth since he took the office last October. His remarks came as Indonesian and international human rights groups suggested that the Indonesian military was returning to the abuses it practiced during the rule of former President Suharto.

The military recently issued an arrest warrant for a human rights activist in the eastern province of Irian Jaya as part of wider crackdown on separatists there. Last week, what is suspected to be an Indonesian army death squad shot dead three human rights workers in Aceh on the island of Sumatra.

Wahid, in the context of suggesting that Western viewpoints may not be appropriate for tackling the problems of the developing world, pointed to the example of UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson, who he said spoke of punishing the Indonesian armed forces for violations of human rights.

"Of course, in doing so, she loses sight [of the point] that we should respect the institution but punish the persons who abuse the rights of the institution," said Wahid. "It's not the armed forces of Indonesia who are at wrong, but individuals."

He said cases of human rights violations have to be pursued through the courts, "but we have to stick to respect because without that we will not have a strong institution." "To develop honesty doesn't mean we have to destroy what is existing," he said.

Last month Robinson, the UN's top human rights official, visited Indonesia and offered to help the government set up a special court to hear cases against suspects accused of atrocities in East Timor last year.

East Timor, annexed by Indonesia in 1976, in August last year voted overwhelmingly for independence. In the aftermath of the vote, militias backed by the Indonesian military ran riot, burning homes and forcing a large part of the population to cross into Indonesia West Timor. Order was restored only with the arrival of an international peacekeeping force.

Britain to offer scholarships, training for RI Air Force

Jakarta Post - December 13, 2000

Jakarta -- The British government is planning to provide scholarships and training for Indonesian Air Force personnel, including fighter pilots, as part of its aid to improve the quality of the Air force's human resources, Antara reported.

After a breaking of the fast gathering on Monday, the Indonesian Air Force Chief of Staff Air Marshal Hanafie Asnan said he had discussed the possibility of the aid with British Ambassador Richard Gozney last week.

"The British government is ready to give scholarships to improve the human resources of the Indonesian Air Force," Hanafie said, adding that hopefully the military aid would be realized asearly next month. Hanafie also said he had already selected a number of Air Force officers to participate in the program.

He said if the Indonesian Air Force strengthens with the British assistance, so would its role in the Asia-Pacific region because neighboring countries like Australia and New Zealand had close historical relationship with Britain.

Hanafie also said the Indonesian Air Force was trying to buy military aircraft spare parts from countries outside the United States, like China and Russia, because the US had imposed a military embargo on Indonesia. He admitted the embargo on fighter aircraft spare parts had created myriad problems and reduced the Air Force's overall performance.
International relations

Australia opposed to Indonesian separatist movements

Jakarta Post - December 17, 2000

Auckland -- Australia does not want Indonesia to break up and is strongly opposed to its various separatist movements, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said here Saturday.

Downer and his New Zealand counterpart Phil Goff completed a day of talks here which included discussions on the worsening situation in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya.

Downer said there was no need for a bloodbath in the province and the world should encourage dialogue. "We make it perfectly clear that the violent option is totally unacceptable. There is no need for bloodshed," he told a press conference.

"We don't want to see the Balkanization of Indonesia. We don't want to see Irian Jaya break off from Indonesia. We support Indonesian sovereignty over Irian Jaya." He added if the international community started supporting secessionist movements in Indonesia it would create a "very significant regional crisis, a political crisis and a security crisis."

"Giving comfort to independence movements in Irian Jaya or Aceh or the Maluku or Kalimantan or wherever it might be ... is going to be inimical to the security interests of the Asia-Pacific region." Downer and Goff told reporters that they want to establish a new forum in the region, the West Pacific Forum. They hoped to start drafting a framework for the new body early next year.

The West Pacific Forum would include the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor as well as Australia and New Zealand. The forum would be aimed at strengthening trade and defense ties between the nations, the ministers said.

The forum would cover a broad range of nations that have in recent months suffered strained relations -- Australia and Indonesia in particular are still working to heal the diplomatic wounds caused by Canberra's high profile role in restoring peace to East Timor after the former Indonesian province voted in 1999 for independence.

Indonesia-Australia talks improve bilateral climate: PM

Agence France-Presse - December 10, 2000

Sydney -- Relations between Indonesia and Australia are greatly improved following last week's two-day meeting between ministers of the two countries in Canberra, Prime Minister John Howard said Sunday.

The first Indonesian ministerial group to visit Australia since relations became strained over last year's East Timor crisis took part in the meeting after cancellations earlier this year. Following the high-level talks, Australia and Indonesia are to push for a new West Pacific regional forum linking the two countries with East Timor, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and, perhaps, the Philipines.

The forum, which they said could deal with economic, political and social issues, was proposed by Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid in the aftermath of the East Timor crisis late last year, officials said at the end of the meeting.

Howard said in a televised interview Sunday that he was pleased the meeting finally happened adding: "The substance and the atmosphere of the meeting was excellent. Our relations are improving," he said. "There's still a long way to go and you have to take it in a measured way that is consistent with the political dignity of each side, but we are seeing an improvement at the government level and that's very encouraging."

Howard said he had long discussions with the five ministers, particularly with Foreign Minister and delegation leader Alwi Shihab, who has been critical of Australia. "But he indicated to me that, to use his own language, we're on the upward rather than the downward, and that's good," Howard said.

Last week' meeting was a precursor to a visit by Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, who has called off numerous planned visits under pressure from anti-Australian elements in the Indonesian parliament.

Shihab said Wahid had now agreed to visit Australia in February next year, but the visit remained uncertain because of continuing anger towards Australia over its involvement in the UN-backed peacekeeping force that stemmed the violence in East Timor last September.

Howard said he had had three productive meetings with Wahid in Tokyo, New York and Brunei and hoped he would now come to Australia. "I hope the next meeting might be in Australia, but that's a matter for him -- he's very welcome."
Economy & investment 

Government issues new debt restructuring policy

Jakarta Post - December 17, 2000

Jakarta -- The Financial Sector Policy Committee (FSPC) has issued a new ruling that will provide a legal basis for creditors to accelerate debt restructuring procedures for their debtors.

The committee said in a statement, copies of which were distributed discreetly among journalists, that creditors are permitted to recalculate interest rates to as low as 18 percent for debts in rupiah, and 10 percent for debts in US dollars.

The ruling, however, still leaves the possibility for creditors to cut interest rates lower than those set levels, provided that they are first approved by the creditors' steering committee.

The new ruling also stipulates that cash settlements of debts equal to or less than Rp 50 billion can be given an interest rate discount of up to 100 percent. Meanwhile debts valued at more than Rp 50 billion can only receive a maximum interest discountof 75 percent. The FSPC said that no interest rate discounts would be given to debtors who were not prepared to settle with cash payments.

The policy will particularly affect debtors under the control of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA) and almost all national banks, whose majority of shares are controlled by the government following the recapitalization program.

The FSPC, which includes several senior economic ministers, has the final say on major debt restructuring programs pursued by IBRA as well as banks under the government's control.

IBRA administers approximately Rp 260 trillion worth of bad debts, transferred from either liquidated or recapitalized banks.

RI debtors 'reluctant to pay their debts': IMF official

Jakarta Post - December 12, 2000

Kornelius Purba, Tokyo -- There is strong corporate culture in Indonesia of refusing to honor commitments. This is shown by the reluctance of the Indonesian debtors to repay their domestic and offshore debts, according a veteran International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said over the weekend.

Kunio Saito, IMF director at the regional office for Asia and the Pacific in Tokyo, pointed out that many of the owners of the private sector enterprises that are currently under the control of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), intentionally refused to repay their borrowings although many of them were actually capable of fulfilling their obligations.

Many of the debtors just use time-buying tactics in the hope that they can escape from their debts by prolonging the negotiating process until their creditors simply give up.

"To the extent that there are so many businessmen who do not want to pay, I think I can call it a culture," Saito said in an interview with The Jakarta Post at the IMF office in Uchisaiwai, the Tokyo financial district.

Saito described the corporate and banking restructuring programs as the most difficult parts of the Indonesian economic reform plan and implied that there had still not been major progress achieved in these two sectors over the last three years despite the regular issuing of Letters of Intent by the government and the IMF.

The senior economist, however, refused to identify the private companies. "Specific names I don't know. Even if you ask me I can not answer because I don't know," he said with a big smile.

Saito joined the IMF in the 1960s as a junior economist. He was a member of an IMF team in Jakarta from 1969 to 1971, when Soeharto had just replaced first president Sukarno and began his ambitious plan to rebuild the country's collapsing economy. He recalled how the IMF team worked closely with Soeharto's economic architects Wijoyo Nitisastro and Ali Wardhana.

"Young president Soeharto and young Wijoyo and young Ali Wardhana were the team which got the economy through," Saito recalled. Saito since then has been following the process of formulating and implementing the policies of the Indonesian government under the IMF framework including when Indonesia was hit by the economic crisis shortly after Thailand was assailed in July 1997. "Working in Thailand during the early crisis was probably the most memorable experience for me," he recalled.

With regard to Indonesia again, Saito said many of the Indonesian businessmen were able to maintain their strong moral hazard tendency due to the country's weak judicial system, complicated bankruptcy procedures and ineffective government supervision.

Compared to the private sector in Thailand and South Korea, which were also severely hit by the economic crisis in 1997, Indonesian private companies were the worst in terms of goodwill in settling their obligations. Businessmen in the other two countries were more cooperative in settling their debts.

Saito, however, also acknowledged that Indonesia was slower in implementing the corporate debt and bank restructuring programs, because its problems were also much bigger than the problems faced by private companies in Thailand and South Korea, and even in Japan in terms of the number of problematic companies and the size of their debts.

"The number of corporations that failed is much bigger, and the extent of the bad debts or the degree of the debt burden is much more severe in Indonesia, unfortunately," Saito remarked.

He could not hide his disappointment with the progress achieved by the current government in the corporate restructuring of private sector debts, especially in setting up a strong legal framework against the bad debtors, despite the government's recent measure to increase the number of judges to handle such matters.

Saito, however, also expressed his respect for the new Indonesian economic team, led by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy Rizal Ramli. "He made us work harder," he remarked.

The economist conceded that Indonesia should not shoulder the blame alone. The international community, including the IMF, international institutions and money lenders, described the Asian economy, including Indonesia, several years ago as a world miracle and that the 21st century would belong to Asia.

Money and working capital were then carelessly disbursed to the region, as the foreign investors and creditors were trapped by their own greed for profits, he noted. "We all believed in the Asian miracle at that time," said Saito and burst out laughing.

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