Indonesia

Questions surround police shooting at Australian-operated Indonesian mine

By John Roberts, 20 January 2004

On the morning of January 7, Indonesia’s notorious Mobile Brigade riot police, known as Brimob, opened fire on a demonstration outside the Toguraci open-cut gold mine on Halmahera Island in the Indonesian province of North Maluka. One person was killed, another seriously injured and at least six arrested, including a priest.

New evidence of Indonesia’s war of repression in Aceh

By John Roberts, 7 January 2004

For more than seven months, the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) have been waging a war of repression in the province of Aceh, aimed at crushing the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and intimidating the population as a whole.

Investigations announced into alleged Indonesian atrocities in West Papua

By John Roberts, 3 December 2003

The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) announced in mid-November that it is establishing inquiries into alleged cases of human rights abuses by the security forces in Papua. While only two incidents will be probed, the investigations provide a glimpse into the ruthless methods used by the military and police to shore up Jakarta’s control over the province.

Indonesia: Trials underway into Suharto-era atrocities

By John Roberts, 24 November 2003

Four trials have begun of 14 current and retired members of Indonesia’s armed forces (TNI) for a massacre carried out nearly 20 years ago, on September 12, 1984. Evidence emerging in the courts has the potential of becoming a political embarrassment, not only for the regime of President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is closely aligned with the military, but with the American and Australian governments, both of which have moved to re-establish close ties with the TNI.

The political origins and outlook of Jemaah Islamiyah

Part 3

By Peter Symonds, 14 November 2003

Below we are publishing the concluding section of a three-part series on Jemaah Islamiyah. Part 1 was posted on November 12 and Part 2 on November 13.

The political origins and outlook of Jemaah Islamiyah

Part 3

By Peter Symonds, 14 November 2003

Below we are publishing the concluding section of a three-part series on Jemaah Islamiyah. Part 1 was posted on November 12 and Part 2 on November 13.

The political origins and outlook of Jemaah Islamiyah

Part 2

By Peter Symonds, 13 November 2003

Below we are publishing the second in a three-part series on Jemaah Islamiyah. Part 1 was published on November 12 and the final section will be published tomorrow.

The political origins and outlook of Jemaah Islamiyah

Part 1

By Peter Symonds, 12 November 2003

If asked the question: “What is Jemaah Islamiyah?” just 18 months ago, most people would have been unable to reply. But since the Bali bombings in October 2002, “JI” has become a virtual household word, synonymous with Islamic extremism and terrorist violence throughout South East Asia. Despite its notoriety, however, almost nothing of any genuine substance has been written on the organisation.

The political origins and outlook of Jemaah Islamiyah

Part 1

By Peter Symonds, 12 November 2003

If asked the question: “What is Jemaah Islamiyah?” just 18 months ago, most people would have been unable to reply. But since the Bali bombings in October 2002, “JI” has become a virtual household word, synonymous with Islamic extremism and terrorist violence throughout South East Asia. Despite its notoriety, however, almost nothing of any genuine substance has been written on the organisation.

Human rights group condemns Indonesia’s “hidden war” in Aceh

By Carol Divjak and James Conachy, 21 October 2003

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) paper issued last month provides further details of the repressive campaign that the Indonesian government is waging in the oil-rich province of Aceh. The province was placed under martial law on May 19 and a massive operation involving 40,000 Indonesian troops and police is underway to crush the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has fought for independence from Jakarta for some 30 years.

A highly political verdict: Indonesian court convicts Islamic cleric

By John Roberts, 9 September 2003

In what was clearly a political decision, the Central Jakarta District Court last week convicted prominent Indonesian Islamic extremist cleric Abu Bakar Bashir of treason and immigration violations and sentenced him to a four-year jail term. But it failed to find him guilty of the primary charges related to terrorist plots allegedly carried out by Jemaah Islamiah (JI)—the organisation accused of the Bali bombings in October 2002.

Australian military renews ties with Indonesia’s military thugs

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 22 August 2003

Few things expose the completely fraudulent character of the “global war on terrorism” as much as the decision of the Australian government last week to renew close relations with the thugs of Indonesia’s notorious Kopassus special forces. In the name of fighting terror, Canberra is planning to collaborate with one of the organisations in South East Asia that has a proven record of terrorism—from the torture and murder of political opponents to systematic violence against entire populations in East Timor, West Papua and Aceh.

Freeport murders hamper US plans for ties with the Indonesian military

By John Roberts, 22 August 2003

An ambush in West Papua on August 31, 2002, that resulted in the deaths of three teachers, including two Americans, employed at the US-operated Freeport gold mine has become a significant obstacle to the attempts of the Bush administration to reforge links with the Indonesian armed forces (TNI). Largely as a result of the determined efforts of the families of the victims, the US Congress has felt obliged, for the time being, to impede funding for the Indonesian military which has been implicated in the attack.

Bali verdict: a political show trial based on unconstitutional law

By Mike Head, 14 August 2003

Acting under direct pressure from Western governments for swift convictions and severe punishments, a special Indonesian court last week sentenced Amrozi bin Nurhasyim to death for his alleged part in the October 2002 Bali bombing. The proceedings became a political show trial, testing out anti-terrorist decrees imposed by President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s administration one week after the Bali explosion.

Indonesia’s dirty war of repression in Aceh

By John Roberts, 11 August 2003

At the end of July, a delegation from the Indonesian upper house of parliament (MPR) visited the war-torn province of Aceh in northern Sumatra and proclaimed the huge military offensive against the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM), begun on May 19, a success.

Washington and Canberra seize on Jakarta bombing to further justify “war on terror”

By Peter Symonds, 7 August 2003

At least 14 people are dead and almost 150 injured after the blast from a large car bomb ripped through the ground floor of the luxury JB Marriott Hotel and surrounding buildings in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta at lunchtime on Tuesday. Those killed include two taxi drivers, hotel employees and a Dutch businessman. Not all of the bodies, some of which were severely burnt, have been identified.

Bali bombing trials leave key questions unanswered

By John Roberts, 24 July 2003

Highly publicised trials of three of the suspects in the Bali bombings last October have been underway in an Indonesian courtroom for two months. Despite the claims of Indonesian prosecutors, the evidence presented has been far from conclusive. Moreover, the basic question remains unanswered: given the sophisticated planning and technical expertise required to coordinate three simultaneous bomb blasts, what organisation or organisations were responsible for perpetrating the atrocity that claimed the lives of 202 innocent people?

Singapore witnesses bolster flagging Jakarta terrorist trial

By John Roberts, 8 July 2003

Three witnesses being held in custody in Singapore testified via video link in the Jakarta trial of Islamic fundamentalist cleric Abu Bakar Bashir on June 26. For the first time since the proceedings began on April 23, the three men gave evidence linking Bashir to the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) network, to terrorist bombings of churches in Indonesia in 2000 and to an alleged plot to kill Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Indonesian military intensifies operations in Aceh

By John Roberts, 24 June 2003

Despite scant media coverage of its operations in the north Sumatra province of Aceh, evidence is emerging that the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) is engaged in forced evacuations and extra-judicial executions as part of its campaign to terrorise the local population and wipe out the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Indonesian prosecutors attempt to link Muslim cleric to terror network

By John Roberts, 13 June 2003

Late last month, prosecutors in the trial of Muslim fundamentalist cleric Abu Bakar Bashir placed four men, all accused of the participating in the terrorist attack in Bali on October 12, on the stand as witnesses in the Jakarta trial.

Indonesia targets civilians in its military offensive in Aceh

By John Roberts, 4 June 2003

Despite attempts by the Indonesian government to block information on the military’s activities, it is becoming clear that the offensive by the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) in the northern-most province of Aceh against the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) involves a deliberate campaign of mass terror against the civilian population.

Indonesia launches “shock and awe” military offensive in Aceh

By Peter Symonds, 22 May 2003

Exactly five years after the fall of military strongman Suharto, the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) have unleashed a military offensive that recalls the worst atrocities of the dictatorship. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri gave the green light on Monday for the TNI to carry out its own massive “shock and awe” operation aimed at destroying the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and terrorising the local population in northern Sumatra.

Indonesia makes a small but significant purchase in Moscow

By John Ward, 15 May 2003

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri signed a little-publicised deal late last month to purchase four Russia fighter jets and two helicopters as part of a much larger potential order. Still subject to a US ban on military purchases, Jakarta’s decision to buy elsewhere marks a small, but significant shift from its current dependence on US military hardware.

Indonesian military about to launch a major offensive in Aceh

By Carol Divjak, 13 May 2003

The Indonesian military (TNI) is poised to launch an all-out offensive against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) after the rebels yesterday ignored a government deadline to formally abandon their demand for independence and begin handing in weapons.

Indonesian presidential decree hands more power to military in Papua

By John Roberts, 7 May 2003

A study issued last month by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) highlighted a little reported decree issued by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in January mandating the division of Papua into three separate provinces.

Indonesian military court hands out light sentences for murder of Papuan leader

By John Roberts, 29 April 2003

A military court in the Indonesian city of Surabaya last week sentenced seven Kopassus soldiers to jail terms of between 24 and 42 months for the murder of Papuan leader Theys Eluay in November 2001. Announcing the verdicts, the court martial president Colonel Yamini declared: “The defendants have been legally and convincingly proven guilty of torturing [Eluay] to death.”

Trial of Islamic cleric accused of terrorism begins in Jakarta

By John Roberts, 24 April 2003

The trial of Islamic fundamentalist cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been charged with treason, opened in Jakarta yesterday. The 90-minute hearing was held at a special courtroom in the Meteorological and Geophysics Agency, which was ringed by 500 armed police backed by water cannon. Everyone entering the court was searched.

A groundswell of antiwar protests in Indonesia

By John Roberts, 10 April 2003

In the three weeks since the US launched its invasion of Iraq, Indonesia has seen a wave of antiwar protests—large and small—throughout the archipelago.

Indonesian president "strongly deplores" US attack on Iraq

By John Roberts, 26 March 2003

In a rare media conference last Thursday, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri made a formal statement “strongly deploring” the US invasion of Iraq and branding the action as “an act of aggression, which is in contravention of international law”. She expressed “deep regrets” that the UN Security Council had been sidelined, warning that the unilateral US military action “threatened the world order”.

FBI dispatched to Indonesia to deal with Freeport murders

By John Roberts, 24 January 2003

After inconclusive Indonesian investigations into an ambush near the Freeport mine in West Papua last year, a team of US FBI investigators is due to arrive this week to take part in a joint inquiry. Two American teachers and an Indonesian died in the attack and 12 others were injured. The evidence so far points to the involvement of officers of the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) in West Papua and possibly at higher levels in Jakarta.

An uneasy peace deal signed between Indonesian government and Aceh rebels

By John Roberts, 6 January 2003

After more than two years of negotiations, representatives of the Indonesian government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed a six-page peace accord on December 9 in Geneva aimed at bringing 26 years of armed conflict to an end.

Indonesian court delivers token guilty verdict in East Timor cases

By John Roberts, 12 December 2002

Verdicts delivered late last month in Jakarta by the Indonesian government’s ad hoc court trying cases of human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999 underline the cynical nature of the judicial proceedings.

Washington and Canberra cover up Indonesian military connection to Papua killings

By John Roberts, 8 November 2002

An article published in the Washington Post last weekend reported evidence that the highest levels of the Indonesian armed forces (TNI), including TNI chief General Endriartono Sutarto, were involved in the August 31 ambush of employees of the Freeport McMoRan Inc mine in the province of Papua. Two Americans and an Indonesian died in the attack and another 12 people were wounded.

Indonesian government bows to foreign pressure and issues anti-terrorist decree

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 23 October 2002

On October 19, just a week after the terrorist attack on the Indonesian island of Bali, President Megawati Sukarnoputri issued an anti-terrorist decree that greatly increases police powers of arrest and interrogation and provides the death penalty for a series of offences. The decree has been made retrospective to October 12 to cover the bombings in Bali, which have now officially claimed 190 lives.

After the Bali bombing:

Washington and Canberra push for military ties with Indonesia

By Peter Symonds, 18 October 2002

Six days after bomb blasts killed at least 180 people and injured more than 300 others on the Indonesian island of Bali, none of the basic questions as to how and why the attack was carried out have been answered. Yet, despite the lack of evidence, the Bush administration and the Australian government have both blamed Al Qaeda for the attack, demanded Jakarta crack down on its alleged affiliate in South East Asia—Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)—and used the tragedy to forge new links with the Indonesian military.

Further indications of Indonesian military involvement in Papuan mine murders

By John Roberts, 15 October 2002

In the six weeks since the murder of two American teachers and one Indonesian employee of the international school at the US-owned Freeport gold and copper mine in the Indonesian province of Papua, further evidence has emerged pointing to the involvement of the Indonesian military (TNI).

Washington seizes on Bali terror bombing to demand crackdown in Indonesia

By Peter Symonds, 14 October 2002

A devastating bomb blast late on Saturday night in the Kuta Beach tourist area of the Indonesian island of Bali has killed at least 187 people and injured more than 300. No one has claimed responsibility for the carnage, but Washington and Canberra have both been quick to point the finger at Islamic fundamentalist groups allegedly linked to Al Qaeda and to step up the pressure on Indonesia to take tougher measures to suppress their activities.

The US exploits “terrorist threats” to step up pressure on Indonesia

By John Roberts, 2 October 2002

On the first anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on the US, the Bush administration declared a high-level terrorist alert as part of its efforts to maintain momentum in the “global war on terrorism”. A particular focus of the alert was South East Asia, where several US embassies were shut down.

Ambush near US-owned mine in Papua suggests Indonesian army involvement

By John Roberts, 13 September 2002

In the early afternoon of August 31, an estimated 15 gunmen opened fire with M-16 assault rifles on three Land Cruisers travelling on a mountain road near the huge US-owned Freeport gold and copper mine in the Indonesian province of Papua. Three people, one Indonesian and two Americans, were killed and 10 others wounded. All were staff members at the mine’s international school.

Indonesian court imposes nominal jail term on parliamentary speaker

By Peter Symonds, 10 September 2002

An Indonesian court last week found parliamentary speaker Akbar Tandjung guilty of corruption and sentenced him to three years in jail. The trial was one of a series of high profile cases that have been watched in international financial circles for signs that the country’s legal system was prepared to curb the corruption rife under the former Suharto regime.

Indonesian court acquits military of East Timor atrocities

By Peter Symonds, 29 August 2002

The outcome of the first trials by an Indonesian court over the massacres in East Timor in 1999, prior to and following the UN-sponsored vote on independence, has proved to be a farce. According to UN figures, at least 1,000 East Timorese were killed by pro-Indonesian militia groups, backed by the Indonesian armed forces (TNI), in an effort to intimidate and terrorise pro-independence supporters.

Indonesian parliament puts a democratic gloss on an autocratic constitution

By John Roberts, 27 August 2002

Indonesia’s People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), which met in Jakarta August 1-11, has approved a series of constitutional changes that are aimed at ending some of the more blatantly anti-democratic provisions of the country’s political system. The changes, however, remain superficial and allow for the continuing dominance of the current ruling elites, including the military, which holds key positions in the administration of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Indonesian president endorses ex-Suharto crony for re-election as Jakarta governor

By Luciano Fernandez, 8 August 2002

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has triggered sharp protests inside and outside her own party—the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P)—through her endorsement of the incumbent Jakarta governor Sutiyoso for the same position in upcoming elections in September.

Indonesian court hands Tommy Suharto a light sentence

By John Roberts, 7 August 2002

A five-judge panel of the Jakarta District Court pronounced its long-awaited verdict on Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra, the youngest son of the former Indonesian dictator General Suharto, on July 26. The court found him guilty of murdering a judge, illegal possession of weapons and evading imprisonment and sentenced him to 15 years in jail.

Washington takes another step towards restoring US-Indonesian military ties

By John Roberts, 1 August 2002

The Bush administration has taken a significant step towards ending the current Congressional ban on relations between the US and Indonesian military with the announcement that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the allocation of $400,000 for the training of Indonesian officers in the US. While the amount of money is small, it is clearly viewed as a means for undermining US restrictions on collaboration with the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).

Karaoke bar fire kills 53 in Indonesia

By John Edwards, 24 July 2002

Fifty-three people died after fire engulfed a karaoke bar in the Indonesia port city of Palembang on the island of Sumatra on the evening of July 7. As the fire swept through the five-floor Heppi Karaoke bar, people were trapped inside because the building had just one stairwell and the only elevator had failed.

Indonesian Supreme Court bows to international pressure in key bankruptcy case

By John Roberts, 17 July 2002

Under considerable international pressure, the Supreme Court of Indonesia on July 8 overruled a decision by the country’s Commercial Court declaring bankrupt the local subsidiary of the Canadian-based Manulife Financial Corporation. The June 13 Commercial Court judgment, which threatened Manulife’s assets in a company considered solvent by Indonesia’s finance ministry, had provoked outrage in international financial circles and warnings of a collapse of foreign investment.

Witnesses in Jakarta trials testify to East Timor murders

By John Roberts, 19 June 2002

The first prosecution witnesses in the trials of Indonesian military, police and civilian officials have provided chilling accounts of the violence unleashed in East Timor in 1999, leading up to and following the UN-organised plebiscite on independence. In all, 25 men have now been charged in a special human rights court in Jakarta for allowing or failing to prevent mass killings by the military, police and the militias they hired, organised and armed.

Indonesian military continues its repression in Aceh

By Carol Divjak, 18 June 2002

Despite peace negotiations held in Geneva last month, the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) is continuing its offensive against the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in the north of Sumatra. The current operations are part of a brutal civil war that has raged for 26 years and cost the lives of at least 12,000 people.

Indonesian military steps up repression in West Papua

By John Roberts, 8 June 2002

A number of recent reports indicate that the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) is preparing to intensify the crackdown on independence supporters in the remote eastern province of West Papua. Pro-independence and human rights groups claim that additional special forces troops and Islamic militia groups are being moved into the province.

Paris club decision keeps Indonesian economy temporarily afloat

By Amanda Hitchcock, 16 May 2002

Two decisions by international economic bodies last month provided a much-needed, temporary reprieve to the Indonesian government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri, but none of the underlying weaknesses of the debt-burdened economy have been resolved. In mid-April, the Paris Group of Indonesian creditors gave a $US5.4 billion extension for repayments on loans due to expire this fiscal year. Subsequently, the International Monetary Fund disbursed $347 million worth of loans.

US administration pushes for military presence in Indonesia

By Peter Symonds, 12 April 2002

Under the banner of its “global war on terrorism,” the Bush administration is pushing the Indonesian government to reestablish close military relations with the US, including the possible stationing of American troops in the archipelago. As US-Indonesian military cooperation remains the subject of a ban by US Congress, Washington’s moves have been relatively low-key but nonetheless concerted and insistent.

Indonesian generals display contempt for East Timor trials

By Luciano Fernandez and Peter Symonds, 10 April 2002

If the trial in Jakarta of soldiers and civilian officials accused of atrocities in East Timor has revealed anything so far, it is the increasing brazenness with which the Indonesian generals are reasserting their political influence and displaying their contempt for the legal process and basic democratic rights.

Jakarta’s flood victims face bureaucratic indifference and corruption

By Carol Divjak, 1 April 2002

In late January severe floods hit Indonesia and inundated much of Jakarta, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Weeks later the water has receded but many of the victims are still suffering and lack access to basic essentials.

Jakarta corruption trial aimed at reassuring foreign investors

By John Roberts, 26 March 2002

One of Indonesia’s most prominent political figures, Akbar Tandjung, speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR) and chairman of the Golkar party, went on trial yesterday in Jakarta on corruption charges. Politically a lot is riding on this prosecution for the administration of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Pressure builds on Jakarta to toe the line on Bush’s "war on terrorism"

By John Roberts, 6 March 2002

An alleged plot to attack US and Western facilities in Singapore has become the pretext for putting pressure on Indonesia to play an active role in the Bush administration’s “global war on terrorism”. The issue has already provoked sharp public exchanges between Singapore and Jakarta. Behind-the-scenes, Washington is insisting that Indonesia arrest two Islamic clerics it claims are linked to the plans.

At least 50 dead as floods inundate much of Jakarta

By Carol Divjak, 13 February 2002

At least 57 people are dead and 365,000 have been made homeless in one of the worst floods in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in decades. Flooding and mudslides throughout the archipelago, including East Java, Madura, Aceh, Bali and West Kalimantan, have claimed another 90 lives.

Indonesian president proposes to drop charges against Suharto

By John Roberts, 11 January 2002

Nearly four years after Indonesia’s General Suharto was forced to resign in May 1998, he has not been put on trial for any of his regime’s brutal crimes or for the systematic corruption that enabled his family to amass huge fortunes during his 32 years in office.

Indonesia: religious violence flares again in Central Sulawesi

By John Roberts, 7 January 2002

Despite a peace deal signed on December 20 between Christian and Muslim leaders in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi, sectarian violence is continuing. On January 1, four bombs exploded outside four churches in the provincial capital of Palu, wounding at least one person.

Tommy Suharto given kid glove treatment by Indonesian police

By John Roberts, 10 December 2001

After more than a year on the run, Hutomo “Tommy” Mandalaputra, son of the former Indonesian strongman Suharto, was finally “captured” by police at a Jakarta hideout last month. He went underground after being convicted last year of fraud in relation to an $11 million land deal and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

West Papuan separatist leader murdered in suspicious circumstances

By John Roberts, 22 November 2001

The murder of Papuan Presidium Council leader Theys Eluay in murky circumstances on the night of November 10-11 has provoked accusations that he was killed for supporting independence for the Indonesian province of West Papua or Irian Jaya. More than a week after his death, few details have been released.

Creditors’ meeting highlights Indonesia’s economic and political fragility

By John Roberts, 13 November 2001

A meeting of Indonesia’s creditors in Jakarta last week underscored just how precarious is the political and economic situation in the country.

Megawati continues balancing act in Indonesia

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 22 October 2001

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri continues to walk a fine line over her government’s response to the US attacks on Afghanistan. In late September the leader of the world’s most populous Muslim country flew to Washington and, in return for an economic assistance package, gave her support to the US “war against terrorism”. At the same time, however, she confronts a volatile political situation at home where, despite the relatively small size of the anti-war protests so far, there is wide hostility to US aggression.

Indonesian court overturns conviction of Tommy Suharto

By John Roberts, 10 October 2001

The ruling by Indonesia’s highest court on October 1 to overturn last year’s fraud conviction of Hutomo “Tommy” Mandalaputra, son of the country’s former military strongman Suharto, has come as an unwelcome shock to the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri, as well as the financial markets.

Megawati’s support for US war drive exacerbates tensions in Indonesia

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 27 September 2001

The stakes were high for both sides when Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri landed in the US last week. For the Bush administration, the support of the world’s most populous Muslim nation for its “war against terrorism” is a key element in its diplomatic offensive to isolate the Taliban regime prior to any military strikes against Afghanistan. Behind the scenes the US undoubtedly exerted considerable pressure to ensure not only that Megawati ignored calls at home to postpone her planned visit, but also that she unambiguously endorse the US campaign during her trip.

Megawati apologises but Indonesian army repression continues in Aceh

By Peter Symonds, 29 August 2001

One of the clearest indications of the direction of the new Indonesian administration of President Megawati Sukarnoputri is the ongoing military repression underway in the north Sumatran province of Aceh. An estimated 30,000 heavily armed soldiers and police, including elite special forces units, are continuing an offensive against the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

New Indonesian cabinet dominated by pro-IMF bureaucrats and Suharto-era thugs

By Peter Symonds, 10 August 2001

More than two weeks after the Indonesian parliament ousted Abdurrahman Wahid, the newly-installed President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, finally unveiled her cabinet yesterday. Even before any policy has been announced, the new administration’s agenda is clear from its composition. It combines a team of economic ministers committed to implementing the IMF’s economic restructuring, with a group of generals, bureaucrats and politicians schooled in the thuggish methods of the Suharto junta to deal with the opposition such measures will inevitably produce.

Indonesian military emerges as powerbroker in Megawati’s installation as president

By Peter Symonds, 24 July 2001

A great deal of effort is being expended in Indonesia, with the support of the international media and major powers, to give an aura of democratic respectability to yesterday’s replacement of President Abdurrahman Wahid by Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. But it is difficult to hide the fact that the real powerbrokers, in what has been a bitter factional dispute in the ruling elite between two so-called democrats, have been the instruments of the former Suharto dictatorship—the military and Suharto’s Golkar party—along with the “Axis” alliance of right-wing Islamic parties.

Indonesia’s political crisis deepens as Wahid orders the arrest of police chief

By Peter Symonds, 13 July 2001

The protracted political crisis surrounding Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid is rapidly coming to a head following his sudden decision yesterday to order the arrest of the national police chief, General Bimantoro. Last night the ranks of the police were sharply split with three police tanks and three truckloads of police parked outside Bimantoro’s home as a mark of defiance. The general was reportedly in Singapore for a medical check-up.

Protests over new Indonesian labour laws and fuel subsidy cuts

By Terry Cook, 9 July 2001

A series of strikes last month in Indonesia against changes to the country’s labour laws point to a growing discontent over deteriorating wages and rising levels of unemployment. While there have been a number of stoppages over the past year at individual enterprises, some quite protracted, June’s industrial action was broader in scope and produced a distinct nervousness in President Abdurrahman Wahid’s shaky government. Wahid is currently embroiled in a last-ditch attempt to stave off parliamentary proceedings in early August for his impeachment and removal from office.

A warning sign of a resurgent rightwing

Indonesian police and thugs break up anti-globalisation conference

By Peter Symonds, 14 June 2001

A police raid on an anti-globalistion conference in Jakarta last week is a provocative attack on democratic rights and marks a dangerous new turn in the political situation in Indonesia.

Indonesian parliament votes for impeachment proceedings against the president

By Peter Symonds, 1 June 2001

After weeks of political turmoil in Jakarta, the Indonesian lower house of parliament voted on May 30 to censure Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid for a third time and convene a special session of the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) on August 1—the final step in the lengthy impeachment process set in motion in February. Ringed by thousands of heavily armed police and troops, the DPR voted 365 to four for the special MPR session at which Wahid will be called to account for his presidency. If the MPR votes not to accept the speech, he will be formally impeached and removed from office.

Indonesian military chiefs defy president's plans for a state of emergency

By Peter Symonds, 25 May 2001

The last week of backroom intrigue and political manoeuvring in Jakarta—involving the president, vice-president and the military chiefs—has underscored the highly volatile political situation in Indonesia in the lead up to next week's parliamentary session. The DPR or lower house is due to meet on May 30 and is likely to overwhelmingly censure President Abdurrahman Wahid for a third time, paving the way for the convening of a special session of the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) to consider his impeachment and removal from office.

Indonesian president running out of options as third parliamentary censure approaches

By Peter Symonds, 18 May 2001

The events of the past fortnight in Jakarta appear to make a final showdown between President Abdurrahman Wahid and parliament all but inevitable. He has already been formally censured twice by the DPR or lower house and faces a third censure when the body reconvenes on May 30, paving the way for a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to consider his impeachment and removal from office.

As parliament issues a second censure

Indonesian president's future increasingly in doubt

By Peter Symonds, 2 May 2001

Indonesia's lower house of parliament (DPR) voted overwhelmingly on Monday—363 for, 52 against and 42 abstentions—to issue a second memorandum censuring President Abdurrahman Wahid. The vote ensures that the protracted political standoff in Jakarta between Wahid and his critics will continue as the parliament edges closer to impeaching the president and removing him from office.

Indonesian president authorises military crackdown in Aceh

By Peter Symonds, 12 April 2001

The Indonesian government is preparing to intensify military operations against separatist guerrillas in the province of Aceh in northern Sumatra in a bid to reopen lucrative gas fields and processing facilities shut down for more than three weeks.

Indonesian president moves one step closer to impeachment

By Peter Symonds, 30 March 2001

In a formal reply to the Indonesian parliament on March 28, President Abdurrahman Wahid denied any involvement in two financial scandals and insisted that his parliamentary censure on February 1 was unconstitutional. The speech, which was read in the lower house (DPR) on Wahid's behalf by Justice Minister Baharrudin Lopa, has done little to appease the president's critics, who are expected to take the next step toward removing him from office by voting for a second censure on April 30.

Wahid's position as Indonesian president looks increasingly shaky

By Peter Symonds, 10 March 2001

All the signs indicate, both inside and outside Indonesia, that Abdurrahman Wahid's tenure as president is rapidly coming to an end—more than three years before his term of office is formally due to expire.

Racial killings in Borneo: a symptom of deep-seated social tensions

By Peter Symonds, 27 February 2001

Gangs of indigenous Dayaks have butchered hundreds of people over the last week in the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan in a racially-motivated killing spree aimed at driving settlers from the island of Madura out of the Borneo region.

Indonesian leaders desperate to keep power struggle within ruling circles

By Peter Symonds, 19 February 2001

Indonesia is invariably described in the international press as “a fledgling democracy,” “a fluid democracy” or even “a struggling democracy”. But the events surrounding the recent attempts to oust President Abdurrahman Wahid once again highlight the fundamentally anti-democratic character of the country's political institutions, parties and leaders, including so-called reformers like Wahid himself, Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) chairman Amien Rais.

Censure of President Wahid reveals shifting political alliances in Indonesia

By Peter Symonds, 5 February 2001

The decision of Indonesia's lower house of parliament (DPR) on February 1 to formally censure President Abdurrahman Wahid marks a major shift in political alignments in Jakarta.

Bomb blasts in Indonesia: a sign of escalating political instability

By Peter Symonds, 3 January 2001

A series of bomb blasts at churches in Jakarta and other cities across Indonesia on Christmas Eve underscores the country's political fragility and the tenuous character of President Abdurrahman Wahid's grip on power.

Jakarta cracks down on independence rallies

The historical roots of the confrontation brewing in West Papua

By Peter Symonds, 7 December 2000

A brutal crackdown by Indonesian security forces in West Papua over the last week, in which at least nine people have been killed and 61 arrested, has set the stage for a sharpening confrontation as the Indonesian government attempts to stamp out any open support for independence in the province.

Amid power struggle in Jakarta

Indonesian security forces fail to block independence rally in Aceh

By Peter Symonds, 14 November 2000

Despite concerted intimidation and obstruction by Indonesian security forces, tens of thousands of people took part in a two-day rally in Banda Aceh last weekend to demand a UN-supervised referendum on the future of the province of Aceh in northern Sumatra. Estimates put the numbers involved at between 30,000 and 100,000, significantly less than a huge rally in November last year attended by up to a million people.

Timor Gap dispute highlights motives behind Australian intervention

By Mike Head, 25 October 2000

An impasse in negotiations between Australia and the UN over the future of the immense oil and natural gas deposits beneath the Timor Sea has thrown a new spotlight on Australia's claim to have sent troops to East Timor last year for humanitarian reasons.

Indonesian budget sets stage for further political instability

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 12 October 2000

The Indonesian budget presented to parliament last week has led to deepening tensions within the country's ruling elites over the direction of economic policy and to protests by students and workers over the politically explosive issue of fuel price rises.

Dismissal of Suharto case heightens power struggle in Indonesia

By James Conachy, 7 October 2000

A week after the September 28 Jakarta court ruling that former Indonesian dictator Suharto was “medically unfit” to stand trial, the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid is seeking to have the decision overturned.

US threats over Timor militias raise political tensions in Indonesia

By James Conachy, 30 September 2000

Mounting international insistence that Indonesia comply with the September 8 UN Security Council resolution to disarm and disband the militia groups operating in West Timor is heightening instability within the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Australian government launches police raids over leaked Timor documents

By Mike Head, 23 September 2000

In a clumsy bid to silence critics of its record in East Timor and Indonesia, the Howard government has launched a series of police raids over last year's leaking to the media of intelligence documents relating to the militia violence in East Timor.

Documents reveal that Australia urged Indonesia to invade East Timor in 1975

By Mike Head, 18 September 2000

Official documents released by the Australian government last week confirm that the Whitlam Labor government actively encouraged the Suharto regime in Indonesia to invade East Timor in 1975, a policy that led to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 Timorese people in the following years.

As bomb blast kills 15 in Jakarta

Suharto fails to appear for corruption trial again

By Peter Symonds, 15 September 2000

Yesterday, for a second time, a court in South Jakarta attempted to begin the trial of former Indonesian military strongman Suharto on charges of corruption. The proceedings took place amid speculation that supporters of the ex-president were responsible for the car bomb blast that rocked the Jakarta Stock Exchange building on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people and seriously injuring another 26.

International pressure for intervention into West Timor after UN staff killed

By Mike Head, 11 September 2000

Australia and other Western governments have seized upon last week's militia killing of UN staff in West Timor to raise the prospect of lengthening the Australian-led UN military intervention into East Timor, and extending it into the Indonesian-controlled western half of the island.

Indonesian parliament takes a step toward removing President Abdurrahman Wahid

By James Conachy, 1 September 2000

The lower house of the Indonesian parliament, the DPR, voted on Monday to initiate investigations into President Abdurrahman Wahid's involvement in two alleged cases of corruption and into whether he lied when asked to explain the sacking of two government ministers in April. The decision is the first step in a process that could lead to his removal from office.

Indonesian parliamentary session marked by collaboration between "reformers" and Suharto's Golkar

By James Conachy, 24 August 2000

The annual two-week session of Indonesia's Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) from August 7 to 18 witnessed growing collaboration between Golkar, the political machine of the former Suharto military dictatorship, and the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), led by Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Why the Far Eastern Economic Review has opened its pages to the radical left in Indonesia

By Peter Symonds, 18 August 2000

One of the most significant articles to appear about Indonesia in the international press recently was an interview with Budiman Soedjatmiko, chairman of Indonesia's leftist People's Democratic Party (PRD), in the June 22 issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Political factions turn on Indonesian President Wahid

By James Conachy, 11 August 2000

This week's session of the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) has seen the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), promoted as “reformers” in 1998, form an alliance with Golkar, the political apparatus of the former Suharto dictatorship, to undermine the position of President Abdurrahman Wahid and refashion the government.

Indonesian president faces a confrontation at next month's MPR session

By Peter Symonds, 25 July 2000

Events of the last week in Jakarta confirm that the August 7-8 session of Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) is shaping up as a critical turning point for President Abdurrahman Wahid. Spokesmen for the major parties have publicly ruled out any move to impeach Wahid but behind the scenes the possibility is obviously being actively canvassed. The principal reason why the public debate is somewhat muted is the fear on all sides that the political wrangling will cause the rupiah and share prices to fall even further and compound the country's already precarious economic position.

Over 400 lost in Indonesian ferry tragedy as refugees flee fighting in the Malukus

By Angela Pagano, 11 July 2000

Ten survivors were picked up a week ago from an overcrowded Indonesian ferry, which had nearly 500 people on board and went missing after it left the Malukus. The ship was carrying 198 passengers and crew as well as 290 refugees fleeing from the religious conflict that has escalated over recent weeks. It was only licensed to carry 250 passengers.

A delicate balancing act

Indonesian government moves tentatively to put Suharto on trial

By Peter Symonds, 3 June 2000

In a move taken largely for public show, the Indonesian Attorney General's office announced on Monday that former president General Suharto was now under house arrest. The ex-military strongman, who was forced to resign in May 1998 in the midst of a deepening economic and political crisis, had previously been under “city arrest”. He now has to seek a permit to move about in Jakarta.

Indonesian government walking a political tightrope on Aceh truce

By Mike Head, 23 May 2000

Facing mounting international pressure to resolve the 24-year-old conflict in Aceh, the oil-rich province of 4.6 million people on the northern tip of Sumatra, the Indonesian government of President Abdurrahman Wahid has signed a temporary truce with the secessionist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).