Indonesian Heroes of the Earth from Toba Samosir
Local people protesting with banner displaying Close Down Indorayon ! No to TPL ! (Toba Pulp Lestari), a paper and pulp mill responsible for over a decade of pollution and human rights violations in Porsea, North Sumatera.
“During interrogation, the policeman wrote (the name of the company) down, ‘INDORAYON’, and I said “Oh, INDOROJAN (ROJAN means poison).” And they kept trying to make me pronounce it ‘INDORAYON’, but I kept saying ‘INDOROJAN’ (=poison) ’cause that’s what the name means to me.”
–Testimony from Nai Marsinta Boru Sianipar from Sugapa village about her experience under police arrest in 1986. The elderly woman is just one out of tens of thousands of villagers in Toba Samosir Municipality, North Sumatra province, who have been struggling for 17 years to close down PT Indorayon, a pulp and paper mill, which is guilty of human rights abuses and years of severe environmental destruction. After halting operations for almost 4 years due to massive public opposition, the Indonesian government decided to re-open the mill under a different name, PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL). Local communities, religious leaders, and local government officials have joined hands, once again, to make sure that the mill is closed down, and this time, for good.–
Brief History of Struggle
Save Toba Samosir, Save the Earth!
At noon, Tuesday, April 29, 2003, around 400 women from villages in Porsea District within the Toba Samosir Municipality, gathered in the middle of the road in front of the entrance to the pulp and paper mill, PT Toba Pulp Lestari — as the company formerly named PT Inti Indorayon Utama is currently calling itself. One lady, Boru Napitupulu, led the others to sing out repeatedly, “…Today is time for action! So, let’s give them a demonstration!…”
When they saw 4 trailer trucks approaching towards them, carrying eucalypt logs for pulp materials, the women stood up: determined not to let the convoy pass by into the mill. Immediately, 40 members of Brimob (the notorious Mobile Brigade of the Indonesian police force), who had been standing by with rattan sticks and rifles watching the women, came up to try to clear the way for the convoy. They pushed the mass of women around and shouted at them, to no avail. The women shouted back and stood their ground. A vehicle coming from inside the mill backed away after the driver realized that passing through was just not possible. Seeing this, the women cheered and applauded.
The Brimob quickly changed their tactics. They turned around and headed straight to a nearby food/coffee stall where the local men–husbands, and relatives of the women demonstrators–gathered. Seeing this, the women screamed and ran towards the stall to prevent the men from being taken away by the troops. Pushing and pulling soon took place, and in the middle of the commotion, shots were fired. One bullet went through the left palm of Ompu Riso Boru Manurung, a 75-year-old woman who was in the front line trying to prevent Brimob from grabbing her fellow demonstrators. The shots fired broke up the mob with the women running for cover into nearby stalls. Ducking and running for cover, the women can be heard yelling out, “Close down Indorayon!”
The incident is just one among countless others that have taken place since the community resistance first began in 1986.
Brief History of Struggle
Since 1986, PT Indorayon has opened up roads, taken over and cleared community lands for planting eucalypts for pulping, opened up a large chemical mill operation in Porsea District, dumped toxic waste into the river sytems and into Lake Toba, one of the largest lakes in the world. The mill’s operation has resulted in landslide disasters due to severe land erosion, destroying 90 hectares of communitiy fields and plantations, claiming the lives of 31 villagers, and forcing thousands to evacuate. Its toxic waste dumping has resulted in massive contamination of communities sources of livelihood resulting in major decline in income and the spread of diseases among villagers and children. Furthermore, in 1988, the mill’s waste containment dam broke, releasing an estimated 1,440,000 cubic meters of waste into the Asahan river rendering the river water unusable for the thousands of people depending on it. In 1993, the mill’s boiler exploded, releasing chlorine gas from the mill’s tank into the air. The incident caused panic and thousands of people fled their homes. Contamination of land and water, air pollution, and rapid environmental degradation continued during the company’s operation.
Community resistance has mostly been met with brutality from government and security forces. Community complaints made since 1986 have regularly met with acts of violence. The men, women, and even children of the area are all too familiar with detentions, arrests, beatings, raids of houses, intimidations, bogus trials, and shootings. Human rights abuses by security forces have been rampant and led to the death of Panuju Manurung (1998) who was beaten to death when trying to stop police brutality against women demonstrators in October 1998 demonstrations.
Massive opposition by tens of thousands of people, religious leaders, village heads, students, and NGOs since 1986 pressured the Indonesian Habibie government, to temporarily stop the mill’s operation in March 1999. However, repression by security forces continued on the field, resulting in further violence. In 21 June 2000, in another clash between community demonstrators and security forces, Hermanto Sitorus, a high school student, caught a bullet and was killed on the spot.
Community resistance resumed in 2002, when news about the government’s plan to re-open the company under a new name, PT Toba Pulp Lestari (PT TPL), broke out. They realised 4 years of living in peace and the slow recovery of their lives and environment would soon be lost as soon as the company was back in operation. They want only one thing: the company to be totally and permanently shut down.
Shareholders PT Toba Pulp Lestari Tbk is listed on the Jakarta and Surabaya Stock Exchanges since June 1990. Its shares are also traded in the United States through American depository receipts (ADRs). In January 1999, APRIL distributed its 62 per cent shareholding in PT Inti Indorayon Utama among its own shareholders. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (United States), which now is a subsidiary of Crédit Suisse First Boston (United States / Switzerland), was advising APRIL on this deal. As Sukanto Tanoto is the dominant shareholder of APRIL, this share distribution made Tanoto the dominant shareholder of PT Inti Indorayon Utama directly. His shareholding of indorayon after the share distribution was estimated at 51 per cent. Other shareholders of PT Inti Indorayon Utama at that moment were:? Scan Fibre (2.4 per cent)? Cellulosa International (2.1 per cent)? The majority shareholding of Sukanto Tanoto in PT Inti Indorayon Utama was transferred to Indorayon’s creditors after a debt restructuring agreement in June 2000, which included a debt for equity swap. The most important shareholders of PT Inti Indorayon Utama are since then:Þ ABN AMRO Bank (The Netherlands)Þ American Express Bank (United States)Þ Bank Nomura (Japan)Þ Bank of Boston, which is part of FleetBoston Financial Corporation (United States)Þ Bank of New York (United States)Þ Crédit Lyonnais (France)Þ Crédit Suisse First Boston (United States / Switzerland)Þ Fuji Bank (Japan)Þ Sanwa Bank (Japan)Þ Standard Chartered Bank (United Kingdom)Þ Sumitomo Bank (Japan)According to some reports this consortium is now own 96.6 per cent of the shares ofPT Toba Pulp Lestari.source: Matthew & van Gelder, op cit. pp. 38
Thousands of community members marched peacefully to the Porsea District office on November 21, 2002, to meet with the District Head. Unexpectedly, stones were thrown by unknown persons, breaking two of the office’s glass windows. The Brimob Police who were part of ‘the welcoming committee’, reacted immediately and started hitting and kicking the demonstrators and firing in the midst of the crowd. The demonstrators panicked and the situation quickly got out of hand. Reverend Miduk Sirait from a local church supporting the struggle arrived on the scene to help calm the situation, but Brimob troops beat him with rattan sticks used as batons and then arrested him on the spot. In the end, 18 demonstrators were arrested and taken away. Two were later released, but the remaining 16 were officially charged. The court later sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 4 months up to 8 years. Requests for house arrests instead of imprisonment were rejected. Furthermore, on September 15, 2002, local religious figure, Reverend Ivo, was beaten up by the security forces while an elderly woman, Opu Samaria was injured by a bullet through her left arm.
Save Toba Samosir, Save the Earth!
To turn the spotlight on the community struggle as well as to support the community members in prison, WALHI dedicated the commemoration of Earth Day 2003 to this on-going courageous struggle by holding the main national event in Porsea District, Toba Samosir Municipality on April 21, 2003. The theme chosen for the national Earth Day 2003 event was ‘Save Toba Samosir, Save the Earth!’
Attended by thousands of communities, religious groups, NGOs, students, and everybody who has fought together in the struggle, the event brought to light the amazing courage and endless determination of the communities throughout nearly 17 years of struggle to bring down the company. Massive repression by government and the military and all the pain and loss resulted from it have never managed to stop them. Instead, the struggle grew to a massive social movement, bringing together farmers, mothers, religious leaders, high school students, and NGOs in a mass civil disobedience with each group continously coming out with actions to support each other.
Under the watchful eyes of dozens of armed Brimob members, the organizers and communities carried on with the event.
The highlight of the festivity was the ‘Heroes of the Earth’ award ceremony. The awards were given to those 16 community members in prison and the 2 deceased community members, Panuju Manurung and Hermanto Sitorus. Tears and prayers colored this award ceremony. WALHI also contributed 15,000 trees to the community to express WALHI’s appreciation and ever-stronger commitment to stand by the community in their struggle to achieve the ultimate goal of closing down PT Indorayon permanently.
However, PT Indorayon seems to remain adamant and even more determined in re-opening their operation. This is clear from the ever-increasing violent crack down against the communities.
After the Earth Day 2003 event, as mentioned above, a violent crackdown on the women’s peaceful blockade of the company took place. Next, on May 7, 2003, security forces attacked a peaceful road block staged by women of Janji Matogu village as an act of civil disobedience. A number of officers surrounded the women, and chased them down into a house where they were forcefully arrested. Two women who were arrested in front of the house were dragged out on to the street to be thrown into a waiting car. When they fainted, the officers left them lying on the road and went back into the house to look for the others. Two other women were arrested forcefully and taken to the local police station. On their way to the station, the car stopped in front of women protestors guarding another blockade and officers tried to grab Asmina Br. Hasibuan. She managed to escape by hiding in a rice field. The community’s attorney, found the women to be in a state of shock when he arrived at the police station. The two women have since been released.
Ever since, news of numerous acts of terror, such as burning down community’s stalls and vehicles, and numerous forms of intimidation were reported on a daily basis. Men, women, children, and local religious leaders supporting the struggle have been targetted. During these hard times, the communities remain an endless source of inspiration and strength.
In the words of Boru Napitupulu, a local woman participating in the April 29, 2003 road block, “I think even Brimob are wondering why we keep holding one action after another after being shot at. But, that is what we have to do for the sake of our children”.
Local organizations, WALHI, and the coalition of Jakarta-based NGOs, KAMPAK-Indorayon, are concerned about this grave threat to the communities safety. Resources are put together to enable quick response to the communities in need. We call on the President to:
Close down PT Inti Indorayon Utama/PT Toba Pulp Lestari permanently and completely,
Withdraw all troops and security forces from the Toba Samosir Municipality, and
Investigate all human rights abuses that have taken place during the company’s presence in the area.
The communities’ struggle is in need of financial support, not only to cover transportation and communication costs to enable quick response, but also to support the community members in prison and their families.
For more information, please contact:
Information and Communications (National Office)
Email Helvi Lystiani
Telepon kantor: +62-(0)21-791 93 363
Fax: +62-(0)21-794 1673
Created: 30 Apr 2003 | Updated: 30 Apr 2003
Indorayon’s last gasp?
Popular protest closes a huge paper and pulp mill in Sumatra, but others go on polluting
It looks as though the fate of PT Indorayon Inti Utama’s controversial paper pulp and rayon fibre plant in North Sumatra has been sealed less by the Wahid government than by thousands of local protestors. Indorayon’s financial backers are tired of waiting for the company to break the deadlock with the Porsea community, which has cost over two years of lost production and run up massive debts. Foreign banks and bondholders which own 86% of Indorayon stopped making monthly US$1 million operational payments on 1 September 2000. The company announced that it could hold out no longer and started to lay off its 7,000 workforce within weeks. A US$400 million debt for equity swap agreed last year was dependent on pulp production resuming. Meanwhile the government, after much wavering, seems to have lost the will to prop it up.
Why was Indorayon singled out among the plethora of cases in Indonesia where companies flout environmental regulations and violate local communities’ rights? What message does Indorayon’s closure send out to investors in other socially and environmentally damaging investments in Indonesia? What about the negative impacts of the pulp and paper industry as a whole?
Long-standing grievances against Indorayon over environmental and health issues erupted soon after the downfall of Suharto. Production virtually came to a halt in mid-1998 when thousands of local residents prevented trucks from bringing raw materials to the mill for four months. Months of violent confrontations between local people and the security forces resulted, in March 1999, in a presidential order to close the pulp plant pending a full audit of its social and environmental impacts. However, it never happened.
Indorayon has become a test case for the credibility of Wahid’s government at home and abroad. As an opposition figure during the Suharto years, ‘Gus Dur’ developed links with many leaders of civil society groups. Environmental non-government organisations (NGOs) broadly welcomed his appointment as president in October 1999. His environment minister, Sonny Keraf, was quick to point out that companies investing or operating in the ‘new’ Indonesia must expect more scrutiny of the social and environmental impacts of their operations. He set up teams to investigate the most obvious cases, including mines owned by Freeport, Rio Tinto and Newmont, but Indorayon was the only pulp plant. Keraf’s departmental review revealed that the company had violated pollution and toxic waste edicts and had not implemented its environmental management plans. The minister announced in early 2000 that Indorayon should be shut down for good.
Meanwhile, the company and its supporters (which include important local government figures) denied the allegations, promised to address community concerns and lobbied Jakarta intensively to allow the pulp plant to reopen. Jusuf Kalla, then Minister for Trade and Industry, explained that Indorayon ‘is a big investment. Such a factory today will need US$1 billion investment to establish. The export value, which reaches about US$100 million a year, and the ability to absorb 7,000 workforce mean something to the state and the people.’ Despite Keraf’s recommendations, no company in Indonesia had ever been shut down on environmental grounds, and there was genuine uncertainty in Jakarta about how legally to do this.
In May 2000, the government decided that the paper pulp side of Indorayon’s operations could start up again, but the production of dissolving pulp (the raw material for rayon fibre) should not be resumed. The decision provoked appeals from all directions. Environmentalists argued that the company’s past pollution and community record justified a complete shutdown. The company claimed its survival depended on the Porsea plant’s unique facility to switch between pulp for either the paper or the textiles industries according to market conditions and relative profitability. The community was split between those who wanted the plant to close on environmental and health grounds and others, mainly workers at the factory, who supported its reopening. Protests involving thousands of local people, backed by students and NGOs, once again prevented the mill from resuming production. A student was shot dead by police in clashes between protestors in June 2000. Around a dozen people have been killed and many hundreds seriously injured in the 27-month conflict. Indorayon’s increasingly desperate bids to address local grievances with promises of more employment, business opportunities and a community foundation funded by the company and its foreign investors were rejected by the people.
The Wahid government is clearly reluctant to let Indorayon go to the wall. The closure of a company once listed on the Jakarta and New York stock exchanges sends out all the wrong signals to the investment community at a time when the government is desperate to attract foreign investment, increase tax revenues and boost Indonesia’s exports. It has lost at least $50 million in tax revenues and other fees from Indorayon last year alone. Some companies have already threatened to take their investment elsewhere unless they can continue ‘business as usual’, even if this rides roughshod over local communities’ interests. Indonesian environmentalists are disappointed over this government stance. Mas Achmad Santosa, executive director of the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL) said at a press conference this May: ‘Unfortunately, what the government cares about now is getting as many investments as possible. The preservation of the environment has taken a back seat.’
Given IMF pressure to increase export revenues, Wahid’s government can hardly afford to close down export-orientated pulp plants. Indonesia exported about three million tons of pulp and three million tons of paper in 1999. Paper pulp prices on world markets have risen sharply in 2000, to US$579 per ton in September compared with US$372 per ton this time last year. This has benefited Indonesian companies, which export most of their production. Among them are the other giant producers Indah Kiat (pulp) and Tjiwi Kimia (paper), both part of the Sinar Mas group, headed by Eka Tjipta Widjaja, as well as Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), which is controlled (like Indorayon) by Sukanto Tanoto’s Raja Garuda Mas Group. They have also benefited from the weak rupiah as their input costs are mainly in local currency but revenues are paid in dollars. Their profitability has helped the big pulp and paper companies to ride out economic and political storms despite shortages of raw materials, lack of domestic demand and investigations into their financial connections with the Suharto family.
However, the Indonesian government might decide to overcome its reluctance and accept Indorayon’s closure as the lesser of two evils. To facilitate the resumption of production against the majority of the community’s wishes would smack of the excesses of the Suharto years.
The North Sumatra pulp mill was a flagship development for the Suharto regime. The economy was booming when construction of the paper pulp mill began in 1986. The government wanted to boost the growth of Indonesia’s textile industry by developing rayon fibre production in order to reduce dependence on imported cotton. By 1993, Indorayon was the first Indonesian plant to produce dissolving pulp. It is now relatively old and small, with a capacity to produce either 240,000 metric tons of paper pulp or 60,000 tons of rayon fibre a year.
The Indonesian environmental movement also boomed during the 1980s. Indorayon has long been a landmark case for it. In 1988, the largest and best-known environmental group Walhi (Indonesian Forum for the Environment) filed a lawsuit against Indorayon and five government departments for failure to comply with the 1982 Environment Law. The case was lost on the flimsy grounds that the company had not started full commercial production when the action was brought, so the court considered it impossible to gauge potential pollution. Nevertheless, the case established the important legal precedent that NGOs had the right to sue companies or even the government over environmental issues.
The outcome of the lost case was that inhabitants of villages near the Indorayon plant suffered a decade of polluted air and water. The acrid fumes which poured out of the smoke stacks day and night could be smelt several kilometres away. Local people blame the high incidence of asthma, chest infections and other respiratory ailments on the factory, but health care facilities are so poor that there is no proof. The evidence of acid rain is obvious: corrugated iron roofs of houses and churches used to last two generations; since Indorayon, they corrode away within five years. There has been a dramatic improvement in environmental quality during the two years that the pulp mill has effectively been closed. Trucks no longer thunder through Batak villages every minute day and night, destroying roads and bridges. The air is refreshingly clear, as elsewhere in the Lake Toba region, and local people are again able to drink the water and to fish in the River Asahan.
Indorayon has been a cause celebre for environmentalists. Unfortunately it is one of the very few paper and pulp cases to receive NGO attention at local, national and international levels. There is no network of Indonesian civil society groups which focuses on the pulp industry comparable to the national information and advocacy networks which exist for the forest, mining and, more recently, palm oil sectors. Indorayon is far from being Indonesia’s largest or most polluting pulp operation. The industry is keen to point out that it has cleaned up its act. Larger plants in Sumatra, like PT RAPP and Indah Kiat’s Perawang units have installed more advanced and less polluting pulping, bleaching and waste management technologies.
Indonesian environmental groups have been strongly influenced by international campaigning on pulp industry pollution in the ‘North’ where led by Greenpeace – the debate has largely centred on dioxins. Fears about the long-term health risks posed by minute quantities of these carcinogens promoted the introduction of ‘elemental chlorine-free’ technology (ECF), which use chlorine compounds rather than chlorine gas, in Europe, North America and some plants in Southeast Asia. ECF technology only became compulsory for new plants in Indonesia after a chlorine tank burst at Indorayon in November 1993. Thousands of people fled the Porsea area fearing another Bhopal incident.
It is true that the worst environmental problems may well be associated with the smallest and oldest pulp and paper mills, especially those in Java which are located in densely populated areas. However, the big plants remain major polluters. Concerns about dioxins or accidental chemical releases have diverted attention from the everyday realities of people living in the pollution shadow of pulp and paper plant. The fact remains that all current technologies turning wood chips into pulp require a large amount of fresh water, fuel and a cocktail of highly corrosive chemicals, and produce substantial quantities of noxious wastes.
The Tanjung Enim Lestari plant (PT TEL) in South Sumatra is a case in point. This paper pulp mill which came on line in late 1999 will be one of the largest in Indonesia, with production rising from 450,000 tons to 1 million tons of pulp per year. Communities in the Muara Enim district complained to the local branch of Walhi about the stench from the factory and tainted water supplies within weeks of start-up. PT TEL’s environmental impact assessment, approved by local and central government, reveals that even when waste treatment units are working optimally over 18 tons of sulphurous gases will be released every day. Giant pipes over two metres wide pour 80,000 cubic metres of waste per day into the River Lematang – the main source of water for drinking and all other domestic needs for the tens of thousands of people whose homes lie along its banks. These discharges will deplete oxygen levels in the river and make the water murkier, affecting the aquatic ecosystems on which local fisher folk depend for a living.
It is important to note that these levels of pollution are the norm. More serious impacts will result if waste treatment plants fail, as happened at Indorayon on several occasions, resulting in extensive fish kills. There are many examples of pulp plants which try to reduce costs by not using all technology intended to reduce pollution. In a telling phrase, PT TEL’s environmental impact document states that ‘the plant can produce 100% ECF pulp if needed’. In other words, unless local authorities insist, the company could opt for more polluting options.
The impacts of Indonesian paper pulp production extend beyond the effects of pollution and social conflict in the vicinity of pulp mills, but space is insufficient to discuss them at length. First, the pulp industry is inevitably linked to the destruction of natural forests. Too few timber plantations have been established to supply the pulp industry. The vast majority of the rapid growth experienced by Indonesia’s pulp and paper industry from the late 1980s until the mid 90s took place at the expense of the country’s tropical rainforest. Over-capacity in the pulp industry is an important factor driving illegal logging. In 1998, Indonesia exported 6.7 million tons of paper and pulp three times 1997 levels – while domestic demand fell by half to 1.3 million tons. This level of production consumes the equivalent of 16 million cubic metres of timber (after imports of pulp and waste paper have been taken into account). Yet the official supply of all Indonesian timber, including ‘conversion forest’, was only 21 million cubic metres just the capacity of Indonesia’s plywood mills.
Nevertheless, the pulp and paper industry is set to expand further. It is three times cheaper to produce paper pulp in Indonesia than Sweden, mainly because of the industry’s vertical integration, in which the whole process from logging to pulp is controlled by giant conglomerates like Sinar Mas and Barito Pacific.
Second, the huge timber plantations violate indigenous communities’ rights and destroy their livelihoods. That is why Indorayon, Indah Kiat, and Riau Andalan have all been the focus of local struggles over land and forest tenure over a number of years. As at Porsea, social conflict is intensified due to lack of employment opportunities for local people. Typically, companies use transmigrant labour in their logging concessions and plantation, and skilled labour imported from urban areas in the pulp plants. Horizontal conflicts arise within communities where some people have become dependent on their lowly jobs at the pulp plant while their neighbours are demanding fair compensation for land or property taken or damaged by pollution.
Third, even more people are subsidising Indonesia’s pulp industry through debt repayments to the IMF and international creditors. A substantial proportion of Indonesia’s IMF loans have been to the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, which strives to resolve the crisis in the country’s banking sector. Timber tycoons like Bob Hasan and Prayogo Pangestu were major players there and are among the biggest debtors. Bailing out bankrupt banks in effect makes the private debts incurred by these individuals and their business empires into public debts, to be repaid by increased taxes and decreased public expenditure on schools, hospitals and subsidies of basic necessities. The price of one of the world’s lowest cost sources of paper and pulp is indeed high for ordinary Indonesians. Indorayon may be international financiers’ first salutary lesson that investing in socially and environmentally damaging developments can also hit them where it hurts.
Frances Carr (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a campaigner for Down to Earth: the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia. A fuller version of her article is available on http://www.gn.apc.org/dte. ‘Inside Indonesia’ first covered the Indorayon Porsea mill in its July 1989 edition.
===========letter from some one to read====================================
November 24, 2002
The death toll from flooding in Indonesia’s Aceh province has risen to 12, and
the victims include a three-year-old girl, officials said.
At least five other people were reported missing in the floods, which were
triggered by six days of near constant downpours over the southern coastal
parts of Aceh.
Some of the 12 victims were swept away along with their houses, while others
were buried under landslides triggered by the rain, said Burhanuddin Sampee, a
government official in one of the worst-hit districts of Barat Daya.
Sampee said residents of Ie Mirah Babah Rot village on Thursday retrieved the
corpse of a three-year-old girl that was snagged in the branches of a palm oil
tree after being swept away by floods the night before.
Residents said rain was continuing to fall today over parts of the region,
1,250km north-west of Jakarta.
Large parts of Indonesia are flooded annually during the rainy season which
runs from October to April.
Earlier this year, at least 60 died in flooding in the capital, Jakarta.
Environmentalists claim illegal logging and development in water catchment
areas have worsened the problem in recent years.
Aceh: Megawati’s top Priority
November 24, 2002 10:58 PM, Editor
Laksamana.Net – Over the last three weeks, dozens of Free Aceh Movement (GAM)
fighters near Cot Trieng in North Aceh have been surrounded by the military.
Since she took over the presidency from Abdurrahman Wahid, President Megawati
Sukarnoputri has treated Aceh as a top priority. She has met senior provincial
leaders and signed into law a provision granting Aceh an unprecedented level of
financial and political autonomy.
In a speech to mark Indonesia’s 56th anniversary of independence last August,
she apologized for the past government’s mismanagement, for prolonged conflicts
and human rights abuses in both Aceh and the other troubled province of Papua.
Violence in the Acehnese capital in the days following the speech suggest her
words did little to appease the militant separatists, who claim to have most of
the Acehnese people behind them.
The violence also suggests that there are disgruntled generals in Jakarta who
maintain the tension in Aceh and thus force Megawati to be more dependent on
As far as autonomy for Aceh, the government under Megawati has delivered up its
The autonomy law:
– Authorises the introduction of shariah, or Islamic law, in the staunchly
Islamic province which was never entirely subdued by the Dutch.
– Provides for local electoral reform giving the people greater control over
their own affairs.
– Grants the province 70% of revenue from its rich oil and gas fields.
This is generous given that the province’s gas exports alone are reported to
have provided 30% of the central government’s revenue in 2000.
The President’s main challenge has been how to keep Aceh as part of the united
16 protesters held, 500 flee over Indonesian plan to reopen pulp plant
Sunday November 24, 3:13 PM (AFP)
Sixteen protestors are under arrest and around 500 have fled a town in the
Indonesian province of North Sumatra amid controversial plans to reopen a
polluting pulp plant, police and a human rights lawyer said.
Police arrested 21 people and are still holding 16 after a protest on Thursday
against the reopening of the plant, which was closed in 1999 following years of
often violent protests that it was damaging the environment.
“There are still 16 people detained and two others have already been released,”
a duty officer of the North Tapanuli district police force in Tarutung, North
Sumatra, said on Sunday.
The policeman, who identified himself only as Barus, said the men were arrested
following a protest in front of the Porsea sub-district administration on
Thursday which lead to the office being damaged.
He declined to give more details.
Lawyer and human rights activist Johnson Panjaitan said hundreds of people had
fled Porsea for the district town of Tarutung because the police, backed by the
elite Brimob unit and soldiers, were terrorizing locals who oppose the
“What is taking place in Porsea smacks of the New Order (former president
Suharto’s rule) with state terrorism returning to the stage,” Panjaitan, of the
Jakarta-based Indonesian Association for Legal Aid and Human Rights, told AFP.
The protest on Thursday followed news that the government wanted to reopen PT
Inti Indorayon (IIU), closed down in 1999 following increasingly violent
protests, under a new name, PT Toba Lestari Indah.
IIU was closed down after years of protest and violence, often deadly, with the
local population accusing the plant of damaging the environment.
“The people of Porsea have already suffered for more than 10 years from the
pollution caused by IIU. Now that they are just begining to enjoy a pollution-
free environment, the central government is planning to end all that again,”
said the lawyer.
He told AFP by telephone from Medan that 21 protesters arrested face charges of
incitement to violence, damaging property and disturbing public order.
Panjaitan had visited Porsea for a few days before going to Medan.
The police, he said, had also guarded places of worship in Porsea which had
been gathering points for locals when problems arose.
“At the local level, we will form a crisis center and provide help for the
refugees, including setting up soup kitchens,” Panjaitan said.
He said lawyers and rights activists in Jakarta will compile a report on the
incident to alert the authorities, including President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Crisis Centre Diocese Of Amboina
Jalan Pattimura 32 – Ambon 97124 – Indonesia
Tel 0062 (0)911 342195 Fax 0062 (0)911 355337 E-mail
crisiscentre01 at hotmail.com
Ambon, November 24, 2002
The Situation In Ambon / Moluccas – Report No. 331
General Situation – Not seldom we are asked about the real actual situation in
Ambon and the Moluccas: do people still live in fear? Have normal living
conditions more or less been restored? Etc. We may briefly answer as follows:
1. Since the Moluccas Agreement of Malino on February 12, 2002 (see Report 235)
both conflicting parties started to realize that in fact they share the same
enemy, namely the terrorists, whoever they are and on whose orders they carry
out their nefarious activities.
2. Most of Seram and Buru are ready now to restore normal relations. IDP-s are
urged and facilitated by the government to return to their original homesteads
there. Local TV shows places (such as Kairatu on the south coast of Seram)
where Christians and Muslims intermingle without restraint. Nevertheless, many
IDP-s living in Ambon are still wary and afraid to return to Seram and Buru, as
in the past, time and again the security forces have proved not to be able to
anticipate riots: they often only enter the place after the damage and the
killings have been done.
3. Most precarious is the situation in the city of Ambon itself. Apart from
some intermingling of both communities at governmental level, via NGO
activities, meeting at several shared market places or following college
together, each community keeps to its own town areas.
Potential sources of conflict may be:
– The succession of the Governor and Vice-Governor. M.S.Latuconsina’s and both
of his vice-governors’ term ended last November 11th. The Minister of Interior
Affairs extended their term for another month. On December 12 a caretaking
Governor is to be appointed. Any election of a new Governor with its fierce
competition might jeopardize the actual relative calm situation.
– Many people, especially among the about 145.000 IDP-s that still are in
Ambon, have no job. This situation may breed unrest, especially under idling
– A lot of weapons and explosives are supposed to be still hidden by both
parties: just in case they might be needed for defense.
– People feel discontented that hardly any justice has been done yet and many
criminals are being left alone.
– The planned returning of all refugees to their original homesteads by August
2003, may trigger renewed violence, especially in sensitive places like Poka-
Rumahtiga (on the opposite side of the bay of Ambon), Kebun Cengkeh / Ahuru (at
the outskirts of the town, a former Laskar Jihad stronghold) and the large
Christian totally destroyed village of Waai on the island of Ambon (earlier
claimed by Muslims as an originally Muslim place and renamed Waai-Salam (see
Report 63 no.4 – Sept.25, 2000).
4. The military has five battalions in the Moluccas and four in the North
Moluccas. But especially members of the Kopassus (Special TNI Army Forces) are
mistrusted as involving themselves (or having involved themselves) in acts of
terrorism (landmines, bombs, snipers), allegedly cooperating with the “Coker
Gang” of Berty Loupatty.
Crisis Centre Diocese of Amboina
The Jakarta Post.com
November 25, 2002
Military stages war games in Ambon
Oktavianus Pinontoan, The Jakarta Post, Ambon
A total of 2,762 soldiers of the Fast Reaction Force (PPRC; a combined force of
Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel) on Saturday staged a war game here,
simulating the occupation of sectarian, conflict-ridden Ambon by a separatist
movement. Their mission: to retake control from the separatists.
At 7:00 a.m. local time, two PPRC battalions, whose personnel were taken from
the Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) Airborne Infantry Battalion and the Air
Force’s elite unit (Paskas), jumped out of four Hercules C-130 cargo aircraft
at 150 feet and infiltrated Pattimura airport, which was controlled by
All personnel, armed with automatics and M-16 machine guns, fired at the
airport’s main building and arrested a number of “rebels” who posed as guards
in the building.
Meanwhile, more than 470 marine soldiers, who were transported by battleships
KRI Teluk Mandar and KRI Teluk Sampit from the Naval base in Surabaya, made a
landing with amphibious tanks, armored vehicles, and rubber boats at Natsepa
Beach, a popular tourist resort on the island. The tanks, armored vehicles, and
battleships were deployed to destroy the rebels’ coastal defenses.
In accordance with the military operation’s tactics, the combat soldiers were
able to retake control of the island in a relatively short time.
The one-hour preliminary exercise to the war game, which attracted the
attention of locals both Muslims and Christians, was conducted in the presence
of Indonesian Military Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, Navy Chief Admiral
Bernard Sondakh, Air Force Chief Marshal Chappy Hakim, Pattimura Military
Command Chief Maj. Gen. Djoko Santoso, Maluku Police Chief Brig. Gen. Bambang
Sutrisno, Governor Saleh Latuconsina, Chairman of the Maluku legislature Etty
Sahuburua, and Ambon Mayor Yopi Papilaya.
Kostrad Chief Lt. Gen. Bibit said the exercises, scheduled to end on Tuesday,
was aimed at improving PPRC’s professionalism in handling separatist
activities, and that it had no relevance to the tense situation on Ambon
“With these exercises, all personnel of the PPRC will be ready to handle
separatist movements anywhere in the country,” he said, adding that the PPRC
would hold a similar war game in Papua in mid-January 2003.
The central government has extended the civilian state of emergency that has
been imposed since June 2001, due to the continued tension in the Maluku
Governor Saleh Latuconsina admitted recently that all sectors of society,
including indigenous personnel of the local military and police, and hardline
groups from the two conflicting sides, were involved in the conflict that has
claimed more than 6,000 lives and displaced thousands of others since it
erupted on Jan. 19, 1999.
“We hope that with the military exercise, the situation in Ambon will gradually
return to normal so that we can rehabilitate all facilities which were damaged
during the conflict, and all people can live a normal life, as it was in the
past,” said Bibit.
Megawati’s New Mansion
November 24, 2002 11:01 PM, Editor
Laksamana.Net – Everyone has the right to be rich. But in Indonesia, the source
of many people’s wealth has become a sensitive issue, especially when it
happens to be the president or her husband who is under the spotlight.
That’s why suspicion arose when the mass media reported that President Megawati
Sukarnoputri owns at least three houses, when she had only listed one – at
Kabagusan, a leafy retreat behind the Jakarta zoo – on her declaration to the
Public Servants’ Wealth Audit Commission (KPKPN).
A second house at Gunung Geulis in Bogor was not reported to KPKPN. It is said
to be owned by Taufik Kiemas, though the title is in the name of Megawati’s
daughter, Puan Maharani.
The third, at Batu Tulis, also in Bogor regency, was not reported because
Megawati believes that since it had belonged to her father, Sukarno, it would
be of no interest to the commission.
The house had been confiscated by Suharto and it was only with the accession of
Abdurrahman Wahid to the presidency that it was returned to the family.
So far so good. Then came the revelations that Megawati had taken up weekend
residence at another mansion, in the Sentul hills south of Jakarta. Newspaper
reports quoted locals describing what the President did when she visited, with
fishing in the mansion’s well-stocked pond a favorite pursuit.
The house, located in the Babakan Madang district of Bogor on about 6000 square
meters of land by having five main bedrooms and a swimming pool, spurred KPKPN
to further investigate.
When the clamor showed no signs of receding, Megawati’s party and cabinet
colleague, National Development Minister Kwik Kian Gie owned up that it was
really his family’s house and that Megawati was only visiting.
The story raised more eyebrows about the behavior of the first family.
Most attention has focused on presidential husband Taufik Kiemas, who got
mighty upset to the press coverage, blaming the media for acting like
Megawati herself drew public attention to the potential for swilling at the sty
by members of her family soon after she took office.
In July 2001, Megawati publicly warned her family not to duplicate the Suharto
family. As president, she said, she was committed to rooting out corruption at
all levels of government.
The early days of her presidency offered promise that she meant what she said.
She pushed through the case against Golkar chairman Akbar Tanjung over his now-
proven misuse of Rp40billion of National Logistics Agency (Bulog) funds meant
for the stomachs of the poor.
And, she brought Suharto’s most beloved son, Hutomo ‘Tommy’ Mandala Putra, to
court for ordering the murder of the judge who refused his appeal on an earlier
Almost directly opposed, at least in the public’s eye, to Megawati’s stand
against corruption is her own husband.
Kiemas emerged for the first time as a significant figure in January 2002 when
he handed over 21 cars to Jakarta’s police force for use in escorting visiting
He explained that he had been embarrassed to see the battered fleet of patrol
cars that were being used and felt compelled to donate 17 new Hyundai cars.
As a personal donation, the gift unavidably provoked criticism from the public
and the parliament.
Anti-graft groups condemned the gift, complaining that it looked like an effort
by Kiemas to ingratiate himself and his friends with the police, perhaps as an
inducement to look the other way if they ever got into trouble.
Kiemas himself insisted he had no reason to feel guilty. “I am aware that
people would perceive that,” Kiemas told reporters. “The return I expect for
this gift is that these cars will be available to guard the President and Vice
President, They will be on time and no longer late. (In a way, it’s for) my
Kiemas is also believed to see State Secretary Bambang Kesowo as guilty of
having been used by Megawati to block business delegations. These delegations,
palace sources state, have won Kiemas’ ear in seeking protection for their
Kiemas therefore started to push his wife to sack the experienced State
Secretary. Backed by his faction in the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P),
Kiemas lobbied to have Kesowo replaced with his own political protégé and ex
Golkar party cadre, Tjahyo Kumolo.
There is no argument that Kesowo’s past easily places him as a Suharto left-
over – he used to write much of Suharto’s law and was closely linked to the
State Secretary of the time, Moerdiono. And for Kiemas, there was no doubt that
he was an obstructing factor in gaining access to the president.
Kiemas has long-standing ties to several businessmen who are still in
negotiations with the government over the repayment of billions of dollars they
owe stemming from the 1997 financial crisis.
Many of these businessmen amassed their fortunes in part by exploiting their
links to the Suharto’s family, and some government officials fear they are
trying to exert the same sway over Megawati through Kiemas.
Chinese tycoon Syamsul Nursalim is a case in point. Kiemas has made no secret
of a close friendship with Jakob Nursalim, a nephew of the failed banker, who
is now in Singapore.
A long-time associate of Suharto, Nursalim is locked in a battle with the
government through the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), over his
failure to repay the government about $2.7 billion. As a four-year repayment
deadline was about to expire, IBRA, at the time still under Putu Ari Suta,
proposed extending the term of the debt six more years rather than take legal
action to recover the money.
The plan generated a damaging political backlash, with critics shouting that it
was a sweetheart deal for Nursalim. Under strong pressure from the public, the
plan was scrapped by Megawati.
Kiemas’s business operations and his network to businessmen like Nursalim
raises the potential for conflict of interest. Jakob Nursalim has accompanied
Kiemas on officials trips to the US and China, including a visit by Megawati to
Washington immediately after the September 11 attacks.
In December 2001, just four months after Megawati became president, Kiemas also
provoked critical public reaction when Indonesia sent a diplomatic mission to
China to lobby for a crucial natural gas supply contract. Instead of the energy
or trade ministers, it was Kiemas who led the delegation as ‘government envoy’.
Critics saw Kiemas as entirely suited, and without any authority, to head a
mission whose main task was to hold talks with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu
Rongji to negotiate a $13 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal between the
The presence of the man known as RI3 at the head of the delegation undermined
the credibility of Megawati at home and abroad.
The move was also miscalculated, as the Chinese government indicated it saw his
presence as undiplomatic.
It is impossible to state what effect the slip had on the final result, but
Indonesia lost the 25-year contract to Australia.
Small wonder that many political analysts continue to predict that the man
known by cynics as Indonesia’s Mr. Bhutto – after the former Pakistan Prime
Minister’s husband – remains a major liability for the remainder of the