All In The Timing by Pranjal Tiwari; May 26, 2003 Timing is everything, as they say. The day before East Timor celebrated the second anniversary of its independence from Indonesia, the Jakarta government launched an all-out attack on another independence movement, this time in Aceh, a northern Sumatran province rich in oil and natural gas. The 30-50,000 Indonesian troops, covered by warships and fighter jets, constitute the largest military operation since, yes, the invasion of East Timor in 1975. Their overarching mission has been clearly defined by General Endriartono Sutarto: "You must chase and wipe out GAM [the Free Aceh Movement]...you are trained to kill, so wipe them out." The attack on Aceh coincides not only with the independence day of East Timor, but other internal and international situations, whose influence is evident in the timing and details of the operation. "Last Refuge of the Scoundrel" President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s government is currently facing an internal crisis, and severe pressure from political opposition and disaffected groups, particularly over the effects of its neoliberal economic policies. These extremely unpopular policies, which included the removal of various subsidies, led to instability and diminution in the market prices for such commodities as sugar, tobacco, and rice, and widespread suffering among farmers and ordinary Indonesians. Privatisation was also a feature of government policy, a factor that led to extensive job-losses, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Just this year, in January 2003, massive opposition to neoliberal policies forced the government to do a U-turn and partially restore subsidies for fuel, electricity, and phone tariffs. More recently, on May 21st 2003, thousands across the country participated in demonstrations to mark the anniversary of former dictator Suharto’s downfall in 1998 . The demonstrations explicitly targeted the current government, demanding that Megawati resign, and that the political reform promised after Suharto’s reign be instituted. According to some reports, polls have recorded some 80% of people expressing general discontent with the government and political parties. Max Lane, writing in Australia’s Green Left Weekly notes that the demonstrations "have involved the broadest political support of any wave of demonstrations since 1997-98." The Aceh attack, which early indications show has enjoyed a high level of popular support in Indonesia, could certainly give a nationalist boost to a government in crisis. Though the success of this move is yet to be seen, with the May 21 popular protests coming after attack on Aceh began, the Megawati government may have attempted to find some refuge in the "fog of war". (...) ... article at: http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=3672&sectionID=44 ---------------------------------------- Aceh by Damien Kingsbury; The Jakarta Post ; May 26, 2003 In trying to justify the actions of the Indonesian Military (TNI) in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh, Indonesia's foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda says that nothing less than the future of the state is at stake. Wirayuda may be right, but not in the way that he thinks. The behavior of the TNI in Aceh has, by all accounts, been appalling since it started its most recent campaign. The reports published here and elsewhere are disturbing enough. Further worrying is the flood of private reports coming from non-government organizations which details more horrific events, including an escalating rate of murder, in detailed cases by locking civilians in their homes and burning them, the destruction of villages, and rape. This looks not so much as a military campaign against a rebel force, but of an invading feudal Army intent on destroying an enemy people. The TNI now clamping down on the media's reporting of the situation is a further sign that it wishes to conduct this campaign unhindered by poor publicity. There is no thought, however, that poor publicity derives from poor behavior. The clearly stated aim of the TNI is to "exterminate" the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). However, based on the TNI's previous form in Aceh, this operation will not be quick, and may not be successful. The TNI is not especially well equipped and often poorly trained, the terrain is difficult, and GAM are very experienced guerrilla fighters with a long history of surviving seemingly tight situations. (...) ...article at: http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=3673&sectionID=44 --------------------------------------------------

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