Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vomiting to Death on a Plane. Arsenic Democracy.

On Tuesday the big front page news in the two leading newspapers of northern Sumatra was that Indonesia's President, Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has received a democracy medal from the International Association of Political Consultants.

The banner headline in Waspada -- citing Susilo -- was "Indonesian Democracy is Permanent" ("Demokrasi RI Permanen"). Analisa's front page ran a huge above-the-fold photo of a sea of fierce-looking TNI (Indonesian armed forces) camouflage soldiers -- heading for Lebanon, as peacekeepers, as well as a photo of three top TNI commanders clasping hands, and a photo of the President General with his medal and his American presenter, Ben Goddard.

It reminded me of the time the United Nations presented a population - control award to the former President (seven times elected) of Indonesia, General Suharto. I was sitting in the UN General Assembly gallery that day, waiting for Suharto to enter, when UN security came up and politely explained that they had to throw me out.

They said that Ali Alatas, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, had spotted me from the Assembly floor and was insisting that I be expelled before Suharto would enter the room. He was afraid I might create an incident. He was right -- I had recently witnessed one of Suharto/TNI(then called ABRI)'s massacres, this one in occupied Dili, East Timor, but I would not have disputed that Suharto was indeed an expert in population control.

Gen. Susilo is likewise an undisputed expert in pre-civilized-world democracy, having sustained the TNI's primacy and exemption from the murder laws while winning foreign democratic plaudits and thereby, billions of divertable dollars (Farid Faqih, the man who first blew the whistle on army tsunami aid corruption was beaten, jailed, and is now forgotten) and a refreshed flow of foreign weapons and, particularly, "antiterrorist" gear and training.

This includes mass wiretapping facilities, including the ability to quickly home in on SMS text messages, like the one that sent Detachment 88, the new SWAT-jumpsuited, US-created antiterrorist task force ("antiterrorist" in the rationale sense, not in the objective sense), descending on Iwangin Sabar Olif -- a human rights lawyer -- as he walked down the street in West Papua, an effectively occupied region to which visits by outsiders are restricted, and that was incorporated into Indonesia in a rigged vote later termed "a whitewash" by the UN official who oversaw it (Chakravarthy Narashiman, then the undersecretary general: "Indonesia's Papua Referendum Was A Farce - Ex UN Officials," Associated Press, Jakarta, November 21, 2001).

Iwangin wasn't planning a jihadist bombing (the kind of terrorism the US likes to criticize), or a shooting of civilians (the kind the TNI likes to commit; indeed, one of the officers in today's Analsia front page photo, the new Navy commander, heads a department that has just seen charges dropped against Marines who, in Pasuruan, East Java, shot dead four civilians, including a pregnant woman, after villagers protested a TNI land-grab. The Navy chief at the time -- also in the photo -- said the Marines had followed standard procedure [see Tony Hotland, "Navy Denies Rights Abuse in Pasuruan," Jakarta Post, June 7, 2007.]).

The Papuan lawyer wasn't planning anything, just forwarding to family and friends an SMS he had received that criticized the TNI in Papua -- criticized them in milder terms, it should be said, than a couple of foreign academic reports (from Yale, in the US, and from Australia's University of Sydney) that have gone so far as to claim that Jakarta's depletion of Papuans might qualify as "genocide."

That's a word that is overused, but the point is that Papuans are now facing the kind of operation -- and some of the same perpetrator officers -- previously used to control the population in Timor and Aceh. One of them, Col. Siagian, twice indicted for crimes against humanity in Timor (the indictment was by a UN-sponsored tribunal, but Susilo's government won't turn him over), has vowed to "destroy" and "crush" Papuan dissidents, informatively adding "we are not afraid of human rights." (Cenderawasih Pos, May 12, 2007, cited in "Urge Indonesia to Remove Indicted Officer from West Papua," East Timor and Indonesia Action Network & West Papua Advocacy Team Action Alert).

The Papuan lawyer seized by those US-trained antiterrorists was charged with "incitement and insulting the head of state," ie. Gen. Susilo. ("Police need to explain arrrest of Papuan human rights lawyer -- Komnas HAM [the official national human rights commission]," Kompas, November 1, 2007, translation by James Balowski, via Joyo Indonesian News Service; see also, West Papua Human Rights Report, 24 October 2007, "West Papuan Human Rights Lawyer arrested by US & Australian trained Anti Terrorism police," also via Joyo.)

Indonesia is called a democracy because Gen. Susilo could indeed be voted out (as opposed to Suharto who decided the country needed him, personally), but it is taken as a mere given in Jakarta that he could not be replaced by anyone who did not win the approval of the institutional TNI, and indeed, some vast financial support from military-allied oligarchs.

In the days when Indonesian political activism was still hot, not long after Suharto fell, one President, Abdurahman Wahid, "Gus Dur," did briefly, tentatively, cross the army and he was ushered out with cannons pointing at the palace and the Moluccan islands in in flames. (In the Moluccas, it was what TNI military manuals call a "provokasi" operation.)

There was still standing one brilliant national political figure, another human rights lawyer, named Munir, but he vomited to death on a plane after ingesting arsenic with his juice or noodles.

Evidence in Munir's assassination points clearly to the presidential intelligence agency, BIN -- this from a time when BIN was, as now, a liason partner of the CIA. The President at that time was Megawati Sukarnoputri (Gen. Susilo had, until they quarreled, been her Minister of Politics and Security), and the head of BIN was Gen. Hendropriyono, who liked to flaunt his US connections, and who was granted personal meetings with the heads of the CIA (Tenet) and FBI (Mueller).

One of Hendropriyono's top BIN aides, Gen. Muchdi was the one whose phones were found to have made or taken at least 35 crucially-timed calls to and from the man now officially named as the hands-on assassin, a part-time BIN contact -- who was with Munir on the plane -- a former Timor/ Aceh/ Papua pilot, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto.

Of this above-listed chain of officialdom, only one of them is in trouble, the unfortunate Pollycarpus, who is perpetually in and out of prison as the system grapples with domestic and international grassroots pressure for somebody's scalp, while having to maintain the policy of Indonesian and US democracy of not enforcing the murder laws against favored official killers.

Apart from winning his democracy medal, Gen. Susilo recently put out an album of love songs. It somehow reminded me of a conversation years ago with a resident of a poor kampung, one of the people who was mentioned in a previous posting (November 8, 2007, "Duduk - Duduk, Ngobrol - Ngobrol. Sitting Around Talking, in Indonesia."). She was reading a magazine article with a big photo of candidate Susilo. I asked her what she thought of him: "Like Suharto, only better looking."