Conflict of business interests behind TNI-Brimob clash in Aceh

Sinar Harapan – November 29, 2004
Brimob officers walk past TNI soldiers (simomot)
Brimob officers walk past TNI soldiers (simomot)

Jakarta – A conflict over palm oil business interests is suspected to have been the trigger behind the armed clash between TNI (armed forces) troops and the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) in the village of Seuneubok Bace in East Aceh on Thursday November 25.

This was revealed by a Sinar Harapan source within the East Aceh police department when they were contacted on Saturday morning. The source said that the Brimob post in Seuneubok Bace village had been turned into a forward sectoral coordinating command post for all troops deployed in East Aceh. “It’s not just Brimob, but marines and other TNI task force units which are constantly dropping by the Brimob post”, said the source.

Meanwhile the deputy-commander of the East Aceh district task force Superintendent Agustri who was contacted by Sinar Harapan on Saturday morning explained that the attack on the Brimob post was planned beforehand. This was revealed by short message service (SMS) messages which were found in a cellular phone being held as evidence in the incident.

“From a number of read SMSs from the mobile phone it is known that the attack on the Brimob post in the Seuneubok Bace village was planned the day beforehand and involved a certain private from Rifle Company B, Peudawa, Battalion 111, who is being investigated and is known by the name Haris”, revealed Agustri. The SMSs also described the moment of the attack on the Brimob post.

During the attack a Brimob member Private Juanzein was shot dead by a bullet in the head. Three other Brimob members, Privates Faizal, Alida and Dikdik Santosa were seriously wounded in the shooting. Private Juanzein’s body was returned to his home in Palembang, South Sumatra on Friday.

Colonel Azmin Yusri Nasution from the Lilawangsa 011 Sub-regency Military Command meanwhile says that they have detained 25 TNI soldiers from Rifle Company B in relation to the attack. According to Nasution the 25 were arrested on Friday by the Iskandar Muda I military police. “I have taken measures against my soldiers and jailed the lot of them immediately. We have put the soldiers who I consider to be at fault in jail”, he said.

When asked about the reasons for the attack Nasution said that the incident occurred because of a misunderstanding however he declined to give details about what the misunderstanding was about.

Responding to the incident, J. Kristiadi, a military observer from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and People’s Representative Assembly member Happy Bone Zulkarnaen who were contacted by Sinar Harapan on Saturday morning said that excessive inter-force arrogance was often the trigger for such clashes.

According to Kristiadi, this arrogance results in a loss of respect for other forces saying that an effort must be made to eliminate this sense of supremacy between different forces. If not such clashes will continue to occur.

The basic problems is in fact related to the TNI and police’s professionalism which includes the capabilities of each forces, ethics, discipline and social responsibility between forces. “They must have social responsibility to the public”, he said.

Happy Bone Zulkarnaen said that this is not the first such clash which has occurred in Aceh but that incidents like this have occurred repeatedly. “Actually, were sick and tired of warning them. But, the clash occurred because of excessive corps solidarity”, he explained.

According to Zulkarnaen such clashes can also be triggered because troops feel fed up and are therefore easily offended and angered. In fact the condition of the soldiers should be understood by their superiors. “The chief of the TNI has said [soldiers] are fed up. If this is so there must be proper management of the rotation of soldiers so that soldiers there [in Aceh] continue to be physically and mentally fit”, he said.

He said that if such clashes continue to occur it will create a negative image in the “eyes” of the public especially when such clashes occur in conflict areas where their duty is to protect the public.

If civilians clash he said, it can be broken up by the security forces. But if it is the security forces who are armed and trained in stopping clashes obviously there is no one who can break them up. “If it is they themselves who clash, then who will protect the public. This creates a poor image”, said Zulkarnaen.

TNI chief General Endriartono Sutarto meanwhile said that the investigation into the incident between rogue TNI soldiers and Brimob has been handed over to the commander of the Iskandar Muda Territorial Military Command and the head of the Aceh police.

“It was just a misunderstanding. But in order to resolve it we have handed it over to the military and police commanders so that the issue can be resolved optimally”, he told journalists in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh on Friday.

Furthermore said Sutarto, he hoped that the incident would not be repeated. “If indeed there is [someone] who is guilty, yeah and punished, don’t let there be others who hold a grudge or feel hurt, [deal with it] though good law enforcement”, he said. Sutarto was accompanying President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s on a visit to Aceh.

“They must have a feeling of mutual respect for each other. If they are on guard for each other, I think what occurred in East Aceh will not be repeated”, he said. (nor/ina/ady)

[Abridged translation by James Balowski.]