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Revised paper for the Proceedings of the Conference on "Conflicts and Violence in Indonesia," organised by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Department of African and Asian Studies, Humboldt-University in Berlin, July 3-5, 2000.

How the military exploited local ethno-religious tensions in Maluku to preserve their political and economic privileges

George Junus Aditjondro
(Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Newcastle, Australia)

On the surface, all these developments looked very spontaneous, but deep below the surface, one can see two interlinking networks, a military network, and a militant Muslim network, each with their own agenda, but joined by the common aim of sabotaging the government's aim to roll back the military power and to create an open, tolerant society, free from any religious domination.

Military network:

The military network, which links the two phases discussed by Bartels, stretches from Jakarta to Pattimura officers in Ambon, who worked hard to provoke Muslims and Christians to fight each other. This nation-wide network includes two retired Army and Navy officers and once active Police officer in Ambon. They belong to the military faction which strongly opposes any reduction of the political power and business interests of the military (Pereira 2000b).

One retired and three active generals have been named by Moluccan sociologist, Tamrin Amal Tomagola, as leading this network. They consist of (Ret). General Wiranto, Lieut.-Gen Djadja Suparman, Lieut.-Gen Suaidy Marasabessy, and Maj.-Gen, Sudi Silalahi (TEMPO Interkatif, June 29, 2000; Jawa Pos , August 5, 2000; NRC Handelsblad, June 23-24, 2000; Sydney Morning Herald, January 19, 2000).

Wiranto was the Indonesian Armed Forces commander who oversaw the post-referendum orgy of violence and destruction in Timor Lorosa'e in September 1999, and also oversaw the outbreak of violence in Ambon eight months earlier.

Djadja Suparman was the commander of the Jakarta Army Command that oversaw the formation of the Muslim militias under the banner of PAM Swakarsa to fight the student activists in November 1998. He was eventually promoted to command the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad), and had ordered the Kostrad troops in Makassar (South Sulawesi), to fly to Ambon, only hours after the first clash between a Christian Ambonese public transport driver and a Muslim Buginese passenger broke out in Ambon on January 19, 1999.

Suaidy Marasabessy, a veteran from the Timor war, was then the commander of the Hasanuddin Army Command in South Sulawesi, who approved the sending of these troops to Ambon, despite the fact that their would emotionally biased against the Christian Ambonese and defending the Bugis and Makassarese migrants in Ambon, driven by ethnic solidarity.

Marasabessy was consequently moved to the Armed Forces Headquarters and promoted to TNI Chief of Staff of General Affairs (Kasum) by President Abdurrahman Wahid. Both his as well as Djadja Suparman's promotions were based on recommendations from Wiranto, who was then still Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security. Wiranto then appointed now Marasabessy to head a team of 19, predominantly Moluccan, officers, to investigate the background of the violence in Maluku and suggest ways to solve the problems.

During both phases of the conflict, Sudi Silalahi has been the commander of the Brawijaya Army Command in East Java, and has overseen the deployment of Brawijaya troops - side by side with Kostrad troops - in escalating the inter-religious violence in Maluku. In his capacity as Brawijaya commander, he has also allowed thousands of Jihad militants to board passenger ships to Ambon, in spite of President Wahid's call to the armed forces to block them.

Interestingly, during the early months of the violence, the entire Moluccan archipelago was still subordinated under the Trikora Army Command with its headquarters in Jayapura, West Papua. However, instead of sending Trikora troops from West Papua to Ambon, Wiranto sent troops from Java and South Sulawesi, who were predominantly Muslims, to deal with the troubles in Maluku. Then, on May 15, 1999, with tens of new batallions deployed in the archipelago, the status of the Pattimura Sub-Regional Military Command, or Korem (Komando Resort Militer ) was upgraded to become a full-fledged Regional Military Command, or Kodam (Komando Daerah Militer ) (Tempo, January 23, 2000: 25).

In Maluku itself, two Colonels based at the Kodam headquarters in Ambon fanned the flames of animosity between Christians and Muslims. The Pattimura Territorial Assistant, Col. Budiatmo, nurtured links with Christian thugs, especially Agus Wattimena, to maintain their rage against their Muslim neighbours, while Intelligence Assistant Col. Nano Sutarno, kept the flame alive among Muslim thugs (Aditjondro 2000f; Tomagola 2000b; TAPAK Ambon 2000).

Those two colonels, who had already been stationed in Ambon under Suaidy Marasabessy as Korem Pattimura commander, also had friends in high places. A brother of Nano Sutarno, Mariner Brigadier General Nono Sampurno, is the commander of the security guards of Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. This has made her practically 'captive' to the military agenda, although she was the one assigned by President Wahid to solve the Maluku problems.

Apart from those two colonels, who were removed from Maluku after their names were exposed in my articles in Sydney Morning Herald (July 18, 2000) and Jakarta Post (July 20, 2000), several retired and active officers living in Ambon also played a role in 'fanning the flames.' They are (Ret). Brig.-Gen. Rustam Kastor, (Ret). Police Lieut.-Col. R. Hasanussi. and ex- Navy officer, M. Jusuf Elly.

Born in Ambon on July 9, 1939, Rustam Kastor was the former Chief of Staff of the Trikora Army Command in Jayapura (West Papua) and had also been stationed at the TNI headquarters in Jakarta. He can rightly be called the 'ideological father' of the violence in Maluku. He gave a pseudo-scientific justification to invite 'holy war' (jihad ) forces to Maluku to save Muslims from annihilation by Christians Moluccans, by accusing the Christians of trying to revive the banned 1950-1964 'South Moluccan Republic' rebellion. Not only the Protestant Church of Maluku, or Gereja Protestan Maluku (GPM), but also the Moluccan chapter of Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) does support this RMS ideal, according to Kastor.

Actually, this conspiracy theory was first raised on January 28, 1999, in a press conference organized by two militant Muslim organisations, KISDI (Komite Indonesia untuk Solidaritas Dunia Islam) and PPMI (Persatuan Pekerja Muslim Indonesia) (SiaR, January 29, 1999). It acquired some sense of credibility when it was officially adopted and disseminated by Ret. Maj. Gen. A.M. Hendropriyono, then Minister for Transmigration, in a public meeting with the Maluku governor, religious and other informal leaders, students and youth in Ambon on Tuesday, March 9, 1999 (Kompas, March 10, 1999). Another retired general, Feisal Tanjung, instantly underlined Hendropriyono's accusation (SiaR, March 11, 1999).

The theory then spread like bushfire as it was disseminated by the Muslim controlled media in Indonesia, where the abbreviation of 'RMS' became distorted to mean 'Republik Maluku Serani', or the 'Christian Moluccan Republic', thereby distorting the fact that Ambonese Muslims had also taken part in founding this liberation movement, which goal was not to set up a Christian state (see Chauvel 1990).

After nearly a year of being propagated by certain Muslim and pro-New Order media, this theory was formalised by Rustam Kastor into his book (2000), which has become a best seller not only among certain Muslims circles in Maluku, Java and Sulawesi. Apart from its provocative language about Christians, the book blames the massive Moluccan student demonstrations in November 1998 for preparing the ground for the so-called 'RMS-led Muslim-cleansing operation.' This was, according to Kastor, a conscious attempt to weaken the military so that they would not be able to crush the subsequent 'RMS-led rebellion' which aimed at cleansing Maluku from its Muslim population (2000: 33-34, 185, 197-207).

Kastor also accuses Christians of manipulating the student-led Reformasi movement to destroy the Indonesian economy and thereby to promote the Republic's disintegration by separating the Christian-dominated provinces in Eastern Indonesia -- including East Timor -- which would then form a new Christian-dominated country with fantastic natural resources, since it will include West Papua and the current province of Maluku (Kastor 2000: 108).

What Kastor's book ommits is the fact that Timorese and Papuan freedom fighters have Muslims in their leadership ranks, who are certainly not fighting to create a greater Christian alliance. Besides, separatism is certainly not a Christian monopoly as is shown by the Achehnese people .

Apart from writing a book to justify an anti-Christian war in Maluku, Kastor was personally involved in inviting the jihad forces from Java to Maluku (Kompas, April 7, 2000), and built up their fanatism through his sermons calling for the 'holy war' to liberate Muslim Moluccans from their Christian oppressors (, April 9, 2000;, May 30, 2000).

The next person , H. R. Hasanussi is one of the few -- if not the only -- police officer who heads a provincial branch of the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI, Majelis Ulama Indonesia). In July 1999, Hasanussi went to Makassar (South Sulawesi) to recruit about sixty Muhammadiyah members and ship them to Ambon to join the local Muslim militias (TPG, 1999). Ironically, he lost his son, Alfian ("Eki") Hasanussi (19), a Police Sargeant who was fatally wounded by a sniper on Wednesday, May 17, 2000 ( & Tempo Interaktif, May 18, 2000).

The third person, Mohammad Jusuf Elly, related through marriage to Hasanussi, is a retired Navy officer who served in East Timor from 1975 to 1983. He claimed even to be in East Timor before the invasion, and seemed to be closely linked to Indonesian commandos who were stationed in the territory during the Indonesian occupation. His hatred against Australian InterFET troops that had pushed the Indonesian occupation forces out of Timor Lorosa'e showed up, when he accused the Australian mining joint venture in Halmahera of supplying helicopters to Christian groups for weapons and ammunitions transport. "Those Australians think they can send in Interfet to do as they wish, just like they did in East Timor," so Jusuf Elly told The Australian of January 13, 2000.

Then, after many people had put the blame on the jihad forces for the troubles and called for their expulsion from Maluku, Jusuf Elly has strongly opposed those calls. He event threatened to kill the Governor of Maluku, Saleh Latuconsina, a Muslim, if the governor was going to order their expulsion (AFP, May 25, 2000). However, by August 2000, the former Naval officer who is married to a Javanese woman ceased his attacks on Christians and was even recorded as aiding Christian humanitarian workers who needed protection in the Muslim quarters (Sanubar 2000).

With so many high-ranking army figures involved in inciting the troubles in Maluku it is no wonder that the soldiers could operate without impunity in the twin provinces, where until May 2000, 70 per cent of the victims on both sides were killed or injured from gun shots by the military and police (Tomagola 2000c). Basically, three Army and one Police units have taken part in the carnage, namely the Kostrad, Brawidjaja, Kopassus and Brimob troops.

The Kopassus' involvement has not been so obvious as the three other troops, which has been well-documented by foreign journalists. The Kopassus soldiers often disguised themselves, using Arabic robes and false beards, the trade marks of the Muslim militias or using Laskar Maluku t-shirts, the trade mark of Christian militias. Some of them were intercepted before reaching Ambon, such as what happened when five long-haired Kopassus soldiers were arrested aboard KM Lambelu, on Sunday, July 29, 2000, before entering Ambon from Buru (The Australian, August 2, 2000). On the other hand, however, on August 5, 2000, about 70 Kopassus officers were spotted by journalists and humanitarian volunteers leaving Ambon boarding a Hercules military aircraft, pushing a large wooden box of their gear on the plane. They wore their military uniform, wearing their military stripes as well as their Kopassus badges. In addition, the presence of Kopassus members in Ambon had already been noticed by journalists since January 1999 (Sanubar 2000; other sources in Ambon, pers. com., July-August 2000).

Kopassus presence among the paramilitary forces could also be deduced from the typical combat skills - such as shooting and throwing granates from within empty oil drums, pushed by Jihad militants who attacked the UKIM campus - or by the prevalence of snipers, who often took deliberate care to take equal number of victims from both communities in each inter-religious

confrontation. Given that fatal head shots are not a monopoly of the Kopassus soldiers, and have also been mastered by other special forces of the Navy and Police, the Army special forces have had more time and occasions to develop this mortal skills in their assignment in Timor Lorosa'e and in their training exercises with the Australian SAS sharp shooters.

Without this military backup, the Jihad forces themselves could impossibly on June 21-22, 2000 break into the police headquarters in Tantui, Ambon, burn down a housing compound occupied by about 2,000 police members and their families, break into two ammunition warehouses, and steal 832 guns, 8000 bullets, and dozens of Mobile Brigade (Brimob) uniforms (Djari 2000; Republika, June 24, 2000; Straits Times, June 25, 2000).

The militant Muslim network:

This brings us to the militant Muslim network, which cooperated with the previously described military network to send up to 100000 young Muslims to Maluku - about 8 000 in the Northern half and about 2000 in the Southern half, according to Tamrin Amal Tomagola (InfoMaluku, June 12, 2000) -- supposedly to 'liberate their Muslim brothers and sisters from their Christian oppressors.'

Many of the leaders of the masses recruited to wage the 'holy war' in Maluku came from a new stream of Muslim militants, which follows the teachings of the Wahhabi movement. This international movement to return to Islam of the first generation is funded by members of the House of Saud. It is named after its founder, Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab (1703-1787), whose teachings were adopted by Ibnu Saud when he founded the Saudi monarchy in 1925 (Aburish 1994:12-13; Jansen 1979: 87).

In Indonesia, they found a rapidly growing support -- outside the two largest Muslim organizations, Nahdatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah -- in the Tarbiyah Movement, which formed conggregations or jamaah salaf, among students in several prestigious state universities, such as the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). Their goal is to establish an Islamic state, hence they are also known as the 'neo-NII [Negara Islam Indonesia ]' movement', to distinguish them from a prior clandestine movement linked to the army's intelligence operations.

One well known NII-campaigner is Al-Chaidar, an Achehnese who organised the gathering of between 100000 and 400000 people at the National Monument park in Jakarta on January 7, 2000, calling for Muslims to wage the holy war to Ambon. This gathering was addressed by the chair of the People's Consultative Council (MPR), Amien Rais, a former minister in Wahid's cabinet, Hamzah Haz, and a former minister in Suharto's cabinet, Fuad Bawazier, and was attended by 22 militant Muslim organisations, which include Kisdi, PPMI, FPI and Ongen Sangaji's Muslim Maluku Association (Xpos, January 22-30, 2000; Jubilee Campaign 2000).

The commander of the jihad forces in Maluku, Ustadz (Teacher) Ja'far Umar Thalib, also comes from the Wahhabi movement, who after studying in Madinnah joined the Taliban guerillas in Afghanistan, that odd tactical alliance between the US CIA and the Wahhabi businessman, Osamah bin Laden (SiaR, January 28, 2000;, April 15, 2000; sources in Jakarta and Sydney, April-October 2000).

In the Spice Islands, and especially in the predominantly Muslim North, there exist a strong bond between the Jihad movement and one of the militant Islamic parties, the Justice Party (Partai Keadilan). In areas currently under control of the local and national jihad forces, the Wahhabi ideals of establishing Muslim societies with the first generation of Muslims as model is currently being carried out.

The close links between the Jihad forces and the Justice Party (PK) is through PK's ideologue, Abdi Sumaiti alias Abu Rido. This former Islamic religion lecturer at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) pursued his education at the Madinah University where he joined the Wahhabi movement. A strong anti-Semitic and anti-Christian figure, Abu Rido also opposes other Islamic sects which he feels do not teach the right doctrine.Sabili, the magazine which he started while still in the underground neo-NII movement in 1989, is currently one of the most vocal mouthpieces of the Jihad movement.

Meanwhile, support for the jihad forces within the armed forces has not only come from the Wiranto faction in the Army. They also have enjoyed tacit support - if not active backing - from factions in the Police and Navy. Despite President Wahid's order to all the forces and the police to block the jihad forces from leaving Java, the East Java Police commander, Mayor General Da'i Bachtiar did nothing to stop them from boarding a state-owned ship, KM Rinjani, in Surabaya to sail to Ambon. They were also allowed to ship their weapons on another ship, Tanto Sakti, hidden in soap boxes in 200 containers which reached Ambon after the arrival of the troops. In Ambon, the authorities allowed these containers full of weapons to be disembarked at the Muslim-controlled Yos Sudarso harbour in Waihoang, instead of in the Navy harbour of Halong.


Judging from the perseverance of the inter-religious killings in Maluku, the rapid deployment of Jihad forces in the twin provinces, the open involvement of soldiers in siding with the villagers and the jihad forces, and the perseverance of military officers linked to the Wiranto faction, none of whom have been court-martialed or even investigated for ordering the attrocities in Maluku, one cannot argue that these are just 'rogue elements' in operation, as has been the standard line in Indonesian official rhetoric. The explanation for the continuing troubles in Maluku have to be found in a more systemic way in the interests of the TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia ), the Indonesian armed forces.

From analysing the data and studying the way of thinking and operation of the military, one can say that there are five points on the military agenda in perpetuating the conflict in Maluku. The first point and the most immediate agenda was to counter the students opposition against the military's dual function by turning that vertical conflict into a horisontal conflict; the second point is to defend the archipelago concept, or Wawasan Nusantara ; the third point is to defend the territorial structure of the armed forces; the fourth point is to defend the economic interests of the armed forces; and last but certainly not least, the fifth point is to defend the high-ranking officers from humiliation in criminal, human rights and corruption trials.

First of all, as pointed out by Munir (2000), triggering the horizontal conflicts in Maluku and elsewhere was a deliberate act by the military to divert the attention away from the demand of the students in Ambon and elsewhere in Indonesia to reject the military's dual function.' This has been achieved, not only by the destruction of two campuses where the students had been on the forefront of the reformasi movement in Maluku, but also by driving the religious wedge between Muslim and Christian students in the province, and to a certain degree, also in Indonesia in general.

Secondly, as pointed out to the author by military analyst, Ingo Wandelt, the forced retreat of the Indonesian state apparatus from Timor Lorosa'e, after the East Timorese people overwhelmingly voted for independence, has left a big gap in the chain of defence in the Eastern Indonesian region.

According to the Indonesian defense doctrine, Wawasan Nusantara, islands protect an inland sea, in this case the Banda Sea. With East Timor breaking lose, in the TNI eyes, the islands chain of defense in Eastern Indonesia has been seriously opened and weakened. Maluku, which lies just north of East Timor, is thus directly exposed to potential threats from the South, especially the perceived threats by the UN forces, dominated by the Australian Defense Forces, currently based in Timor Lorosa'e.

Apart from the geo-strategic break away of half of the Timor island, the large Christian population in Maluku is seen as less trustworthy in the military's eyes to defend the southeastern flank of the Republic, believing that they may have the same separatist tendencies as the predominantly Catholic East Timorese people.

Hence, strategic demographic adjustments were made by the military by settling pro-Indonesian East Timorese in West Timor, to act as a buffer against future incursions into the West from the Eastern part of the island. On the same time, pro-Indonesian East Timorese incursions into the East, backed by regular Indonesian soldiers may in the future force East Timor into becoming a satellite state of Indonesia, as Lebanon currently is in relation to Syria, thereby mending the broken link in this archipelagic chain.

In the light of these strategic demographic adjustments, the deployment of thousands of jihad militants, who may eventually settle down in the Spice Islands and bring in their relatives from Java and elsewhere can be seen as population shift to prevent Maluku from following East Timor's example. In other words, the deployment of thousands of Muslim militants into the Christian areas of Maluku had to be expected as early as January 1999, when the independence option was offered by then President B.J. Habibie to the East Timorese people. It eventually took fifteen more months, since the military had first to concentrate on reshuffling Timor's population, in the wake of the UN-supervised referendum.

continued to part 5

From: (George J. Aditjondro)
Subject: GJA: Guns, pamphlets & handie-talkies (4)

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