Indonesia: OCHA Humanitarian Update Jun 2004

Situation Report
Originally published
  • Eruption of volcanic Mountain Awu in South Sulawesi caused temporary (two weeks) evacuation of over 29,000 people. All evacuees have returned to their villages.

  • The Governor of Aceh was formally appointed as Administrator of Civil Emergency Authority in Aceh. Despite the change to civil emergency status, foreigners' access to the province remains restricted.

  • After more than a month of civil emergency status in Aceh, the military operation continues. Some 205 people were killed during the month.

  • Four died and over 130 people were injured during a two weeks long tribal clash in Timika, Papua.

  • The State Administrative Court ruled against the Presidential decree to appoint the Governor of the newly crated West Irian Jaya province.

  • The UN Secretary General has lifted the evacuation status, which was in force in West Timor since the tragic killings of three UNHCR staff in Atambua in 2000. This will now allow the UN agencies to begin direct assistance activities in the area in close coordination with the relevant Government counterparts, and in close collaboration with donors and interested NGO partners.

  • A month-long Presidential Election campaign passed peacefully without security incidents. A total of 154 million eligible voters registered for the presidential election (first round) scheduled for 5th July.

  • Early June, national UN staff members have returned back to Ambon after being relocated to Jakarta at the end of April
Major events:

Natural Disaster: A major eruption of Mount Awu on Sangihe Island, North Sulawesi, hurled stones and spewed smoke and hot ashes about 3,000 meters into the air. No casualties were reported, as the local administration evacuated some 29,000 villagers living on the slopes of the 1,320-meter volcano. The early warning system worked well, allowing the local authorities to make evacuation arrangement for population exposed to potential danger and people also had the opportunity to secure their properties and assets. The displaced people were mostly housed in the nearby town of Tahuna, in government offices and other public buildings, while some remained with their friends and relatives. The immediate needs of the evacuees were met from the community contribution and government assistance. A joint team comprised of OCHA, WFP, PMI/IFRC and the local administration made an initial assessment of the level of damage and assistance required. The mission found that the volcanic ashes had damaged 600-1,000 hectares of farmland, plantation and tree crops (clove, nutmeg), however there was no serious damage to dwellings or infrastructure. After two weeks of displacement all have returned to their homes.

Two people were killed and five injured when Mount Bromo of East Java, a popular tourist destination, erupted early this month. The volcano spewed black smoke and ash up to 3 km from the crater and ejected hot rocks. An early warning from the Directorate of Volcanological and Geological Disaster Mitigation in Bandung, West Java indicated that there are at least 5 volcanic mountains showing signs of eruption. These are Mount Dukono and Mount Ibu in North Maluku, Mount Ijan and Mount Semeru in East Java and Mount Lokon in North Sulawesi.

Forest fire and peat burn by small farmers caused smoke and haze, affecting large parts of the Sumatra Island, particularly the Riau province. The visibility was reduced to 300 meters in the provincial capital, Pekanbaru city. The smoke also drifted across Malaysia and visibility at Kuala Lumpur airport was down from normal 10 km to 3 km. The Government deployed fire fighters to control the situation, however they face enormous challenges as most burning spots are far from water sources. Later during the month, local authorities reported that seasonal rains contributed largely to a significant improvement in the air quality and visibility in Pekanbaru city and the neighbouring areas.

National Election: According to the General Elections Commission (KPU) the number of voters eligible for the July 5 presidential election is around 154 million, up from the 147 million registered for the April 5 legislative elections. A month long election campaign was conducted peacefully without significant reports of violence. Numerous election observers and monitors from both national and international organizations are ready for deployment throughout the country. Among them, a team from the Carter Center led by former US president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter will observe the prudential election.

Regional Updates:

Aceh: Mr. Abdullah Puteh, the Governor of Aceh officially took over the command from the martial law administrator on 07 June 2004, almost three weeks after the government changed the province's status to a state of civil emergency. The transfer of command and operational control order were signed in a ceremony presided over by acting Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Mr. Hari Sabarno. A team of 18 assistants and observers would assist the civil emergency Administrator to help outline policies and solve problems that may occur during the civil emergency, and to monitor budget disbursement. The Governor reiterated that despite the province's change of status to civil emergency, a number of regulations from the martial law period still apply, including restriction on foreigners entering the province. This restriction will continue to hamper the humanitarian operations of international organizations (UN, Donors and International NGOs) in the province.

The Chief of Army Staff reiterated that there is no plan for immediate withdrawal of TNI, however indicated that law enforcement responsibilities would be gradually handed over to the police and other security apparatus. The number of troops however, would remain the same as the TNI vowed to pursue the military offensive against the separatist GAM. Since the change of the emergency status (19 may 2004) at least 205 people were killed of which 168 were suspected GAM, 31 civilians and 6 belonging to the security forces. The Chief of Military Police, Col. Bagir Purnomo stated that TNI is taking human rights allegations very seriously and investigating 164 violation cases conducted by TNI personnel during the past one year of military emergency period. Reportedly, 140 troops have been convicted for abusing civilians, illegal taxation, rape and desertion.

After two days of their arrest, a court in Stockholm decided to release two of the exiled separatist GAM leaders (Malik Mahmood and Zaini Abdullah) due to lack of sufficient evidence. Swedish police earlier arrested the leaders on suspicion of "crimes violating international law".

Central Sulawesi: The police have destroyed/defused a large quantity of guns and ammunition recovered mainly from Poso district during door-to-door search operations over the past ten months. The security forces continue recovering explosives, home made guns and ammunitions at an alarming rate from the trouble stricken Poso district. For instance, according to the local news reports during 8-10 June, TNI recovered five bombs, 29 home made firearms and 275 bullets from Poso Pesisir and Poso Kota sub-districts. In recent weeks, the community has voluntarily provided information to the police that led to successful discovery of bombs, guns and ammunitions. Despite the recovery of firearms, there has not been security related incidents during the reporting month raising optimism among some 50 displaced families to return to Lage sub-district from Poso Kota. These returnees require material assistance to rebuild their houses and livelihood income support.

A number of women's groups have recently claimed that sexual abuse of girls and women by security personnel in the province is a widespread and serious problem requiring the immediate attention of senior command. The National Commission for Human Rights and Women's Group has reported 20 such cases with police to begin the investigation.

Maluku: The recent spate of bombings and reports of new arms caches found in Ambon is a strong reminder to both the authorities and the people of Maluku that enduring peace cannot be taken for granted. The latest incidents make it all too clear that elements with an interest in seeing the peace disrupted are still at work for either financial or political gain. The situation in Ambon during this month was relatively calm, however, although local media reported several incidents of bombs and explosives being discovered. The city's dividing lines (non-visible) between Muslim and Christian communities are slowly fading away and tension is easing, while people appear to be more interested to return back to normalcy yet afraid of attacks from the opponent group. On a positive note, some journalists from Maluku made a four points declaration; a) Support peace and reconciliation process, b) Publish positive news and avoid provocative statements, c) Apply professional attitude and d) Urge the government and security apparatus to solve separatist movement.

After careful review of the security situation, national staff members (Ambon residents) of the UN agencies have returned back to the Island however, international staff are to remain out of Ambon at least until the 5 July election for security reasons.

Papua: The Papuan people's campaign against the province's division has received a major boost after the State Administrative Court ruled against a law appointing Abraham Octavianus Atururi as West Irian Jaya governor. Several prominent Papuans immediately called on the government to comply with the court's ruling that Presidential Decree No. 213/2003 appointing the governor was contrary to the 2001 law on special autonomy. There is widespread opposition in Papua to the division of the province. Many people have criticized the central government for its inconsistency in enforcing the special autonomy law and its decision to split the natural resource-rich province for security and economic reasons.

A tribal conflict broke out between Nduga and Damal tribesmen in Timika on the south coast of Papua. The battle with spears, bows and arrows caused the death of four people while over 130 people were injured. Two tribesmen died on the first day of fighting, which was believed to have begun as a family feud. Hundreds of Policemen were deployed to separate the warring parties and maintain law and order. With the interventions from the district authorities both communities agreed on a peace deal to end the violence.

A panel of judges dismissed defence pleas by two senior police officers charged with human rights abuses in Papua, ruling that their ad hoc rights trials must continue in Makassar, South Sulawesi. The alleged abuses took place on December 7, 2000, in Abepura, about 20 km south of the Papua capital Jayapura. The violent confrontation was triggered when 30 residents armed with sharp weapons attacked and set fire to the Abepura Police station, in retaliation police opened fire.

West Timor: Based on the recommendation from the UNSECOORD mission, who visited the province in mid-May 2004, the UN Secretary General has lifted the evacuation status in West Timor which was in force since the tragic killings of three UNHCR staff in Atambua in 2000. The UN security phase in West Timor has thus been reduced to Phase IV from Phase V. This will now allow the UN agencies to begin direct assistance activities in the area in close coordination with the relevant Government counterparts, and in close collaboration with donors and interested NGO partners. Presence of UN agency international staff in West Timor is currently being determined.

North Sulawesi: A joint OCHA/UNDP/UNICEF assessment mission to IDP locations in Bitung, North Sulawesi, concluded that the majority of the remaining IDPs no longer desired to return to North Maluku, and that the support they had received from the provincial government in many ways exceeded the support that IDPs received in other parts of the country. The mission recommended that priority be given to resolution of land ownership issues and economic development, but that the IDPs generally were not in need of international assistance.

Madura: A joint OCHA/UNICEF/WFP mission to Madura concluded that virtually all 120,000 remaining IDPs from Central Kalimantan desperately want to return, that they no longer regard security as an impediment, but only lack the funds necessary to return and find jobs. Their current living conditions in camps and private housing in Madura are below acceptable standards. A concerted effort needs be made to support the return process in a low-key manner to avoid a recurrence of the violence that erupted in February 2001.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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