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TNI questionnaire on peace process being distributed in Aceh

Sinar Harapan – August 2, 2005

Murizal Hamzah/Emmy Kuswandari, Banda Aceh – Questionnaires to ascertain the public’s views on the Helsinki peace process are being distributed in the northern Aceh district of Bireuen. At the top left hand corner of the questionnaire is the writing TNI (armed forces) Psychology Team Sub-Team III Bireuen. Underneath this is printed the words name, address and employment of person filling out questionnaire.

The questionnaire is being hand distributed by TNI personnel wearing civilian clothes. “Please give these out to your friends, tomorrow I’ll take it back”, the TNI officer was quoted as saying by a resident who declined to give their name to Sinar Harapan.

The questionnaire titled “Public’s Response to [the Peace Process]”, contains four questions (using an open question format) which must be filled out by the public: On the planned signing of the Helsinki peace agreement, on what happens if the agreement fails, on the plan for the TNI and the Indonesian police to be withdrawn from Aceh and on amnesty for members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

When contacted by Sinar Harapan, the commander of the Iskandar Muda territorial military command, Major General Supiadin AS, stated that there has been no order issued for the distribution of the questionnaire to residents. “Please son, bring me an example of the questionnaire okay”, he told Sinar Harapan though an SMS message on Sunday July 31.

The head of the TNI Psychology Team in Aceh, Lieutenant Colonel Gunawan, said that he had been ordered by the chief of the TNI not to say anything, including answering questions about whether the questionnaire had been issued by the team. He then asked, is it true that there is unrest among the public in relation to the questionnaire?

The head of the information centre for the TNI’s military command in Aceh, Lieutenant Colonel Ery Sutikno, explained that the TNI Psychology Team’s presence in Aceh is more orientated to understanding the mental condition of soldiers during and after their tours of duty. He also conceded that he did not know for certain if the questionnaire came from the TNI Psychology Team.

The former spokesperson for the TNI’s operational command in Aceh, Colonel Kolonel Achmad Yani Basuki, also explained that there has been no order by the TNI’s operational commander to distribute the questionnaire in Bireuen. According to Basuki, the TNI supports all efforts to resolve the Aceh question peacefully.

“There has been no such order. We have [already] explained, the TNI is still committed to supporting every [attempt at] resolving the Aceh [question] peacefully”, he told Sinar Harapan on the evening of Monday August 1.

A resident of Bireuen, Burhan, admitted that he had already filled out the questionnaire although he did not write his name and address. The car dealer received a questionnaire from a friend on Thursday July 28 that had to be returned on Friday July 29. “[I] didn’t want to look for trouble and didn’t want difficulties with them”, he said. Burhan believes the questionnaire is appropriate as long as it is filled out truthfully.

Based on Sinar Harapan’s observations on the ground, scores of questionnaire have been distributed but after the negative reaction by residents it was withdrawn.

Sutikno meanwhile says he was unaware that the questionnaire has created unrest among residents. “We certainly don’t want this kind of situation. The situation in Aceh at the moment is relatively conducive”, said Sutikno.

[Translated by James Balowski.]
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