Viewing cable 06JAKARTA10880

06JAKARTA108802006-09-01 01:09:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Jakarta
DE RUEHJA #0880/01 2440109
P 010109Z SEP 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 JAKARTA 010880 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2015 
REF: JAKARTA 010572 
Classified By: Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe, Reasons 
1.4 (d) and (g) 
¶1.  (SBU) Summary.  After a year of peace in Aceh, negative 
fall-out from the imposition of Islamic law (sharia) under 
Aceh's special autonomy arrangement is apparent.  While the 
Acehnese themselves have borne the brunt of the consequences, 
on August 17 sharia police raided the World Food Program's 
compound in Banda Aceh.  Reasons given for the raid vary, but 
all parties agree that the religious police lacked the proper 
authorization or police escort.  The incident is the latest 
in a string of examples illustrating increasingly harsh 
enforcement of sharia in Aceh.  Although the sharia police 
have alienated many local Acehnese, the public reportedly 
still supports the concept of sharia, which seems likely to 
become more entrenched and fundamentalist. 
¶2.  (C) Comment.  USAID facilities in Aceh are more secure 
and low-key than the UN's, and the police have assured USAID 
and RSO that no such raids will occur at USAID residences or 
offices.  The UN representative in Jakarta apparently 
declined to press for a strong response, despite the 
encouragement of the Government of Indonesia's Aceh 
Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Office; the UN will, 
however, strongly protest if it happens again.  RSO will 
return to Aceh to review security at the USAID office and 
residence, but stresses that the USG has tighter control over 
personnel than the UN and provides briefings to sensitize 
staff to local regulations.  Aceh's regional police are using 
the WFP incident to try to reassert control over the Sharia 
office and its enforcers.  End Summary/Comment. 
¶3.  (SBU) Even as Aceh celebrates the first anniversary of 
the peace accord between Acehnese rebels and the Government 
of Indonesia (reftel), post has received reports of negative 
fall-out from the imposition of Islamic law, or sharia. 
While the Acehnese themselves (particularly women and the 
poor) have borne the brunt of the consequences, foreigners 
are starting to be targeted.  According to USAID's Aceh 
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Office, local Acehnese 
newspapers have reported in recent weeks that the "sharia 
police," locally known as the Wilayatul Hisbah (WH), are 
planning to subject international NGOs and other expatriates 
residing in Aceh to more raids.  Consequently, USAID believes 
that expatriates who live and work in the capital city of 
Banda Aceh are increasingly at risk for harassment by the WH. 
Sharia Police Raid UN Compound 
¶4.  (SBU) On August 17 at 11:15 PM, members of the WH 
forcibly entered the World Food Program's (WFP) compound in 
Banda Aceh while the residents were sleeping.  According to 
UN staff, the WH justified the raid by alleging that there 
were drugs on the premise (no drugs were found).  Although 
the WFP compound was guarded, USAID reports that the guards 
were not able to stop the WH.  (In fact, the UN chief in 
Jakarta said that they may well have invited the WH in with 
no more than a perfunctory protest.)  Following the raid, 
local UN staff called on the WH chief, who claimed no 
knowledge of the raid.  UN-Aceh staff began pressing the 
Government of Indonesia's Aceh Rehabilitation and 
Reconstruction Office (BRR) to raise the raid (which the UN 
considers to be donor harassment) at the highest levels of 
local government, in the hope that Aceh's governor would 
intervene.  The BRR in turn encouraged the UN to take a tough 
line to pressure the WH, but the UN Jakarta representative 
chose not to do so because of the ambiguous approach of the 
WFP's own guards.  The UN did say, though, that there would 
be a strong protest if this were to happen again. 
¶5.  (SBU) In the days after the raid, the explanations of 
what happened became somewhat more ambiguous.  An Acehnese 
police contact told USAID representatives that the trigger 
for the raid was not drugs but rather allegations of Acehnese 
women "cohabitating" with expatriate men in the compound. 
Separately, Consulate Medan police contacts said that the WH 
called the police for assistance in dealing with an urgent 
problem (Indonesians allegedly drinking alcohol inside the 
compound).  Both contacts acknowledged, however, that when 
the police arrived at the WFP compound, the WH had already 
entered.  Because the WH lacked the proper warrant to enter 
the compound, the regular police were upset with the sharia 
enforcers (and, according to USAID's contact, put an end to 
the raid). 
¶6.  (C) Local police told Consulate Medan that their chief 
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met with the head of the Office for Islamic Sharia following 
the raid to advise him that the WH (who fall under the Sharia 
Office's supervision) were not permitted to act unilaterally. 
Rather, the WH were to advise the police of suspected sharia 
violations, and defer to the police for action.  The police 
were openly critical of the WH to Consulate Medan staff, 
saying that "it is like if you give a child a knife to play 
with:  he'll wave it around because he does not know how to 
use it or the damage it can cause."  Aceh's governor also 
stressed to CG Medan that his office was taking the WFP 
incident very seriously and promised it would not happen 
again.  The governor said that he had made clear to the 
Sharia Office chief that he and the WH must be respectful of 
foreign aid workers and more mindful of the limits of their 
authority. Both he and the police chief said that the WH were 
supposed to apologize to the WFP.  (Note.  Consulate Medan 
staff contacted the WFP, who confirmed that the WH did meet 
with the WFP after the raid.  End Note.)  The governor did 
caution, though, that NGO employees should also exercise 
discretion.  When asked whether that meant that foreigners 
could not drink alcohol in their own residences, the governor 
clarified that they could, but should not "go outside with a 
bottle of whiskey" or walk down the street while obviously 
intoxicated, as apparently has happened. 
¶7.  (SBU) Whatever triggered the WFP raid, other 
international organizations are taking notice.  On August 18, 
the Asian Development Bank's Field Security Officer emailed 
donors throughout Aceh, advising that the issue "isn't going 
to go away."  He warned, based on input from various NGOs and 
donors, that continuing to house workers in co-ed guesthouses 
might lead to problems.  Foreign workers should "not mistake 
community tolerance for community acceptance," he wrote.  He 
continued that even in Banda Aceh, "mixed houses of 
foreigners get unannounced community visits and have pointed 
questions asked about marital status." 
Who Are the Wilayatul Hisbah? 
¶8.  (C) Established in 2000 by a law on sharia implementation 
in Aceh, the Wilayatul Hisbah (WH) are broadly charged with 
upholding Islamic law dictates in all facets of daily life 
for Muslims, be it public morality, dress, judicial rulings, 
or respect for Islamic rituals (e.g., prayer, alms-giving, 
fasting during Ramadan).  As an excellent recent report by 
the International Crisis Group (ICG) on sharia in Aceh notes, 
the WH do not have the legal authority to arrest sharia 
violators; statutorily, they must refer suspected 
transgressors to the police for action.  Consulate Medan 
reports that while the WH are pressing for increased police 
powers, the police are actively resisting because they view 
this as an unacceptable dilution of their own powers. 
Moreover, members of the police and military pointedly refuse 
to accept the authority of the WH over them or their wives 
and girlfriends. 
¶9.  (U) A further complication lies in the composition of the 
WH itself.  Initially, prospective members needed only meet 
broad criteria to be eligible for employment (for example, a 
member had to be a qualified imam with Indonesian citizenship 
who declared loyalty to Islamic law, the state ideology of 
pancasila, and to the constitution).  But because of the WH's 
lack of qualifications and their zealous approach, the WH 
rapidly lost public support.  Consequently, the requirements 
for joining the WH have become more stringent: a candidate 
now must also be a law school graduate (Islamic or secular) 
or have studied for a minimum of seven years in an Islamic 
boarding school, or pesantren.  More and more are being 
recruited from Banda Aceh's branch campus of the State 
Islamic Institute, which the ICG says has historically been 
moderate, although it is increasingly being infiltrated by 
the extremist Islamist organization Hizbut Tahrir. 
Sharia Enforcement:  Testing Limits 
¶10. (U) Published reports, both from the ICG and in the mass 
media, have cited numerous examples of harsh WH sharia 
enforcement and vigilantism by self-appointed guardians of 
morality in Aceh.  Although this has alienated some Acehnese, 
several indicators suggest that the public still supports the 
concept of sharia and that it will become even more 
entrenched. First, as elsewhere in Indonesia, candidates for 
local office are campaigning on platforms that promise 
extending Islamic law's reach.  Second, ICG's Sidney Jones 
told us that the Office for Islamic Sharia, which has overall 
responsibility for the drafting, interpretation and 
implementation of Islamic law, is increasingly influenced by 
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conservatives.  Finally, Jones contends that moderates are 
hamstrung by the belief that all new sharia laws must have a 
basis in recognized Islamic texts.  Since most textual 
interpretations are conservative, Acehnese draft laws are 
perhaps more dogmatic than they would have been if the 
experts had access to more liberal analyses. 
¶11. (SBU) Although non-Muslims are technically not obliged to 
follow sharia in Aceh, WH actions suggest otherwise.  Jones 
commented that for the first time since she began visiting 
Aceh in the late 1970s, she was instructed to cover her hair 
upon entering the WH offices.  This discrepancy between what 
the law prescribes and what occurs in practice manifests 
itself in other ways as well.  As the ICG report points out, 
the "little guy" (more often than not, women and the poor) 
tends to bear the brunt of the WH's offensives, while the 
bigger fish (officials engaging in large-scale corruption, 
for example) are largely immune.  Meanwhile, the WH continues 
to grow:  in Banda Aceh, the force nearly tripled in size 
during its first year, from 13 to 33 members; in the last 
month, it has grown further to 45 members, says Jones. 
Consulate Medan adds that over the past year, WH forces have 
been established in virtually every Acehnese county 
Embassy Response/Comment 
¶12. (SBU) USAID's facilities in Aceh are more secure and 
low-key than the UN's, with an Indonesian regular police 
presence on site, and USAID has contacted all of its project 
partners to caution them to be careful in managing their 
facilities.  In follow-on meetings, the police have assured 
USAID and RSO that no such raids will occur at USAID 
residences or offices; should something be amiss, an 
emergency contact number has been provided.  RSO stresses 
that the USG has tighter control over personnel than the UN, 
including a requirement that personnel be accounted for at 
all times, especially when traveling outside the city. 
Incoming personnel are also briefed about the need to be 
sensitive to local regulations and norms concerning alcohol, 
proper attire and fraternization. (Note.  The WFP residence 
was apparently well-known for hosting weekly happy hours at 
which alcohol was served.  By contrast, USAID does not host 
events of this type, nor are there any Acehnese female staff 
staying at the residence.  End Note.)  RSO is planning a 
visit to Aceh to discuss the UN incident with the police, and 
to review security at the USAID office and residence.  RSO 
will also ensure that the proper procedures are in place 
should the WH confront any USAID employees or partners. 
¶13. (C) Consulate Medan believes that the WFP episode is 
indicative of the WH testing the limits of their authority, a 
trend that is likely to continue.  However, it is positive 
sign that the regional police are using the WFP incident to 
try to reassert control over the WH and the Sharia office, by 
reminding them that unilateral law enforcement actions 
undertaken by the sharia authorities are unlawful. 
¶14. (U) This cable has been cleared by Consulate Medan.