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Cablegate: Villagers Blockade Usaid Contractor Office in Aceh

VZCZCXRO9806
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #1083/01 1550949
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 030949Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9183
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0923
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2594
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 3402
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 2083
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001083

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
AIDAC

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MTS, DS/IP/EAP, DS/DSS, INR/EAP and INL
DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS AID
USAID FOR ANE/EAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON ASEC CASC SOCI ID
SUBJECT: Villagers Blockade USAID Contractor Office in Aceh


1. (SBU) Summary. Villagers barricaded the complex of USAID-funded
engineering subcontractor Parsons near the town of Lamno in Aceh on
the night of June 2. Signs on the barricades warned people against
attempting to enter or exit the compound. Two Americans and
numerous Indonesian staff were inside at the time. While insisting
that Parson's personnel were never in any danger, the village chief
justified the action on the grounds that not enough villagers were
employed by the project. The situation was defused after community
representatives held a dialogue with the police, Parsons, the
military, and others. Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf and Regional
Military Commander Supiadin AS acknowledged that events such as
these are all too common in Aceh and expressed embarrassment over
the incident. Aceh Police Chief Rismawan promised an investigation.
End Summary.

Event Chronology
----------------
2. (SBU) The Parsons Corporation is a USG contractor on the
USAID-funded road project in western Aceh. The guest house and
office complex in a village on the edge of the small town of Lamno
on the road from Banda Aceh to the western coastal town of Calang
normally houses 14 local staff, and on the night of June 2 three
expatriate Parsons employees including two Americans were staying at
the guesthouse on the complex. Sometime around 11:00PM on June 2
local a group of approximately 70 villagers blocked the access roads
to the Parsons property with barricades and signs warning people
against attempting to enter or exit.

3. (SBU) Parsons' personnel immediately contacted the police and
local officials after noticing the barricades. The authorities
arranged for a meeting of all parties to discuss the community's
grievances on June 3. At the meeting, villagers demanded greater
employment on the Aceh road project. Because the letters the village
had written on the subject had gone unanswered, villagers said, they
had no choice but take stronger action to ensure that they were
taken seriously. Several hours later, once Parsons agreed to
facilitate contact with local subcontractor Hutama Karya, the
villagers agreed to remove the barricades. Police informed the
villagers that their actions were illegal and warned them of more
direct consequences should they attempt to block access to the
Parsons compound in the future.

Reaction
--------
4. (SBU) Regional GAM commander Alex Abi told Consulate Medan that
the organization had nothing to do with the barricading of Parsons'
compound, although he was aware of villagers' plans to do so. Had
he known, he added, that there were foreigners in the compound he
would have tried to discourage the village from this course of
action. According to Alex, some sort of conflict was almost
inevitable because the village had grown extremely frustrated with
the local contractor. The spark, he said, was a recent incident
where villagers requested the use of Parsons vehicles to transport
the local soccer team to a match. Parsons turned down the request
based upon USAID regulations that preclude use of USG-financed
vehicles for such a purpose.

5. (SBU) Local officials have played down the activity and tried to
justify the actions of the villagers. In a conversation with Medan
Consulate staff on June 3 the Village Chief was unrepentant.
Companies and NGOs operating in the area, he said, had an obligation
to hire local workers.

6. (SBU) Both the military and police are monitoring the situation
closely. Military, police, GAM, and local government sources
contacted by Consulate Medan all agree that there was never any
physical danger to Parsons staff. Local police have, however, asked
Parsons to register their foreign staff with police if they plan an
extended stay in the area and have warned villagers of the
illegality of their actions.

7. (SBU) Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf expressed embarrassment at the
incident when contacted by Consulate Medan. He added that this type
of action by villagers affecting outside organizations is occurring
all too frequently in Aceh and is difficult to stop. (NOTE: The
June 3 action, however, is the first event in Aceh directly
impacting American Citizens. END NOTE.) Irwandi promised to ask

JAKARTA 00001083 002 OF 002


for aggressive follow-up from Aceh Police Chief Rismawan. He also
expressed surprise the Village Chief may have been part of the
action and promised to reprimand him and require a formal letter of
apology. Aceh Police Chief Rismawan told Consulate Medan on June 3
that while the situation was resolved peacefully, he will instruct
the District Police Chief to assess if there was any illegal
intimidation or other improper behavior and to treat it accordingly.
Regional military commander Major General Supiadin told Consulate
Medan that he conducting his own investigation, stressed the
importance of getting the USAID-funded road built, and added that
the incident represented another embarrassment for Aceh and
Indonesia.


HEFFERN

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