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Cablegate: Villagers Blockade Usaid Contractor Office in Aceh

VZCZCXRO0452
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #1084/01 1560015
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040015Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9185
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0925
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2596
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 3404
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 2085
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001084

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 ParsonQs 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) ParsonsQ personnel immediately contacted the police
and local officials after noticing the barricades. The
authorities arranged for a meeting of all parties to discuss
the communityQs 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 ParsonsQ 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

JAKARTA 00001084 002 OF 002


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 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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