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When a Sergeant Fights Generals

Ten hectares of land now occupied by a Mobile Brigade Headquarters is under dispute. Five generals are being sued over the case.

FAR from his home in Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, former Aceh District Police Sergeant Saiful Syamsuddin, 42, has now gone to ground in the Kebon Sirih area of Central Jakarta. For the last four months he has lived in a room in a boarding house for free. A friend provided the facilities without cost after he found Saiful destitute and without money. He is currently in the process of taking care of a land dispute case that has been going on for 10 long years.

The case he is dealing with is indeed a difficult one. Saiful is suing five police generals and seeking compensation for 10 hectares of his family’s land upon which now stands a Mobile Police (Brimob) headquarters. The five generals that he is pursuing are not just any old generals. They are former National Police Chiefs Gen. (ret) Suruga Bimantoro and Gen. Da’i Bachtiar, Aceh Regional Police Chief Insp. Gen. Bahrumsyah Kasman, Aceh Deputy Regional Police Chief Brig. Gen. Rismawan, and National Police Headquarters Deputy for Logistics, Insp. Gen. Heru Susanto. “They manipulated the law and as a result my family has lost money,” said Saiful.

Saiful’s lawsuit started with the signing of an agreement pertaining to land belonging to PT Banda Kersa, a company owned by his father-in-law, H.T. Hamzah Risjad, on December 11, 1996. The agreement stated that Hamzah was to hand over the land for the construction of a Brimob Company headquarters in Lhokseumawe. The agreement also said that when the headquarters were built, Banda Kersa would be the contractor. If it turns out that a different party does the construction work, the Aceh Regional Police have to pay compensation for the land.

Chief of the Aceh Regional Police at the time, Col. Suwahyu, accepted the deal. Together with the head of the Aceh Regional Police Logistics Directorate, Lt. Col. M. Ramli Arsjad, Suwahyu signed the agreement. Hamzah signed the agreement as the CEO of Banda Kersa.

The Aceh Regional Police and Banda Kersa also reconnoitered the site beforehand and everything was fine. The status of Hamzah’s land did not become an issue because he had proof of ownership: Business Permit No. 1. The permit was issued by the North Aceh Regency Land Agency on November 8, 1984, for land located at the villages of Blang Ado and Jeulikat in the subdistricts of Kuta Makmur and Blang Mangat, North Aceh.

Saiful says that the Regional Police’s promise was just sweet talk. Secretly the Aceh Regional Police had brought in four companies whose names had never once appeared in the December 11 agreement: CV Kenari Indah, CV Paramitra, CV Young Star, and CV Putra Kalit.

This was the source of the problem because it was precisely this, the ownership of the land, which the Aceh Regional Police later questioned. The Regional Police deemed that Banda Kersa did not own the land but that it was traditional land controlled by the community. The four companies that had been contracted then “got on good terms” with the police and bought the land and bequeathed it to the Regional Police. The 31 hectares of land that was purchased was none other than the land owned by Banda Kersa.

Not only was Banda Kersa abandoned, later a National Police HQ team that was sent to Aceh declared that the agreement between the Aceh Regional Police and Banda Kersa was legally invalid. Saiful was understandably annoyed. “Whereas, before the headquarters team arrived, National Police Chief Gen. Bimantoro had acknowledged that the land was owned by Banda Kersa,” said Saiful, who at the time when the agreement between his father-in-law and the Aceh Regional Police was signed held the rank of private first class which was then equivalent to a sergeant major.

Following this, the construction of the Brimob headquarters was started and Saiful set in motion the process of seeking justice. Not just in Aceh, but also “crossing over” to Jakarta to seek help from the House of Representatives (DPR) and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Speaking before the DPR, Bimantoro denied that Banda Kersa owned the land. This is despite the fact that in a letter dated September 28, 2001, which was submitted to the leaders of the Indonesian Military (TNI)/National Police faction, Bimantoro admitted that there had been an agreement between the police and Banda Kersa. Bimantoro said that the agreement took place on November 11, 1996—which was wrong, because the correct date was December 11, 1996. In responding to questions about the Saiful case, Bimantoro’s replacement, Gen. Da’i Bachtiar, gave the DPR the same answer. The community owned the land. An explanatory letter by Da’i to this effect was sent to DPR leaders on December 27, 2002.

In contrast to the Chief of Police, Bahrumsyah has stated that he was unaware of the existence of an agreement on December 11, 1996. Speaking with Tempo, who interviewed him on Friday last week, Bahrumsyah related how when he was appointed as the Aceh Regional Chief of Police in 1999, the National Deputy Chief of Police, Nana Permana, ordered him to resolve the dispute over the Brimob HQ land in Lhokseumawe.

According to Bahrumsyah, in order to speed up the resolution of the case, he summoned Saiful to his office and offered to compensate him by giving him contracts for two National Police projects that had earlier stalled. The projects were to build housing for police in Lancang Garam, Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, and a police barracks for the Blang Keujren Sectoral Police in Southeast Aceh. “I
thought the intent of the order was because Saiful had not received any projects, so I gave him the projects,” said Bahrumsyah.

In order that work on the two projects would proceed smoothly said Bahrumsyah, he then sent a memo to the North Aceh District Chief of Police, Saiful’s immediate superior. “Let Saiful finish the projects first,” he asked. Later on as it turned out, Saiful was in fact arrested for desertion.

According to Saiful, prior to being arrested in March 2000, he had already been dismissed. But he was unaware of it because when the letter of dismissal was issued, he was working on the projects given to him by Bahrumsyah. Speaking with Tempo, Bahrumsyah stated he did not know that Saiful had been dismissed because at the time he had already been transferred to East Kalimantan. “I knew about the issue after I became the Aceh Regional Police Chief again,” he said.

The dismissal was even questioned by Saiful because it was done without it being heard by a military court. “The dismissal was done unilaterally,” he said. The letter of dismissal was signed by Bimantoro. “That was unusual, because for the dismissal of a sergeant it’s usually enough [for it to be signed] by the District or Regional Chief of Police,” he said. Strangely, four months after being dismissed, Saiful was transferred to the Greater Aceh District Police but exactly what his position there was, was unclear. “My salary stopped immediately after being transferred,” he said. Saiful suspects that his career as a police officer was intentionally “assassinated” because of his loud protests about his father-in-law’s land case.

Saiful is determined to continue to fight for the rights of his family that were denied by the National Police. He has declared that he will not return home to Aceh until his demands are granted. “I will challenge the five generals in court,” he said.

National Police Chief Gen. Sutanto has already got involved in investigating Saiful’s case. A team was formed and flown to Lhokseumawe and Sutanto has already received the results of the team’s investigation that was completed on July 9. But the contents of the report are not very different from the conclusions drawn by Sutanto’s predecessor. The land referred to by Saiful is not owned by Banda Kersa. As it happens National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Paulus Purwoko has refuted Saiful’s story that he was dismissed because he fought for his family’s land. “Saiful was in fact an officer that was undisciplined,” said Paulus.

Maria Hasugian, Erwinda Dariyanto, Abdul Manan

Different Then... Different Now

Gen. (ret) Bimantoro
National Chief of Police, September 2000-November 2001

Then: Admitted that PT Banda Kersa is the owner of the land to be used for the construction of the Lhokseumawe Mobile Brigade HQ. Later on he refutes the admission and dismisses Sergeant Saiful Syamsuddin, who is also the director of Banda Kersa.

Now: “The duty of the National Chief of Police is just legalization. Not signing [agreements]. As to what kind of case it is, feel free to ask the regional police. And lots of sergeants get dismissed, right? If it had been a major-general, of course I would have remembered exactly.”

Insp. Gen. Bahrumsyah Kasman
Aceh Regional Chief of Police

Then: Gave Saiful two projects to rehabilitate police homes and barracks in North and Southeast Aceh as compensation for Banda Kersa’s land.

Now: “I didn’t know there was an agreement between PT Banda Kersa and Chief of Aceh Regional Police on December 11, 1996. I only obeyed the orders of the National Deputy Chief of Police, Nana Permana, to resolve the issue of the ownership of the Brimob Company HQ land in Lhokseumawe. Then, I gave Saiful two construction projects that had stalled, as compensation for the problem. I thought the issue had already been resolved.”

Gen. (ret) Da’i Bachtiar
National Chief of Police, November 2001-July 2005

Then: Supported Saiful’s dismissal and never acknowledged that the ownership of the land was in the name of Banda Kersa.

Now: “I don’t recall it, but please check with the logistics section. I have also contacted Anton Bahrul Alam. You can meet with Anton if you want.”

Police Lt. Gen. (ret) Posma Lumban Tobing
Deputy Head of the TNI/National Police faction in the DPR, 2001

Then: Accepted Saiful’s complaint and urged National Police HQ to immediately resolve the problem.

Now: “We have twice sent letters to the National Police HQ in order to resolve this case quickly and properly. But up until our term in the DPR ended, it was apparent that the case had not yet been resolved.”

Maria Hasugian, Abdul Manan
Sources: Interviews and Tempo investigation.

Aceh Today
Tempo MaGAZINE, No. 05/VII/Oct 03 - 09, 2006


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