In mid-August 2022, the Washington D.C. District Court publicly released documents containing the testimonies of 11 victims of alleged human rights violations, which had been committed in Aceh by US oil and gas giant, ExxonMobil.
The document is a new chapter in the two decade-long process of uncovering the truth for victims.
In this report, the Project Multatuli and SinarPidie.co retrace the locations suspected of being silent witnesses of violence. We also spoke with witnesses and former detainees who had given statements at hearings for the final report of the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which will be released soon.
This coverage is in collaboration with Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR) — the original reporting in Indonesian can also be accessed here in Indonesian and in English language.
Warning: This article contains descriptions of violence that may be disturbing for some readers. The names of several sources have been disguised for security reasons.
Testimony of a Labi-Labi Driver
AROUND THE YEAR 1990, after each evening prayer, Nuh drove his public transport van, known locally as a labi-labi, into the grounds of the Rancong Tactical and Strategic Unit Post in the ExxonMobil Complex, Lhokseumawe.
On those nights, Nuh, which is not his real name, was in charge of picking up the soldiers from the Rancong Post. Facilities such as these are known by the acronym, Sattis.
“At 8pm I had to be at the Rancong Post. I would bring the soldiers into Lhokseumawe City, where they would seek entertainment. At midnight, I would bring them back to the Post,” said the 54-year-old man, in early August 2022.
The distance from the Sattis Rancong Post to Lhokseumawe City is 16 kilometers, or 30 minutes’ drive.
“I didn’t have a day off during those days,” said Nuh. “If I refused the soldiers’ requests, the labi-labi I drove daily to make a living could disappear.”
From morning to evening, Nuh drove public passengers in his labi-labi from Krueng Geukuh to Lhokseumawe City.
The Sattis Rancong Post was part of the PT Arun Natural Gas Liquefaction facility. Founded in 1974, the company had grown into the world’s largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by the 1990s. The area of the refinery in Blang Lancang was around 271 hectares.
PT Arun, which is sometimes referred to simply as Arun, was a joint venture between Mobil Oil Indonesia, a subsidiary of Mobil Oil Corporation and PT Pertamina, with the Japan-Indonesia LNG Company (JILCO) consortium.
On November 30, 1999, Exxon Corporation purchased Mobil Oil, forming a new entity called ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil Indonesia pocketed 30% of PT Arun’s shares.
The Sattis Rancong Post does not only contain a success story about Indonesia’s natural resources. There, much darker stories of residents who were allegedly tortured by the Indonesian military hired to secure the company’s operations can be found.
A year after PT Arun commenced operations in 1977, it built schools catering for kindergarten to high school students in the factory complex. “Teachers at Arun’s schools were also brought in from outside Aceh, such as from Java and Padang,” said Nuh.
Nuh recalled that a number of official residences for school teachers were used by the Indonesian army, known locally as TNI, to detain and torture prisoners. These detainees had been accused of involvement in the Security Disruption Movement, which is how the Indonesian government referred to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in the 1990s.
During the middle of that decade, only about five teachers and their families were living in the official residences at Sattis Rancong Post. Some of the others were being used as offices by Kopassus, the elite troops of the Indonesian army).
At that time, the teachers’ residences were located in three hamlets, each comprising ten duplexes measuring 4×4 m². Each house had one bathroom and one bedroom. When the Indonesian government implemented the Military Operation Area status from 1989-1998, and Military Emergency and Civil Emergency status from 2003-2005, the residential area was closed off to the public.
The distance between it and the PT Arun employees’ housing complex was about 3-4 km. All of the teachers’ residences faced the sea.
Up until 2000, the schools were under the management of Taman Siswa Yogyakarta, and only accepted children of PT Arun employees. In 2011, the Aceh government took over their management. The schools’ names were changed to Arun State Kindergarten, Arun State Elementary School, Arun State Middle School, and Modal Bangsa Arun State High School.
At the Sattis Rancong Post, Nuh once met Teungku Bantaqiah and his wife, Nurliyah.
“Teungku Bantaqiah’s wife used to be a cook at the Rancong Post when Teungku Bantaqiah was detained,” said Nuh.
On October 24, 1993, army personnel arrested Bantaqiah on charges of possessing 1.5 tonnes of cannabis, which were to be sold to the GAM group.
Bantaqiah was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Lhokseumawe District Court’s panel of judges. He served time in Tanjung Gusta Prison, North Sumatra. However, as Bantaqiah was a political prisoner, President Habibie granted him amnesty and he was released in 1998.
Bantaqiah was the leader of the Babul Al Nurillah Islamic boarding school. He was accused of storing weapons at the school for GAM.
On July 23, 1999, Bantaqiah and 56 of his students in Beutong Ateuh, Nagan Raya, were killed at gunpoint by the Indonesian army, under the direction of Military Resort Command (Korem) 011/Lilawangsa and Battalion 328 of the Army Strategic Reserves Command. The accusations against Bantaqiah were never proven.
According to Nuh, the soldiers who used PT Arun’s facilities during the Jaring Merah Operation buried their prisoners in the yard of the Sattis Rancong Post.
“In one night, 10, 12, or 20 prisoners who had been executed were usually transported in a Chevrolet pickup. If there were hundreds of executed prisoners, they were transported by Mitsubishi Colt trucks,” said Nuh.
The bodies of the detainees were then transported and buried at Seuntang Hill and Tengkorak Hill. Tengkorak means skull in Indonesian.
“I once saw several prisoners in the pickup or Colt truck, some who were even still alive,” recalled Nuh.
Seuntang Hill in Lhoksukon, North Aceh, is 57 kilometers from Rancong. It was included in ExxonMobil’s exploitation area or gas field, the South Lhoksukon Field.
On August 22, 1998, a team from the National Human Rights Commission led by Baharuddin Lopa excavated a grave at Seuntang Hill. 12 human skeletons were found in one hole.
The South Lhoksukon Field was part of dozens of gas wells owned by ExxonMobil: North Sumatra Bee (NSB), known as Block B. There were two clusters, the South Lhoksukon Field A and South Lhoksukon Field D.
PT Arun produced LNG with gas supplies from the Arun Field and South Lhoksukon A and D Fields.
Tengkorak Hill is about 8 kilometers from Lhoksukon. This area was formerly known as Seureukee Hill, as it stood in the village of the same name. At this hill, which served as PT Arun’s waste disposal site, army personnel once assigned residents of Seureukee Village to level mass graves.
Nuh said that the torture of detainees at the Sattis Rancong Post was usually carried out at one or two in the morning.
“Near the water tank, outside the Rancong camp yard, there is also a mass grave.”
PT Arun’s army personnel were not only posted in Rancong. They were also spread along 90 kilometers of refinery pipelines, extending to Exxon’s gas wells in North Aceh.
These posts were vital to the project’s security. Post A-13, Post A-1, and Post Point-A are known as sites where brutal actions were committed by the Indonesian military against Acehnese civilians.
In its Aceh report Peace with Justice? Uncovering Past Violence (2006), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) noted that ExxonMobil disbursed up to IDR 5 billion per month for the operations of the military and police on duty.
The security forces were also given bulldozers to build mass graves and other facilities to supply food and fuel for military operations.
“The funds included a daily allowance of Rp.40,000 for each soldier, transportation facilities, a post office, barracks, mess hall, radio, telephone, and others. In addition, there were at least 17 army/national police posts funded by ExxonMobil, with a total of 1,000 personnel from various units,” said the KontraS report.
The Story of A, Who Escaped from a Torture Post
On Saturday December 14, 1991, A was arrested by Kopassus personnel at Taskforce A/Pidie. The troop’s headquarters were in the army dormitory complex in Bakti City. A had been accused of being involved in the ammunition supply chain for Jamal Burak’s group from Aceh Merdeka.
Jamal was one of around 400 Acehnese youths recruited by GAM’s founder, Hasan Tiro. Hasan had a close relationship with former president of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, and throughout 1986-1989 sent the youths to the North African country to participate in training for prospective commandos.
Jamal was in the second batch that traveled to Libya for training, wrote M. Isa Sulaiman in Aceh Merdeka: Ideologi, Kepemimpinan, dan Gerakan (2000).
Meanwhile, A was a civil servant in the district government.
One day in early December 1991, the plan to hand over the ammunition in Krueng Seumideun Village was leaked to the authorities. Soldiers surrounded A, who at that time was with Jamal Burak. There was gunfire, but both of them managed to flee.
Although he escaped, A was arrested at his home a week after the ambush. He was held at the Sattis A/Pidie Post in Lameulo for 10 days.
Every morning at 3am, A and other detainees were immersed in a 5×5 m² pool. They were told to fight each other, while army personnel urinated in the pool.
Several hours later, the detainees would be tortured again. While soaking wet, A was told to count the number of bedbugs on the wall of the interrogation room.
“From Lameulo, I was then detained at Lhokseumawe Prison. Because the International Red Cross (ICRC) was scheduled to visit, I was transferred to a cell in the military police (PM) Lhokseumawe office. In Lhokseumawe Prison I was held for five nights, while in that 2×2 m² PM cell, I was detained for six nights,” said A, in mid-August 2022.
The reason for his transfer was so the ICRC would not see A in his battered condition.
From the cell at the PM’s office, A was then taken to the Sattis Rancong Post. He said he was kept in a one-room, one-bathroom house.
“The (place of confinement) was a teacher’s house,” said A.
At that time, the commander of the Sattis Rancong Post was Captain Sugiarta, A continued.
The Sugiarta he was referring to was Ngakan Gede Sugiarta Garjitha, who graduated from the Indonesian Military Academy in 1981, and had a career in Kopassus from 1981 to 2001. He retired with the rank of major general.
A admitted he had never been tortured while detained at Rancong, only interrogated with a series of questions.
“The questions asked were, who was present at the handing over of the ammunition at Krueng Seumideun, and who supplied the ammunition.”
In Rancong, A was also assigned to work in a public kitchen, which meant he was able to leave the detention house, although he could not go beyond the post gate, except when he was performing his duties as an imam at the Arun Mosque.
“At 8pm, after the Isha prayer, usually the new prisoners would arrive, and I was no longer allowed to hang around outside.”
A was detained at Sattis Rancong Post for about six months. One day in June 1992, he was asked to pack up his belongings and was then taken to the Lilawangsa Korem in Lhokseumawe City.
“The plan was to take me to Gandhi Medan Prison on the Saturday, but this didn’t happen and it was postponed to Monday,” said A. “In the early 1990s, I had heard that the torture in Gandhi Medan Prison was crueler than the torture at Rancong.”
On the Saturday night, A led the Maghrib prayer at the Al Hidayah Mosque (Arun Mosque), which was right next to Sattis Post. It was raining heavily. Lightning struck a coconut tree and a resident. “Soldiers at the picket post entered the barracks because they were scared,” said A.
He used the opportunity to escape.
A crossed roads for 3 kilometers to Simpang Rancong. That night the checkpoints from Sattis Rancong Post to Simpang Rancong were empty.
He rode on public transport to Bireuen, and from there, continued to Banda Aceh. He then left for Sigli, and then headed for Teupin Raya, Pidie. After that, A became a guerrilla in the forest with the GAM troops.
“After a year in the jungle, I crossed over to Malaysia.”
During the referendum in November 1999, A was in Aceh. However, when conditions in Aceh began to deteriorate, A crossed over again to Malaysia.
He then returned and settled in a village in Pidie in 2006, one year after GAM and the Indonesian government signed the Helsinki MoU in Finland on August 15, 2005.
To this day, A suffers from hearing loss as a result of the torture he experienced at Sattis Lameulo Post. His leg was also injured.
Basri Usman and Captain Bambang Kristiono
Basri Usman was selling rice at a stall in Pondok Baru, Bener Meriah, on January 20, 1992, when he was arrested by soldiers from the Kopassus unit on duty at the Sattis Lameulo Post.
At that time, Basri had only been in Pondok Baru for three months. A resident of Puuk Village, Basri is Jamal Burak’s younger brother.
“Four soldiers arrested me at Pondok Baru. One of them was Pak Bambang,” said Basri, in mid-August 2022.
The man Basri was referring to was Bambang Kristiono, who served as commander of the Sattis-A/Pidie Post in Kota Bakti or Lameulo in 1994. When Basri was arrested, Bambang held the rank of captain.
In July 1997, Bambang, who was then a major, formed Team Mawar, which was behind the kidnapping of 22 pro-democracy activists.
Jakarta’s High Military Court II-08 sentenced Bambang to 22 months in prison and dismissed him as a member of the TNI. Currently, he is a member of Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR), with the Gerindra Party.
After arriving at the Sattis Lameulo Post, Basri was greeted with myriad forms of torture. He was beaten with an electric cable and a 55cm wooden block.
From the Sattis Lameulo Post, Basri was taken to and held captive at the house of Adi Karya in Rambayan. There, he met GAM member detainees who had been trained in Libya.
“It was there that Kopassus confronted me with former Libya GAM members who’d been arrested,” said Basri.
He was held captive for a week. “I was electrocuted and my head was trampled.”
In the 1990s, Adi Karya was known as a contractor for the Pidie regency government’s local public works projects. Two of his houses, in Blang Asan, Kota Sigli, and Rambayan, were used by Kopassus as Sattis posts.
Basri was also taken to the Sattis B/North Aceh Sattis Post in Rancong for two days. “In Rancong, in one house, there were four of us,” he said.
“I was put in a drum with a padlock attached. The drum was then rolled on the ground. When it had stopped rolling, the soldiers beat the drum over and over. My ears hurt. I could barely breathe inside it.”
From Rancong, Basri was taken to the Lilawangsa Korem, and then to Alue Buket, Lhoksukon, North Aceh. In Alue Buket, Basri was held for three months.
“In Alue Buket, Kopassus used the former public irrigation works office as a place for interrogation and detention,” said Basri. “The questions the soldiers asked were about the activities and whereabouts of my brother, Jamal Burak.”
On February 13, 1992, Jamal Burak died in a gun battle in Beuah, Delima District, Pidie.
After Jamal died, Basri was moved back from Alue Buket to the Sattis Lameulo Post, where he was held until 1994.
On April 16, 1994, Basri was released. “But I was still subject to mandatory reporting until 1997,” he said.
In the executive summary document resulting from the investigation titled Serious Human Rights Violations in Aceh (Rumoh Geudong and Other Sattis Posts), Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, Komnas HAM, revealed that Sattis posts were built in at least four sectors in each sub-district.
Field operations under the command of Korem 011/Lilawangsa were carried out by Kopassus troops. The Sattis posts served as sites for the detention of those who were being examined, as well as interrogation, torture, and execution.
Otto Syamsuddin Ishak, who was Komnas HAM Commissioner from 2012-2017, said the Sattis Rancong Post or Sattis Satgas B/North Aceh Post was the command center for military operations codenamed “Jaring Merah” in Aceh.
“Operation Jaring Merah was a counter-guerrilla operation to ward off insurgents using the shock therapy method,” said Otto, on August 24, 2022.
According to this human rights activist-cum-sociologist of Syiah Kuala University, GAM guerrillas were at one with the local community. “So, this operation was a kind of separation of fish (GAM) from water (the community). To get the fish or for the fish to appear at the top, the water was stirred,” said Otto.
Because the operation was counter-guerrilla, Kopassus personnel assigned to Aceh were those from Group 2/Sandhi Yudha, Otto continued.
The acts of torture the victims experienced at each Sattis post were almost the same: shocks delivered through a device turned by a crank, which had no voltage meter.
“The dignity of all victims who had been held captive at each Sattis post was torn down,” he said.
In one of the routine Kopassus reports of which we received a copy, District Military Command I/Bukit Barisan carried out Operation Jaring Merah in the Korem 001/Lilawangsa area.
There were four objectives of this military operation: to find and destroy GAM figures and members; seize enemy weapons; dismantle GAM’s clandestine networks in villages and cities; and dismantle the cannabis syndicate network, which was considered to be the source of GAM’s funds.
Kopassus personnel carried out special intelligence operations in Operation Jaring Merah, which was conducted by Kodam I/Bukit Barisan.
Operations were divided into two stages.
In the first stage, intelligence operations were carried out by infiltrating GAM agents or operational assistants and coaching them to create particular conditions, ambush and search houses, collect clandestine data, and establish groups of agents and train them.
In the second, the operation targeted GAM members in the forest. Its activities continued stage one operations while also focussing on combat operations, which included conducting raids, patrols and interceptions, as well as clandestine data collection for the development of larger operations.
The people of Aceh referred to the agents as cuak.
Hasan Tiro declared the Free Aceh Movement on December 4, 1976. Its aim was to fight for the country of Aceh Sumatra, as a continuation of the Sultanate of Aceh Darussalam.
Under the New Order regime, political centralization and unequal policies over control of natural resources were the factors behind the emergence of the movement.
“Perhaps it is not a mere coincidence that the declaration of the Free Aceh Movement in late 1976 and its first military action in 1977 coincided with the opening of PT Arun, the first major LNG extraction and processing facility in Aceh,” wrote Geoffrey Robinson in Rawan is as Rawan Does: the Origins of Disorder in New Order Aceh (1998).
From Rumoh Geudong to Rancong
The number of victims buried in the Sattis Rancong Post complex is estimated to be more than 300.
According to Nuh, the figure is the accumulation of prisoners executed from 1991 to 1998.
“The number of detainees at Rancong Camp exploded when Rumoh Geudong in Pidie was emptied. All detainees at Rumoh Geudong were transferred to Rancong Camp,” said Nuh.
“The prisoners were suspended from the ceiling. Their feet didn’t touch the floor. In the morning, prisoners who had not been crushed by torture were ordered to run on the gravel. Their feet were beaten with a 23cm wooden block.”
Rumoh Geudong was vacated some time after Suharto stepped down in May 1998. Victims of human rights violations during the period of the Military Operations Area (DOM) in Aceh spoke out. Acehnese civil society and students demanded the DOM be repealed.
The DPR then formed a fact-finding (TPF) team on July 22, 1998, led by retired TNI member Hari Sabarno, who was then Deputy Speaker of the DPR. The team comprised Ghazali Abbas Adan from the United Development Party faction, Lukman R Boer from the Development Works faction, and Sedaryanto from the Indonesian Armed Forces faction.
During a fact-finding team visit to Rumoh Geudong, Pidie, in July 1998, prisoners who were being held were allegedly moved temporarily to various places, with most of them relocated to the Sattis Rancong Post.
Farida Haryani, Director of the Foundation for the Development of Socio-Economic Activities for the People of Aceh (PASKA), still remembers the team’s visit to Rumoh Geudong.
“In Pidie, the TPF first held a meeting with victims at the Pidie District DPR building. Initially, the number of victims allowed to enter was limited to just five, as a sample,” said Farida, in August 2022.
Farida had facilitated around 500 widows of DOM victims in Pidie. Dozens of trucks and smaller pickup trucks lined the road in front of the Pidie District DPR building. At that time, Farida worked as the secretary of Forum Peduli HAM, a forum for human rights concerns.
The DOM victim community protested to Farida because they were prohibited from entering the Pidie District DPR building.
“I protested to Bang Ghazali. He then removed the tape that had held the door shut, and the victims who had been standing outside barged in,” said Farida.
From the Pidie District DPR, the TPF divided their tasks among two teams. Hari Sabarno’s team visited Rumoh Geudong, and Ghazali Abas Adan’s team visited Pinto Sa, the Sattis post operating in the former Baro Raya Irrigation building in Tiro.
Arriving at Rumoh Geudong, Hari Sabarno was greeted by the Sattis Post Commander, Bilie Aron (Rumoh Geudong), as well as First Lieutenant Sutarman and his members. Hari was then shown around Rumoh Geudong’s yard.
Farida then urged Hari to enter Rumoh Geudong. “Inside the house, Pak Hari Sabarno found instruments of torture, such as stunning devices, hammers, wires and ropes,” said Farida.
Farida got the impression that Hari knew there were remnants of torture in the corners of the house.
“At the beginning of the meeting with the commander of the Sattis Post in the Rumoh Geudong courtyard, Pak Hari asked him whether it was a place of torture. The post commander replied that they had just arrived. There had just been a change of troops,” said Farida.
However, Farida guided Hari to find a list of personnel and a personnel changeover schedule on the wall inside Rumoh Geudong. “Feeling he had been lied to, Pak Hari beat the commander,” said Farida.
The DPR’s TPF team was in Aceh for a week. The team also met with widows in Cot Keng Village, Bandar Dua District.
On August 7, 1998, President BJ Habibie issued an order to repeal the DOM.
On August 20, 1998, the Komnas HAM TPF led by Baharuddin Lopa arrived in Banda Aceh.
The team dismantled a mass grave at Kuala Tari Beach, Pasi Jeumerang Village, Kembang Tanjong District, Pidie, and found two human skeletons.
Unlike the DPR’s TPF team, which only heard testimonies from victims, Komnas HAM’s TPF also brought in a forensic doctor from the North Sumatra Regional Police, Dr. Ritonga. Two of the doctor’s medical assistants joined the Komnas HAM team during its fact-finding mission investigating gross human rights violations in Aceh.
The team prepared to excavate the mass grave in Rumoh Geudong.
“Pak Baharuddin Lopa asked for a meeting with the victims to be held at Rumoh Geudong,” said Farida.
At that time, Kopassus had left Rumoh Geudong empty.
The team did not find intact human skeletons in the mass grave at Rumoh Geudong. “What was found at that time were finger bones, leg bones, and hair,” said Farida.
Farida received information that Kopassus was suspected of excavating the mass grave at Rumoh Geudong and removing the bodies of the murder victims, four days before the arrival of Komnas HAM’s TPF.
After the team met with the victims and excavated the grave at Rumoh Geudong, the house was burned down.
In Deah Teumanah Village, Trienggadeng District, the Komnas HAM team also uncovered a mass grave in which five skulls were found.
The team departed for Jakarta on August 23, 1998, after the excavation of a mass grave at Bukit Seuntang, North Aceh.
Bahagia Escaped Death
In May 1998, Bahagia Yusuf was arrested at his home and grocery store in Ujong Rimba Village, East Mutiara District, Pidie, having been accused of knowing the whereabouts of 25 weapons.
He was detained for eight days at the Rumoh Geudong Sattis Post and then taken to the Rancong Sattis Post.
“The leak of information about weapons occurred after Yusuf Cubo, a former GAM member, was arrested in Malaysia and then returned to Indonesia. Yusuf was held captive and tortured at the Sattis post in Rancong. Unable to bear the torture, he leaked information about 25 weapons,” said Bahagia, who is now 67 years old, in August 2022.
Yusuf Cubo, said Bahagia, joined the interrogation.
Antje Misbach, in Politik Jarak Jauh Diaspora Aceh (2012), wrote that on March 26, 1998, 545 Acehnese detained in five prisons in Malaysia (Semenyih, Macap, Umbo, Linggeng, and Juru) were deported to Aceh.
“The majority of those who were deported from Semenyih were detained for two weeks at the Rancong detention camp,” wrote Antje.
After arriving at the Sattis Rancong Post at 1 in the morning, Bahagia was soaked for three hours in a 2×1 m² pool. His hands were tied to the doorframe of a room in the house. He was detained with two others. Their necks and bodies were wrapped in iron chains, connecting each of them together. The only clothing that clung to their bodies was underwear.
“In Rancong, I was tied up and suspended. I was electrocuted from 1pm until morning. I was hit with an electric cable and a stingray’s tail. I was detained in Rancong for two months,” he said.
A few days before the withdrawal of non-organic army personnel from Aceh, Bahagia was transferred from the Rancong Sattis Post to the one at PT Perkebunan Nusantara Paya Bujok, Langsa. At that time, Lilawangsa was under the command of Colonel Dasiri Musnar.
“The soldiers asked me and several other detainees about the whereabouts of our relatives in East Aceh, so we could be returned to them. I said I had relatives in Sungai Raya,” said Bahagia.
On August 16, 1998, Bahagia and another prisoner he didn’t know were sitting in the back seat of a Daihatsu Taft car.
It turned out that Bahagia was not being taken to where his relatives were in Sungai Raya, but instead was dumped in the middle of Jalan Banda-Aceh Medan, in Beunot Village, Syamtalira Bayu District, North Aceh.
“From inside the car, we were kicked out to be run over by another car traveling from behind at high speed. I survived because I fell into a ditch,” he said.
Bahagia does not remember what happened next to the prisoner who was killed by the car.
“By then I no longer had my wits about me. I was once treated in Malaysia,” he said.
After PT Arun and ExxonMobil Ceased Operations
The Indonesian Navy occupied the Sattis Rancong Post after Kopassus was withdrawn from Aceh at the end of August 1998.
Today, the four hectares of land on which the Sattis Rancong Post once stood are now the site of an Indonesian Navy base. The former official teachers’ residence building has been torn down, and the land has been blocked off with wire fences suspended between trees.
Rancong Village actually ceased existing in 1974, as all the land in the village had been acquired by PT Arun. As well as Rancong, Blang Lancang Village experienced the same.
From around 1970 to the 1980s, residents of Rancong and Blang Lancang Villages refused to be relocated to Krueng Mbang, Geureudong District, North Aceh, because the location was very remote. Residents also refused to be relocated to Panton Labu, North Aceh.
After the peace agreement between GAM and the Indonesian government was signed on August 15, 2005, around 200 traders’ cottages were built on about 20 hectares of land formerly owned by PT Arun.
The area also has a new name, Pantai Pulau Seumadu, or Seumadu Island Beach.
Geographically, the area is adjacent to East Batuphat Village. PT Arun’s land assets near the beach were actually handed over to the Indonesian Navy to be used as a military base in 2017.
Outside the commercial area, residents have built houses out of wood as well as semi-permanent houses.
From Jalan Medan-Banda Aceh, the former Sattis Rancong Post can be reached from Simpang Empat Rancong in Hamlet A, East Batuphat Village. Simpang Empat Rancong faces the PT Arun housing complex.
Stretching between Simpang Empat Rancong to the Sattis Rancong Post is about 2 kilometers of asphalt road. About 1 kilometer of the road to the former post remains unsealed.
In October 2014, PT Arun shipped LNG cargo to Korea Gas Corporation for the final time.
In 1973, Pertamina had signed an LNG sales contract with Japanese companies including the Industrial Bank of Japan, Kyushu Electric, Kansai Electric, and Far East Oil Trading.
“The contract with the Japanese companies was the largest LNG sales contract at that time, with sales of 7.5 million tonnes annually, or the equivalent of 180 thousand barrels of crude oil per day. This contract was binding for 20 years,” wrote Teuku Khaidir and Arif Widodo in Mengembalikan Kemasyuran Arun (2021).
From 1978 to 2014, PT Arun shipped 4,269 cargo loads of LNG to Japan and South Korea, with a single shipment worth up to US$10 million.
In 2015, after PT Arun had made the shipment of LNG to Korea, all assets such as refineries, ports, power generators, pumps, jetties, and employee housing complexes were taken over by PT Perta Arun Gas, a subsidiary of PT Pertamina, which operates the LNG receiving and regasification terminal at the site.
“Now, all land owned by PT Arun that was not being used by Perta Arun Gas, yes, belongs to LMAN,” said the Head of East Batuphat Village, Abdul Gani, in August 2022.
The LMAN he was referring to is the Lembaga Manajemen Aset Negara, or State Asset Management Institute, a non-echelon organizational unit within the Ministry of Finance.
Exxon began its withdrawal from Aceh in 2009. In that year, Exxon handed over the Pase Operational Area, one of East Aceh’s natural gas producers that has been operating since 1981, to Triangle Energy (Global) Limited.
The Pase Operational Area is still operating today, and has three productive gas wells, namely A1, A5 and A6, which cover an area of 922 km².
ExxonMobil Indonesia’s Cooperation Contract in Block B and North Sumatra Offshore was due to end in 2018. However, in 2015, the company relinquished all its assets to PT Pertamina Hulu Energi.
Block B was under the management of PT Pertamina Hulu Energi until November 2020. It is now managed by the Aceh Government-owned enterprise, PT Pembangunan Aceh (PT PEMA), through its subsidiary PT Pema Global Energi. Meanwhile, the North Sumatra Offshore Operational Area is operated by PT Pertamina Hulu Energi.
Eight years before ExxonMobil handed over the Pase Operational Area, the International Labor Rights Fund, a human rights organization based in Washington D.C., filed a federal lawsuit against ExxonMobil, due to the company’s involvement in alleged human rights violations in Aceh.
This institution acted as the attorney for 11 Acehnese citizens.
ExxonMobil has denied the claims of the plaintiffs nine times, meaning the legal process has been stalled in the courts for more than 20 years.
Written by Firdaus Yusuf, edited by Ronna Nirmala, and translated to English by Julia Winterflood.
The names of victims and perpetrators are also included in Amnesty International’s 1993 report titled Indonesia: “Shock Therapy”, Restoring Order in Aceh 1989-1993, and the Independent Commission for Investigating Acts of Violence in Aceh (KIPKA), a commission formed by Presidential Decree Number 88 of 1999.