Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid ordered on March 13th a limited military operation to suppress rebellion in the Aceh province after Exxon Mobil Corp. shut several natural gas fields due to security concerns, the chief government spokesman said on March 14th.
“[Due to] the impact of increased security disturbances on strategic and important facilities such as Exxon Mobil in Arun … it is acceptable to use a limited military operation,” the spokesman said.
“The president has asked the chief political minister and the armed forces chief to carry out the measures.” The government and separatist rebels first signed a cease fire in mid-2000, but this has largely failed to reduce the levels of violence in the resource-rich province.
The rebels have been fighting for decades for independence and control over their natural resources, but Wahid opposes independence for Aceh and has instead offered autonomy and an increased share of oil and gas revenues.
Exxon Mobil said on March 14th that it was uncertain when the three gas fields would be reopened, although Indonesian Oil Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro had said on March 13th that he expected the company’s operations to return to normal this week.
An Exxon Mobil spokesman said that: “It is our intention to resume full production in Aceh as soon as conditions allow … but we cannot state with any certainty when the security conditions in Aceh will be stable enough to resume normal operations.”
He added that: “There was not one incident which precipitated our decision to shut our onshore operation. There has been a cumulative affect from dozens of incidents.”
Production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) at Aceh’s PT Arun NGL plant, which is dependent on Exxon Mobil for all its gas, has been hit hard by the closure of the three gas fields last week.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)