Fwd (GLW): INDONESIA: Activists discuss independence for Aceh

Alan Bradley abradley1 at bigpond.com
Mon May 28 06:24:03 MDT 2001

The following article appears in the latest issue of Green Left Weekly

INDONESIA: Activists discuss independence for Aceh

JAKARTA - More than 500 people, Acehnese and Indonesians, attended a series
of lively debates and cultural events at conference organised by the
Acehnese People's Democratic Resistance Front (FPDRA) and the Popular Youth
Movement (GPK), a youth organisation in political solidarity with the People
's Democratic Party (PRD), held May 18-20.

The forum was the second recent solidarity event with the self-determination
movement in Aceh, following on the protest by SEGERA (Solidarity Movement
for the People of Aceh) in April.

The activities were opened with a cultural evening which combined
traditional Acehnese performance with Acehnese struggle songs and monologues
and Indonesian struggle songs. Some banned Acehnese songs were sung by a
buskers band, led by Acehnese and largely comprising Jakarta street
musicians aged between eight and 43 years. The cultural group, JAKER, and
well-known playwright and democratic rights activist, Ratna Sarumpaet, also

At the following day's forum, all groups expressed solidarity with the
struggle of the Acehnese people. However, there was a lively, but friendly
debate, about whether independence was the best solution. The
representatives of the FPDRA argued strongly for independence, with the GPK
and the National Peasants Union supporting their arguments. Other groups put
forward various arguments for autonomy, arguing that if the democratic
movement wins in Indonesia and the military is withdrawn from Aceh, then the
real cause of the Acehnese people's suffering will disappear.

A similar debate occurred on the third day, originally intended to be a
discussion among political parties. In the end, only the PRD turned up.
Golkar and all the other invited political parties never replied to repeated
invitations. The speakers at this session were PRD chairperson Budiman
Sujatmiko and FPDRA chairperson Kautsar. A message of support from the Free
Aceh Movement (GAM) was read out to the meeting.

Kautsar explained why the Acehnese people now wanted their independence,
saying that the "social contract" which was a part of the Acehnese
participation in the Republic of Indonesia had now been broken too often.
Promises made in the 1950s to give Aceh the status of an autonomous province
in the 1950s had been betrayed after Suharto had come to power in 1966.

During the Suharto period, said Kautsar, Aceh was oppressed by a system of
exploitation and repression that had come to define Indonesia itself. In
these circumstances, legitimate national aspirations had developed among the
Acehnese people.

Sujatmiko emphasised the PRD's call for the withdrawal of the Indonesian
military from Aceh. He also stated the PRD's support for the Acehnese
people's call for a referendum and their right to choose independence. He
ended his speech by reminding Indonesians that they had not done enough to
struggle with the Acehnese in their effort to get the Indonesian military
out of Aceh. He called on Indonesians to do more in this regard.

"The concrete support and solidarity that we can offer includes: condemning
the military violence in Aceh; demanding the abolition of the political role
of the military; the unconditional release of all political prisoners; the
investigation and prosecution of all military involved in the massacres in
Aceh; and support for a referendum or democratic dialogue", Sujatmiko said.
"All social forces must respond pro-actively, in a just manner and without
violence to the Acehnese people's call for a referendum."

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