Crackdown in Aceh, solidarity needed

glparramatta glparramatta at greenleft.org.au
Wed Sep 25 00:10:20 MDT 2002


Dear friends,

Some of you may know that an Australian academic Lesley McCulloch, and a
colleague from
the US were picked up in Aceh, north Sumartra, on September 10 and were
held illegally until
being charged on September 18 with allegedly violating their visas.

The Indonesian authorities are also trying to find evidence to charge
Lesley with espionage.
She has been beaten, sexually harassed and, for some time, denied access
to consular and legal assistance.

Following is a letter which Action in Solidarity with Asia and the
Pacific is circulating which calls on the Australian government to
assist - quickly. Please sign it, return it to
<asap at asia-pacific-action.org> and send it on to your networks to also
sign. Bob Brown from the Australian Greens has moved a motion directed
at the Indonesian government to ensure the swift release of Lesley
McCulloch.

While Lesley is not an Australian citizen, she is a permanent resident.
If Lesley is charged, the ramifications are frightening - not only for
others here, but for the Acehnese people who
urgently require international solidarity for their struggle for a
referendum.

In solidarity,
Pip Hinman

0412 139 968
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

To the Hon. Alexander Downer
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of the Commonwealth of
Australia

Australian government must assist Australian academic arrested in Aceh
September 20, 2002

We, the undersigned, request the Australian government step in to
protect an Australian permanent resident who has been unlawfully
arrested in Indonesia and is facing serious charges. Under Indonesian
law she can be detained for another 20 days.

Lesley McCulloch, a Melbourne academic who has written extensively on
Aceh, is currently being held in the Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Police
Headquarters in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. She is facing
draconian charges related to her alleged breach of visa conditions (five
years’ jail or a fine of 25 million Rupiah or approximately $4000).

McCulloch and a US nurse, Joy-Lee Sadler were detained in south Aceh on
September 10. McCulloch told international media that she and Sadler
were mistreated by the military and the two women were denied access to
consular officials and lawyers for some days. Under Indonesian law,
charges must be laid within 24 hours.  In a note smuggled out, McCulloch
said the pair were held for seven nights “denied right of contact with
embassy, abused by army, knife held at my throat ... sleep deprivation,
denied medical assistance, intimidation, sexual harassment”.

On September 18, Acehnese authorities charged Lesley McCulloch and
Joy-Lee Sadler, a United States nurse, for allegedly abusing their visa
conditions under Article 40 of the immigration law. Indonesian
authorities claim the women were on tourist visas and therefore misused
them to conduct research about the conflict in Aceh. This is untrue.
Westerners generally are given short visit passes, not tourist visas.
Under the law, this type of visa allows for a wide range of activities.

More worryingly, however, it seems that the Indonesian authorities are
considering charging Lesley McCulloch for alleged espionage. The
military alleges that the three women had information about the Free
Aceh Movement (GAM), the organisation the Indonesian government has been
fighting for some decades. In fact, McCulloch told ABC-JJJ on September
19 that all the authorities found were some dated photos on her laptop
and handwritten interviews with Acehnese villagers.

A dangerous precedent will be set if the Indonesian authorities succeed
in bringing charges against Lesley McCulloch. Already Jakarta has ruled
Aceh off limits to  international human rights organisations such as the
Red Cross and Amnesty International and, as a result, the world knows
little about Aceh. If concerned individuals are prevented from going
there, the Indonesian government will have successfully thrown a blanket
of silence over its war there.
Jakarta made similar - but unsuccessful - attempts to prevent news of
their war on the East Timor people. It took the brave actions of some
individuals, including researchers, media and human rights advocates, to
focus the international spotlight back on the legitimate struggle for a
referendum by the East Timorese people.

Indonesian authorities have made it clear that they want to make an
example of the two foreigners. Police Commissioner Taufiq,
Vice-Commander of the Security Restoration Operation Task-Force, was
quoted in the press as saying: “We will process them both in accordance
with prevailing legal procedures so as there can be no impression that
foreign citizens can freely carry out activities which violate the law”.
The Chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly, Amien Rais, has also
spoken out in favor of making the charges stick (Antara news agency).

The latest phase of the Acehnese people’s struggle for freedom dates
from the 1980s when the former president General Suharto declared Aceh a
“Military Operations Zone” (DOM). The militarisation of Aceh resulted in
an explosion of support for the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) which had been
founded in 1976 but until then had received little support. In 1998,
Acehnese students joined the anti-Suharto movement. Later, frustrated at
the lack of de-militarisation in the region, they launched the movement
for a self-determination referendum.

The Megawati Sukarnoputri government has taken an increasingly hard line
against the movement for independence in Aceh. Some 60,000 police and
military are stationed in Aceh. Human rights organisations estimate that
some 2000 people died last year in the conflict, and the death toll this
year is already around 1000.

We, the undersigned, call on the Australian government to send an envoy
to negotiate on Lesley McCulloch’s behalf and pressure Jakarta to
immediately release her and Sadler unharmed. Further, we call on the
Howard government to support the movement for democratic rights across
Indonesia by ending military ties with Jakarta. Finally, we call on the
government to urge Jakarta to allow international human rights
delegations into Aceh to assess the human rights situation there.

Signed: Max Lane  (chairperson, Action in Solidarity with Asia and the
Pacific); Bishop Pat Power (Canberra-Goulburn; Damian Kingsbury (Deakin
University); Alex Leonard (Anthropology, RSPAS Australian National
University); Maire Leadbeater, Indonesian Human Rights Committee, New
Zealand; Igor O’Neill, Minerals Policy Institute; Watze Kamstra,
Netherlands; Matt Davies; Lilis Lastiani; John Percy, Democratic
Socialist Party, Australia; Robert Jereski, Executive Director
(2000-2001), International Forum for Aceh, New York City; Reyza Zain,
Achehnese activist in Pennsylvania, USA; T-Soan S Tio, USA; Christine
James M.A.; Dr Patricia Meckelburg; Muhammad Taufik Abda, Executive
Director, Center for Study and Advocacy of the Region (CeSAR), Aceh;
Mary Bull, Save the Redwoods/Boycott the Gap Campaign, USA; Ian Rintoul,
International Socialist Organisation; Center for World Conscience,
Washington DC; Rochelle Harris, London UK; Mark Thomas, UK; Firdaus,
Flinders University, SA; Laura Stamps; Marie Consedine, Wellington, NZ;
Carolyn Allport, national president, National Tertiary and Education
Union (Australia); Australia East Timor Association NSW; Joe Collins,
Australia West Papua Association; Mike Donaldson, NSW  secretary,
National Tertiary Education Union; Michael Thomson, assistant NSW
secretary, NTEU (General Staff); Lynn MacLaren, Electorate Officer to
Jim Scott MLC, Greens Member for South Metropolitan Region, WA;
Associate Prof John Ward; Julie Stephens, Victoria University; Bill
Game, WA state secretary of the Communications, Plumbing and Electrical
Union; Diana Glazebrook, Program Coordinator, Master of Applied
Anthropology & Participatory Development; Peter Reeves, Fremantle WA;
Brendan Ross, Mining Research Officer, Oxfam Community Aid Abroad;
Sharon Davies; John Luick; Sastrawan Manullang, Darwin; Emma Williams;
Sebastian Gurovich; Jack H Smit, Narrogin WA; George J. Aditjondro,
Newcastle University; Dr James Cussens, Department of Computer Science,
University of York; Stephen Robson; Krista
McClelland, Australian Nursing Federation; Christine Willmot; Wendy
Seana Blake, Murdoch University; Teresa Maiolo; Rosie Brooks;.


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