Sign on: solidarity with Acehnese people

Pip, Peter & Zoe ppz at greenleft.org.au
Fri May 16 05:06:30 MDT 2003


Freedom for Aceh! End all military ties!

At the end of April the government of Megawati Sukarnoputri delivered an
ultimatum to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) guerrillas: end the armed
resistance and give up the demand for independence or face all-out war.
In the last few weeks, tens of thousands of Indonesian troops have been
readied to go to Aceh.

While the December cease-fire Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA)
between the TNI and GAM, brokered by the Swiss-based Henri Dunant
Centre, did reduce the violence, the cease-fire is now all but destroyed
by Jakarta's determination to smash the movement for independence.

This is a very risky - and ultimately futile - move by the Megawati
Sukarnoputri government. It was the last two decades of militarisation
under Suharto that resulted in so many Acehnese wanting to escape from
Indonesia.

Since the birth of the republic of Indonesia in 1945, in which the
Acehnese played a critical role, the desire for independence has been
strong. Suharto turned Aceh into a military operations zone (known as
"DOM") between 1989-1998 allowing the military and Kopassus special
forces free rein to kill, terrorise and displace tens of thousands.

The official death toll during DOM is 1000. However, Acehnese democratic
rights organisations estimate that more than 7000 people have been
killed since 1991 and an estimated 39,000 people have disappeared since
the 1970s.

After Suharto was ousted, DOM was officially lifted, but the military
remained using the same methods of "persuasion". Former president
Abdurrahman Wahid, after briefly contemplating a referendum for Aceh,
then announced a "limited operations status". President Megawati has
given more rein to the TNI generals to continue their terror campaign.

The Indonesian government's strategy has clearly backfired. A
combination of the militarisation and the sham "special autonomy status"
has ensured growing support for independence. A new urban-based civil
democratic movement, which grew out of the struggle to get rid of
Suharto, has increased in strength. This movement mobilised some 2
million Acehnese - 50% of the population - in December 1999 to demand a
referendum. Leaders of the civil democratic movement, including Muhammad
Nazar of SIRA (Aceh Referendum Information Centre), Kautsar and Reihan
of FPDRA (Acehnese People's Democratic Resistance Front) have spent much
time in prison for their campaign for democracy.

Aceh is a resource rich area with one of the world's largest oil and gas
reserves, as well as having substantial gold and timber resources. In
addition to being super-exploited by US and Japanese multi-nationals,
the Jakarta-based political and business elite drain resources from
Aceh. Exxon-Mobil and the Japanese consortium JILCO operates the largest
refinery and are known to run protection rackets with the TNI against
attacks by GAM.

In 2001, some 11% of Indonesia's national budget came from Aceh's
natural resources with a miniscule 0.035% of resource revenue remaining
in Aceh. The autonomy laws entitle Aceh to 70% of the state's oil and
gas revenue, but endemic corruption gets in the way of this happening.

According to Tapol, the UK-based Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, the
Indonesian army and police have profited handsomely from the conflict in
Aceh: last year, Jakarta allocated an additional US$115 million to each.
They are also heavily involved in a wide range of illegal activities
including imposing illegal taxes, extortion, trafficking in women,
prostitution, gambling, illegal logging, fishing and smuggling luxury
goods into the country.

If the people of Aceh are ever to live in peace, the military and police
must leave the war-torn province. Only negotiations between GAM, the
civil democratic movement and the Indonesian government will avoid more
bloodshed. The lessons of East Timor have to be learnt.

To this end we call on the Australian government to:

* urge the Indonesian government to pull back from all-out war in Aceh,
withdraw the troops and institute real negotiations and dialogue with
the full spectrum of Acehnese political groups.

* end all military and security ties with Indonesia, including
abandoning plans to resume ties with the discredited Kopassus, and;

* initiate a special humanitarian assistance program directed to the
people of Aceh.

May 16, 2003

To add your name please email to:
Pip Hinman
Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific
<asap at asia-pacific-action.org>



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