Enthusiastic, civil resistance against GAM

Kompas – December 19, 2003
Protesters set fire to GAM flag in Aceh (Serambi)
Protesters set fire to GAM flag in Aceh (Serambi)

Banda Aceh – The involvement of civil society in efforts to fight the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) are becoming increasingly enthusiastic in a number of regencies in Aceh. On Wednesday December 17, around 15,000 civilians, men, women and children, gathered at the Calang City Field in the Aceh Jaya regency, 150 kilometers west of the capital Banda Aceh to declare the formation of the Anti-Free Aceh Separatist Movement Front (Front Anti-Gerakan Separatis Aceh Merdeka, FAGSAM) Aceh Jaya.

Since morning, people from six sub-districts in Aceh Jaya, Jaya, Sampoi Niet, Setia Bakti, Krueng Sabee, Panga and Teunom, had been arriving at the field in throngs, a number of them carrying sharpened bamboo sticks. Attending the event was the regent of Aceh Jaya Zulfian Ahmad, the commander of the Free Aceh Movement Resistance Front (Front Perlawanan Gerakan Separatis Aceh, FPGSA) Sofyan Ali and the directors of FAGSAM Aceh Jaya lead by Hasbi Yunus.

In his speech, Zulfian Ahmad declared the appreciation and support of the local government for the declaration of these resistance fronts. In support of the people’s struggle against GAM in Aceh Jaya, Zulfian promised to give 10 million Rupiah (approx US $1000) to people or front members who succeeded in seizing a firearm from a GAM member. “This is a form of appreciation from the government. Because, how is it possible for us to build a society if the local conditions are not secure. We certainly need significant expenses to rehabilitate [the regency]”, he said.

The FAGSAM declaration was preceded by the handing over of a FAGSAM flag and two sharpened bamboo sticks to the regent, which was followed by the reading of an oath which included a readiness to eliminate the forces and concept of GAM, a readiness to fortify society from the influence and threat of GAM and a readiness to eliminate ignorance, poverty and unemployment as well as to rebuild society. During the ceremony, 50 GAM flags were burnt.

FAGSAM Aceh Jaya chairperson, Hasbi Yunus, revealed that the total number of GAM members in the Aceh Jaya regency was estimated to be 150 people, 30 of which are armed. Nevertheless, around 90,000 members of FAGSAM will fight them although they are only armed with sharpened bamboo sticks and swords. “To destroy GAM, we will provide information on GAM positions to the security forces. The security forces are behind us”, said Hasbi.

Meanwhile, via an SMS message, GAM spokesperson for the Pidie region Anwar Husein said that he was certain that the military was behind the formation of these civilian militia. “Doesn’t this violate the law?”, he said.


On Wednesday December 17, Human Rights Watch Asia (HRW) which has its headquarters in New York, condemned the human rights violations which have been occurring in Aceh. The non-government organisation urged the Indonesian government not to misuse the anti-terrorism law to oppress its own people in Aceh.

“The Indonesian government must immediately halt the human rights violations which are occurring in Aceh. The Anti-Terrorism Law must not be misused to oppress the people of Aceh. The military and police are obliged to protect Acehnese civilians, human rights workers and journalists. Not the other way around, perpetrating killings, torture and abductions as have been revealed by refugees originating from Aceh in Malaysia”, said the deputy director of HRW Asia Saman Zia-Zarifi at a press conference at the offices of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The government should not wait for international pressure to halt the numerous human rights violations in Aceh. Saman Zia-Zarifi revealed that the foundation that he heads has published a 50 page report titled Aceh Under Martial Law: Inside the Secret War who’s contents document human rights violations since the military emergency came into force on May 19, 2003.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Women’s Coalition (Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia, KPI) was of the view that the military emergency was not the correct resolution [to the Aceh problem] because it ignored the increase in violence which has resulted in civilians, including women and children, becoming the victims. This was expressed by KPI secretary general Nursjahbani Katjasungkana on Wednesday at an event titled Reflecting on Five Years of the KPI. (LOK/WIN/NJ/COK)

[Translated by James Balowski.]