Civil emergency in Aceh has failed: Imparsial

Tempo Interactive – November 10, 2004
Imparsial Executive Director Rachland Nashidik (Suara Nasional)
Imparsial Executive Director Rachland Nashidik (Suara Nasional)

Ramidi, Jakarta – Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) says the policy of implementing a state of civil emergency in Aceh has failed. The policy has only succeeded in creating a regime which is militaristic, corrupt and which has no respect for human rights and a system of democracy. The civil emergency in Aceh has also put back improvements to the welfare of the entire population of Indonesia and destroyed the economic, political and cultural life of the Acehnese people.

This was revealed to journalists by Imparsial’s executive director, Rachland Nashidik, at the Imparsial offices on Wednesday November 11. According to Nashidik, the tendency to resort to the policy of martial law to resolve conflicts in certain parts of the country has endangered the whole nation because of the financial burden which is beyond the capacity of the state to afford and which in the end sacrifices the interests of development in regions outside the actual area of conflict. Imparsial therefore explained Nashidik, is recommending to the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the People’s Representative Assembly that it reevaluate the state of emergency which has been in force in Aceh since May 2003.

Nashidik said that Imparsial was making the recommendation bearing in mind that on November 18 or two days before Idul Fitri (celebrations marking the end of the fasting month) the government plans to make a policy decision on Aceh for the next period. Imparsial hopes that the government will stop prioritising conflict resolution models like martial law which has been in force since May 10 2003 and which was extended in May 20041.

This is because according to Nashidik, during the period of martial law 662 civilians have been killed, 140 seriously wounded and 227 more have suffered minor injuries. In addition to this martial law has consumed a huge amount of the state’s budget. Six trillion rupiah was taken from the state and regional budgets during the period that martial law and the state of civil emergency were in effect in Aceh.

Aside from the human and financial costs, according to Nashidik there have also been other costs as a result of the policy. One of these was demonising the Acehnese. “Demonisation is one of the instruments of war”, he said. Outside of Aceh he said, this became a tool to divide Acehnese and non-Acehnese. This is indicated by the use of the red-and-white2 identity card and cards for families who had sworn and oath of loyalty to NKRI3. This was in order to be able to differentiate between Acehnese and non-Acehnese. “The result was that civilians became the objects of crimes against humanity during the period of martial law and civil emergency”, he said. In political terms said Nashidik, discrimination against Acehnese people can be seen both within and outside of Aceh, even against those who left Aceh a long time ago.

In addition to this Imparsial says the military operation which was implemented under the umbrella of Law Number 23/59 has blocked access to human rights defenders who have the task of monitoring humanitarian and human rights issues. It has not just been access which has been the only loss during the period of martial law but also the human rights violations which have occurred such as the arrest and abduction of pro-democracy and human rights activists.


1. Former President Megawati Sukarnoputri actually declared martial law in Aceh on May 19, 2003. The following November it was reduced to a state of civil emergency which has been in place since then.

2. Soon after martial law came into force the government instituted a policy of forcing all Acehnese to apply for a special red-and-white identity card to replaced the standard ID cards carried by most Indonesians. Because obtaining the card required getting an authorising signatures from the local police and military it was hoped  this would be a way of being able to differentiate members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) from the civilian population. On the whole the policy was a failure because the horribly bureaucratic procedures required to obtain a card meant many people simply didn’t bother or because GAM adopted a policy of simply taking the cards away after people got them.

3. NKRI – Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia, the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. A term which is often used in the context of nationalism and the desire to maintain the integrity of the Indonesian nation.

[Translated by James Balowski.]