Civil emergency in Aceh extended to maintain ‘momentum’: Yudhoyono

Tempo Interactive – November 18, 2004
Indonesian soldiers patrol street in North Aceh (media-iyaa.)
Indonesian soldiers patrol street in North Aceh (media-iyaa.)

Tangerang – The government has officially decided to maintain the state of civil emergency in Aceh which should have ended today. The civil emergency which has limited much of the Acehnese people’s daily lives will be extended for a maximum of six months.

According to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono evaluations will be conducted monthly. “At any time we could revoke (the civil emergency) and it be changed to a civil administration if and when the situation truly improves”, said the president during a press conference following a consultation meeting between the government, leaders of the People’s Representative Assembly (DPR) and DPR fraction leaders at the State Palace in Jakarta yesterday.

According to Yudhoyono the emergency status will be maintained in order to “safeguard the ‘momentum’ and continuity of the recovery in Aceh”. In addition to this said the president, the government has opened up new opportunities to use approaches and measures towards “a conflict resolution which more peaceful, dignified and just”.

While seeking a new approach, the president added that the integrated operation (the operation to restore government administration, the humanitarian operation, the law enforcement operation, economic recovery and the operation to restore security) will be carried out in a manner which is “of a better quality, more concrete, with clear aims, implemented transparently and free of deviations and corruption”.

Speaking at the press conference, DPR chairperson Agung Laksono said that the DPR understand the efforts to maintain the momentum in Aceh. He said therefore that the DPR agrees with the government on the need to extend the civil emergency.

The chairperson of the United Development Party fraction, DPR member Endin A.J. Soefihara, said that one of the questions which was raised in the meeting was why was the state of civil emergency extended if the situation in Aceh had improved. According to Soefihara the chief of the armed forces answered that it is precisely because the situation is good that it needs to be maintained under a civil emergency.

The government’s decision has received mixed reactions. Nasir Jamil, a DPR member from Aceh, believes that the decision was rushed. According to Jamil the government should first have conducted an evaluation and released the results to the public. “I’m worried, the central government has become ‘addicted’ to the emergency had has no alternative but to extend it”, said the Justice and Prosperity Party member.

He believes that the decision will “damage Yudhoyono’s image in the eyes of the Acehnese people” asking for who’s sake is the civil emergency being extended. “If it is to destroy GAM [the Free Aceh Movement], why did Yudhoyono promise a dialogue, reconciliation and amnesty for GAM [members]? If it is for the sake of the Acehnese people, what sins and crimes have they committed?”, he said.

Rachland Nashidik, the executive director of Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial), a human rights monitoring foundation, also believes a thorough evaluation is needed on the situation in Aceh. To date he says, civilians have continued to be the victims, both during the period of martial law as well as the civil emergency. (yura syahrul/ewo raswa/yuswardi)

[Abridged translation by James Balowski.]