NGOs say extension of civil emergency in Aceh disappointing

Kompas – November 20, 2004
Aceh Working Group coordinator Rusdi Marpaung pictured left (Antara)
Aceh Working Group coordinator Rusdi Marpaung pictured left (Antara)

Jakarta – Non-government organisations (NGOs) say that the policy decision by the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to extend the state of civil emergency in Aceh is disappointing.

This statement was conveyed by the Aceh Working Group (AWG), the Centre for Electoral Reform (Cetro) and Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) at a press conference which was held at the Imparsial offices on Thursday November 18. Separately, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) issued a similar press statement.

According to the NGOs, the policy of extending the state of civil emergency clearly indicates that the government has no other point of reference and that President Yudhoyono’s position is not consistent with statements made during his election campaign which promised to resolve the Aceh problem with dignity, comprehensively and as peacefully as possible.

“We condemn the extension of civil emergency in Aceh. Although the decision has been issued and it is too late to be reversed and has made us ashamed, disappointed and angry, we demand that the government open up access to information in order to monitor efforts to uphold human rights and the law as well as access for humanitarian aid”, said AWG coordinator Rusdi Marpaung.

According to Marpaung, access to information which is linked with monitoring as well as access to humanitarian assistance in Aceh was shut off after the government issued Presidential Decree Number 28/2003 on the declaration of a state of emergency at the level of a state of martial law in Aceh. “The decree was then followed by the Regional Martial Law Administration decree which prohibited the mass media, NGOs, and foreign humanitarian aid from entering the province. Although the status has been changed a number of times, the decree remains in force. We urge that the presidential decree be withdrawn”, said Marpaung.

According to Marpaung, the closure of access meant that the government has never taken responsibility in relation to assistance projects for Aceh and cases of violence which have occurred there. If the presidential decree is not withdrawn both AWG and Cetro are concerned that it will create opportunities for corrupt practices.

The executive director of Cetro, Smita Notosusanto, emphasised that criminal acts of corruption everywhere in the world are always highest in areas of conflict, especially areas under a state of emergency, either civil or military. “The elimination of corruption can only be carried out if there is freedom of information for civilian parties to participate in carrying out monitoring. Under the state of emergency in Aceh, [effective] measures to eliminate corruption will never exist”, said Notosusanto. (dwa)

[Abridged translation by James Balowski.]