NGOs: Shooting of foreign volunteers effort to isolate Aceh

Aceh Kita – July 10, 2005
Aceh Coalition of Human Rights Non-Government Organisations (Hive Miner)
Aceh Coalition of Human Rights Non-Government Organisations (Hive Miner)

AK-17, Banda Aceh – The Aceh Coalition of Human Rights Non-Government Organisations (Koalisi NGO HAM Aceh) believes that the shooting of foreign volunteers in Aceh is an attempt by certain parties to isolate Aceh from the international community. This is the reason that the coalition is asking the government to form an independent team to investigate the incident.

The director of Koalisi NGO HAM Aceh, Jehalim Bangun, says that a fact finding team is needed to show that the government is serious about providing security guarantees to humanitarian workers in Aceh. “At the same time this will prevent counter accusations by security forces and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) who are the two armed [forces] in Aceh”, Bangun told journalists in Banda Aceh on Sunday July 10.

According to Bangun, the shooting of foreign volunteers is an effort to create the impression that the security situation in Aceh is unstable and at the same time isolate Aceh from the international community. “This very dangerous for the reconstruction process in Aceh”, he said.

On July 7, a foreign volunteer working with the Centre for Child Protection Studies (PKPA), Marije Mellegers was shot in the city of Fajar 30 kilometres from Tapaktuan in South Aceh. Last June an International Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteer, Eva Yee Wayeung, was also shot in the Lamno region of Greater Aceh. So far there has been no thorough investigation into the two incidents. The TNI (armed forces) and the Indonesian police have accused GAM as being the perpetrators while GAM has accusing the TNI/police of the shooting.

Bangun says that the shooting of foreign volunteers will have a psychological impact on other volunteers who are in Aceh at the moment. “A thorough investigation is needed to prevent such incidents being repeated”, he said.

The coordinator of the Aceh Judicial Monitoring Institute, Rufriadi, is concerned that acts of violence against foreign volunteers will influence the negotiations between the Indonesian government and GAM, which are taking place in Helsinki. “Don’t let the peaceful atmosphere which is being build be clouded by violence which could cause the negotiations to fail”, said Rufriadi.

PKPA’s program coordinator Sulaiman Zuhdi Manik meanwhile, says that the shooting of Mellegers occurred after she and another volunteer, Azmiati Zuliati, had been questioned at a police post by three armed men wearing Mobile Brigade (Brimob) uniforms. The location of the shooting was around 200 meters from the Kluet Utara sub-district military command (Koramil). “Their car was hit by a volley of gunfire on the right side”, said Manik.

According to Manik, after being questioned by police, the rental car they were travelling in was slowed down by a vehicle in front of them and fell behind the convoy of vehicles. Prior to this, since leaving Meulaboh in West Aceh, the Toyota Kijang carrying five men and three women was part of a convoy of other vehicles. Manik said that the whereabouts of the driver and vehicle being use by Mellegers is still unknown. Mellegers is in the final semester of a post graduate degree in humanitarian assistance at the University College Dublin in the Netherlands. [dzie]