Nur Raihan, Banda Aceh – Today, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh Movement in Helsinki is exactly one year old. Tens of thousands of people commemorated the deal with marches around the city of Banda Aceh on Tuesday August 15.
The demonstrators come from a number of points in Banda Aceh such as the Ar-Raniry State Institute of Islamic Studies, the Syah Kuala University, the Harapan Bangsa Stadium and other locations in Greater Aceh. They had been arriving in Banda Aceh from various regions of Aceh over the last two days.
During the rally, a number of participants shouted slogans such as “Peace for Aceh”, but there were also those who shouted “Independence for Aceh”. They also brought a number of banners with messages such as “Don’t fool the Acehnese people again” and “Safeguard the Helsinki MoU”. A number of participants also wore headbands with the writing “Save the MoU”.
AS a result of the rally, some roads in Banda Aceh were totally gridlocked. Many Banda Aceh residents also appeared to be reluctant to leave their homes saying they felt afraid.
Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA) chairperson Muhammad Nazar called on all of the protesters participating in the massive peaceful demonstration to not behave in an anarchic manner or harm other people. Nazar said that following the rally around the city, the demonstrators would gather at the Baiturrahman Raya Mosque for a joint prayer. They would also read a petition from the Acehnese people. (zal)
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]