INCREASE proposes referendum for Aceh

Sriwijaya Post – June 2, 2003
Indonesian soldiers guard GAM prisoners in Aceh (DW)
Indonesian soldiers guard GAM prisoners in Aceh (DW)

Jakarta, Sripo -- The Indonesian Centre for Reform and Social Emancipation (INCREASE) has put forward a referendum as the solution to resolving the conflict in Aceh. According to the pro-democracy non-government organisation, a referendum is the most democratic mechanism and form of participation to involve all elements of Acehnese society to determine their future.

“If the government truly believes that GAM’s [the Free Aceh Movement] strength is minimal and it does not have the support of the people, then isn’t the government convinced that it would win such an referendum?, said Prijo Wasono, the chairperson INCREASE, on Thursday.

The politics being implemented by the government should be directed towards a more persuasive approach to win the support of the majority of the Acehnese people so that they will remain part of the Unitary State of the Indonesian Republic (NKRI), rather than by violence. “GAM own position will become isolated among the majority of Acehnese people who will continue to wish to be part of KNRI”, said Prijo.

According to Prijo, the trauma felt by the government over the referendum in East Timor and because of the loss of East Timor was an error on the part of the government itself because it chose to maintain [East Timor as party of] NKRI though violence and was not serious in trying the perpetrators of human rights violations from the military.

INCREASE therefore strongly opposes the military operation which is being applied by the government in Aceh. “The military operation will only result in a political blunder for the government itself in the eyes of the Acehnese people and the international community.

And this will only make the Acehnese people fell less like being part of NKRI because they are merely oppressed, he explained. The restoration of peace had yet to be achieved when the power of the military was mobilised in Aceh, the concern is that this will cause the humanitarian operation, the operation to uphold the law and the operation to restore the local government administration do be forced on the people by military might.

INCREASE noted that the recent military operations which are being conducted in Aceh also raise concerns because the military operation was already being carried out [while negotiations between the government and GAM were still being held]. Intelligence agents had recklessly begun arresting and terrorizing pro-peace activists.

This included acts of terror against Johnson Panjaitan [a lawyer from the Indonesian Legal Aid Association] by unidentified persons but who appeared to be from the military, the arrest and beating of activists from the Acehnese Peoples Democratic Resistance Front (FPDRA) and seven activist from the United Democracy for the Poor and cases of terror against women independence activists.

All of this added Prijo, has seriously worsened the image of the military and the Republic of Indonesia and President Megawati Sukarnoputri must give the Acehnese people the freedom and opportunity to express their aspirations.

[Translated by James Balowski.]