NGOs call for end to military emergency in Aceh

Kompas – October 7, 2003
Military checkpoint in Aceh (Liputan 6)
Military checkpoint in Aceh (Liputan 6)

Jakarta – Aceh-Papua Solidarity (Solidaritas Aceh-Papua, SAP) – which is made up of a number of non-government organisations (NGOs) – has called on the government not to extend the military emergency in Aceh. In order to resolve the conflict, SAP is calling for a return to dialogue. Ending the military operation is necessary in order to carry out the 2004 general elections in a democratic manner.

“Dialogue is the step [which must be taken] to resolve the conflict and for the preparation of a democratic basis for the 2004 elections in Aceh to be created”, said SAP spokesperson Thamrin Ananda at the offices of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) on Monday October 6.

SAP is made up of 19 NGOs including the Solidarity Movement for the People of Aceh (Solidaritas Gerakan Rakyat untuk Aceh, SEGERA), the Acehnese People’s Democratic Resistance Front (Front Perlawanan Demokratik Rakyat Aceh, FPDRA), Aceh Student Solidarity for the People (Solidaritas Mahasiswa untuk Rakyat, SMUR), the National Student Front (Front Mahasiswa Nasional, FMN), Kontras and Imparsial (Indonesian Human Right Watch).

In a statement, SAP also rejected efforts by the military operational command in Aceh to legitimise any kind of legal basis [for extending the operation], whether it be a civilian emergency or a limited military emergency, as an option after six months of the military operation. “Substantially, these two option are no different from the military operation which is now in force”, said Thamrin.

According the coalition of NGOs, applying a military emergency to resolve the conflict in Aceh has provided a immense opportunity for the military to restore itself on the national political stage. SAP is of the view that this is a threat to the process of democracy in Indonesia.

Unlike the TNI’s [Indonesian armed forces] assessment which refers to advances in a number of areas of life [in Aceh], SAP considers that there are many counter productive and contradictory issues in the aims of the integrated operation. According to their records, since the military emergency came into force on May 19, 800 houses and schools have been burnt down, 342 civilians have been killed, 94 people wounded and 101 people have disappeared.

The impact of the military emergency has also flowed on to the economic sector in the form of reducing the purchasing power of society. According to SAP’s records, between 2001 and 2003, the total number of poor has continued to increase. In 2001, 1.2 million people in Aceh were recorded as being poor, but in 2003 this number increased to 1.6 million or 40 per cent of Aceh’s population of 4.1 million. The three regencies with the highest levels of poverty are North Aceh, East Aceh and Pidie. (INU)

[Translated by James Balowski.]