Demonstration rejects extension of military emergency

Kompas – November 9, 2003
Protesters call for peace in Aceh (Getty Images)
Protesters call for peace in Aceh (Getty Images)

Jakarta – Condemnations against the government’s decision to extend the military emergency in Aceh continue to spring up. On Saturday November 8, hundreds of people from Aceh Papua Solidarity (SAP) demonstrated, not just against the policy of extending the military emergency in Aceh but also the division of Papua [into three separate provinces].

From the Hotel Indonesia roundabout they moved off to the representative offices of the United Nations, the offices of the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security and the Presidential Palace. [Because this is the Muslim fasting month] the demonstion ended with a breaking of fast and a religious service at the Istiqlal Mosque.

Starting at 3pm, the demonstrators moved off carrying banners and posters. At the front of the first line of demonstrators a number of women and men wore traditional Acehnese clothing and held Achenese daggers (rencong) in their hands while they yelled “People Unite, End the Military Emergency in Aceh”.

On two of the banners carried by SAP was written “Hold a Dialogue which is Broad and Democratic with the People of Papua, Hold Negotiations which Involve Components of Acehnese and Papuan Society”. One large poster had the writing “Revoke the Military Emergency in Aceh and Withdraw All Non-organic Troops from Aceh and Papua, End the Separation of Papua, Reject Elections Under a Military Emergency”.

In front of the Presidential Palace, they stopped and a number of people climbed on to a pickup to give speeches. Police security in front of the palace meanwhile appeared tight.

The demonstrators also distributed leaflets to the drivers of cars and motorcycles on the main street. Inside was a statement rejecting the extension of the military emergency in Aceh and the separation of Papua. This caused a traffic jam with a number of drivers who were anxious to find out what was happening stopping in front of the palace to watch the action.

During a break in the demonstration, SAP coordinator, Jusuf Lakaseng, said that President Megawati’s decision to extend the military emergency was wrong. Because of this, he urged the government to revoke the military emergency and hold a dialogue with the people of Aceh and Papua. “This will only add to the suffering of the Acehnese people. The six month military emergency has resulted in the deaths of 304 people, scores of women have been raped and tens of thousands of people have been made refugees. Forty per cent of those of a productive age have lost their jobs because of the military emergency”, explained Lakaseng.

In its written statement, SAP made the assessment that the military operation had failed to win the hearts and minds of the people. Because of this, it is irrational and counterproductive to extend an operation which is claimed [by the government] to seek to win the hearts of the people.

SAP is concerned that ignoring the open resistance of the Papuan people to the policy of separating the province will result in a view that the 2004 general elections are only a political tool of the central government to enforce their political wishes. (SIE/WIN)

[Translated by James Balowski.]