Acehnese NGOs call on Yudhoyono to fulfil his promises on Aceh

Kompas – October 30, 2004
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during visit to Aceh (Tribune)
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during visit to Aceh (Tribune)

Jakarta – Two Acehnese non-government organisations, the Acehnese Popular Democratic Resistance Front (Front Perlawanan Demokratik Rakyat Aceh, FPDRA) and the Acehnese Democratic Women’s Organisation (Organisasi Perempuan Aceh Demokrati, ORPAD) are demanding the fulfillment of President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono’s promise during the election campaign that there would be changes in Aceh. They are calling for a promise of amnesty for all prisoners of war as was taken up during the campaign.

“The handling of the Aceh problem as was put forward during the [rencent] coordinating meeting of politics, law and security affairs several days ago is a continuation of the [policies] of the [previous] government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice-president Hamzah Haz. The promises for a change were no more than campaign rhetoric”, said FPDRA chairperson Thamrin Ananda at a press conference in Jakarta on Thursday October 28. Ananda was accompanied by ORPAD chairperson Raihana Diani.

Ananda said that the promise for change which was offered by Yudhoyono and Vice-president Jusuf Kalla during their election campaign in Aceh was no more than rhetoric. The government has drawn the conclusion that the problems in Aceh are problems in the management of the operation. Thus the protracted problems in Aceh have been reduced to an a-historical conclusion which fails to touch on the root of the problem.

Missing the point

The claim that Aceh is safe because the elections in the province ran smoothly cannot be used as a measure because the elections in Aceh were held under a state of martial law and then civil emergency which clearly does not fulfill democratic standards. There was also the problem of coercion by the military to force the people to participate in the elections.

“There were many issues which were not touched on during the coordinating meeting, such as the huge number of human rights violations during the integrated operation which in essence is a military operation. In addition to this, the coordinating meeting also failed to discuses alternative steps to resolve the Aceh problem peacefully and democratically which would represent a concrete change in the way the Aceh problem is handled as was promised by Yudhoyono [during his election campaign]”, said Ananda.

Moreover, during the meeting the government discussed plans extend the state of civil emergency in Aceh in three possible formats, extending the civil emergency, maintaining the civil emergency in some parts of the province which are trouble spots while the third option was to reduce the state of civil emergency to one of a civil administration. “The various outcomes from the politics, law and security coordinating meeting do not reflect any change in [the approach] to resolving the [conflict in] Aceh. We want to propose concrete ways of resolving the Aceh [problem]”, he said.

Raihana meanwhile said that over the next 100 days, the Yudhoyono-Kalla administration must come up with a resolution the Aceh question which is peaceful and democratic so that no more lives will be lost in Aceh, either on the part of the TNI (armed forces) and police, civilians or members of the Free Aceh Movement. A reduction in the level of violence therefore is the most important starting point to resolve the Aceh question. (VIN)

[Translated by James Balowski.]