Students oppose removal of crucial articles in draft law on Aceh

Aceh Kita – February 1, 2006
Student Executive Councils students protest in Aceh (goaceh)
Student Executive Councils students protest in Aceh (goaceh)

Adi W and Radzie, Banda Aceh – Hundreds of students from the Acehnese Alliance of Private Collage Student Executive Councils (Aliansi BEM PTS Aceh) held a demonstration on Wednesday February 1 protesting the central government’s removal of a number of crucial articles in the Draft Law on a Government for Aceh (RUU-PA).

The students from eight private colleges had been gathering at the City Park in front of the Baiturrahman Great Mosque since 9am. After the demonstrators had all arrived, the students marched off in the direction of the Simpang Lima roundabout guarded by personnel from the Banda Aceh municipal police.

The demonstrators brought a number of banners that protested the Department of Home Affairs distortion of around 37 articles from the draft law that was submitted by the Aceh Regional House of Representatives (DPRD), the provincial government, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and Acehnese society. One large banner read “Central government don’t emasculate the aspirations of the Acehnese people in the RUU-PA”.

After giving speeches at the Simpang Lima roundabout, demonstrators then moved off to the Aceh DPRD located on Jalan Teungku Muhammad Daud Beureu-eh. There they were greeted by Azhari Basar and Raihan Iskandar from the Special Committee XVIII that formulated the draft law after conducting a test of its worthiness and accommodating the aspirations of GAM and Acehnese society.

Riswan Haris, the president of the Acehnese Muhammadiyah University Student Government, said that the desires of the Acehnese people that were recorded in the draft law and submitted by the Acehnese legislator to Jakarta must be included without distortion. “All of the articles that were removed must be reinserted, because these represent the aspirations of Acehnese society as a whole”, he said in a speech.

A similar sentiment was conveyed by Aliansi BEM PTS coordinator Zirhan. According to Zirhan, the students reject the unilateral revisions carried out by the central government to the draft law. “[If] not all of it is applied, it will be in serious contradiction with the aspirations of the Acehnese people”, he said.

Zirhan said that Acehnese students are determined to monitor all of the stages of the discussion on the draft law that is currently at the national House of Representatives (DPR). If the government does not immediately reinsert the articles that were removed, the students will put pressure on the government. “We will continue monitoring”, he said adding that this demonstration is the first action held to oversee the discussions on the draft law in parliament.

Basar meanwhile said that the draft that they submitted to Jakarta represents a commitment by Acehnese society as a whole and is in accordance with the points agreed to by GAM and the Indonesian government in the Helsinki memorandum of understanding. “We will continue the struggle”, he said. “Such as independent candidates, we will continue defend this for the sake of the peace process in Aceh”.

He promised to try to straighten out these problems with the central government. Members of the Aceh council are currently discussing the removal of the articles from the draft law and will later depart for Jakarta and meet with Acehnese members of the DPR. “We will continued to endeavor that the draft law is not ruined by the central [government]”, said Iskandar before the assembled students.

As reported by Aceh Kita, Teuku Kamaruzzaman, one of the members of the team that formulated the draft law from GAM, has admitted his surprise after finding out that many articles in the draft law submitted by the DPRD, GAM and Acehnese civil society were trimmed down by the central government. “Now, after we had evaluated the draft that was then submitted [to the government] why has it suddenly been trimmed down like this”, said Kamaruzzaman at a press conference in Banda Aceh on the afternoon of Monday February 1. “We object to this”.

There are 37 articles in the draft law submitted to the DPR that that are considered crucial and were scratched out by the government. Other changes that have been protested by GAM are those to Article 144 on the authority of the Acehnese government to calculate and determine the central government and the Acehnese government’s share of state revenue that comes from natural resources, oil and gas and other sources. According to Ampon Man, the removal of this article indicates that the distribution and calculation of natural resource revenue will still be regulated by the central government.

In addition to this, the draft law submitted by the government to the DPR states that the national general allocation funds (DAU) to be provided by the government over a period of ten years would only be one percent. Whereas in the draft law that was submitted by Aceh it referred to a permanent DAU of as much as five percent. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]