Thousands of Acehnese students demand ratification of draft law

Aceh Kita – April 6, 2006
Acehnese students hold protest in Lhokseumawe (Tribune)
Acehnese students hold protest in Lhokseumawe (Tribune)

Armia AM, Lhokseumawe – As a result of delays in the ratification of the Acehnese version of the Draft Law on Aceh Government (RUU-PA), thousands of university and high-school students in the city of Lhokseumawe held a Aceh Peace action at the North Aceh Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) on Thursday April 6.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the draft law should have been ratified by March 31 but the House of Representatives (DPR) special commission will only begin deliberations on Friday April 7.

In a speech, Aceh Peace action steering committee member Afrizal Karing said that the protest was intended to unite the missions of university and high-school students for the sake of creating a better and more dignified Aceh.

“We are therefore urging the government and the DPR to immediately ratify the Acehnese version of the RUU-PA that has already been submitted [to them] by the Aceh DPRD. And also to urge the Indonesian government and GAM to be more consistent in implementing the points that flow out of the MoU”, said Karing.

Karing also said that members of the DPR should be more serious in holding the deliberations on the ratification of the draft law and urged the central government to stop repeatedly betraying the Acehnese people.

“We the Acehnese people need a peace that is real. We are also asking the international community and the AMM [Aceh Monitoring Mission] to continue to monitor the road of peace in Aceh properly and constantly”, he said.

In addition to this, Karing said they are also asking the DPR’s special committee to keep the promise that it made in a MoU with Acehnese students on March 10.

In the agreement it said that the committee shall be consistent and committed in safeguarding the peace process in Aceh, that it shall include the Acehnese people’s wishes in all policy decisions that are related to the RUU-PA, that it shall ratify the RUU-PA in accordance with the wishes of the Acehnese people and that it shall act firmly against groups that wish to thwart the ratification of the Acehnese people’s version of the RUU-PA.

Following the speech, the thousands of students held a march through the main streets of Lhokseumawe including Jl. Merdeka, Jl. Perdagangan, Jl. Simpang Pasee and Jl. Baru. They then returned to Hiraq Square that is located in front of the DPRD.

During the march protesters carried banners with messages such as “Ratify the RUU-PA into a law now in accordance with the wishes of the Acehnese people”, “Don’t create new conflicts in Aceh ratify the RUU-PA now” and “Aceh Monitoring Mission don’t go home before the Aceh question is resolved”.

Dozens of police were on guard to secure the the peaceful action. Protesters that tried to enter the grounds of the DPRD were blocked by police who quickly closed the gates. Only three representatives of the demonstrators were given permission to enter the DPRD. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]