Students in Aceh protests decision to release Suharto

Aceh Kita – May 19, 2006
Protest action by Student Solidarity for the People (asatu)
Protest action by Student Solidarity for the People (asatu)

Banda Aceh – Dozens of students from Student Solidarity for the People (SMUR) held a peaceful action at the Simpang Lima roundabout in the Acehnese provincial capital of Banda Aceh on May 19. The action was protesting the decision by the Attorney General to terminate the legal case against former President Suharto.

Watched over by dozens of security personnel from the Banda Aceh municipal police, protesters brought red banners with the writing “Reformasi has failed” and posters reading “Join in grieving over the release of Suharto by the Attorney General”. Each one of the participants tied red cloth over their mouths. Shortly before Friday prayers the protesters disbanded.

Action coordinator Rahmat Djailani said that they held the action to protest the decision by Attorney General Abdurrahman Saleh to end the legal cases against the former number-one person in Indonesia. “The release of Suharto (from the legal process) reflects the poor quality of law enforcement and human rights in Indonesia”, said Djailani during a break in the action.

According to Djailani there are no grounds for the government to end the legal case against Suharto. Moreover, aside from the corruption case against him, Suharto must also be held responsible for human right violations that took place when Aceh was declared a Military Operation Zone [1989-1998].

“Following the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding, there has been a momentum to resolve past human rights violations”, said the student from the Syiah Kuala University faculty of law.

The demonstrators also condemned the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla. According to Djailani, Yudhoyono and Kalla have failed to implement the reform mandated by the students that brought down Suharto on May 21, 1998. “Reform has been implemented by people who do not understand the program of reformasi”, said the general secretary of SMUR. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]