Students again demand law on Aceh government be ratified

Aceh Kita – June 1, 2006
Aceh DPRD Speaker Sayed Fuad Zakaria (Zona Damai)
Aceh DPRD Speaker Sayed Fuad Zakaria (Zona Damai)

Radzie, Banda Aceh – Hundreds of students and social activists in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh took to the streets again on June 1 to demand the immediate ratification of the Draft Law on Aceh Government (RUU-PA). This time, the action was centred at the governor’s offices and the Aceh Regional House of Representatives (DPRD).

During the action that started at around 10am, protesters brought a number of banners and posters demanding the ratification of the draft law in accordance with the Acehnese people’s wishes. After gathering at the Ratu Safiatuddin Park in Lamprit, demonstrators then marched to the nearby governor’s office.

There they called on Governor Mustafa Abdullah to sign a petition resulting from a meeting of 100 public figures that was held in early March at the Cakradonya Hotel. Abdullah however was not available as he was taking part in an official trip to southern and western Aceh.

The protesters were instead received by one of the governor’s assistants, T Setiabudi, who they asked to phone the governor. When contacted by phone, Abdullah also told the students he was in the middle of a trip.

The students then disbanded and marched to the DPRD that is located around two kilometres from the governor’s offices. There they held speeches and called on the speaker of the Aceh DPRD, Sayed Fuad Zakaria, to sign the petition.

Several of the students became disappointed as not one DPRD member was prepared to meet with them and tried to break though a cordon of security personnel resulting in students and security personnel pushing and shoving each other.

Following afternoon prayers, Zakaria, Raihan Iskandar, Abdullah Saleh and a number of other assembly members met with the students. Speaking with the protesters, Zakaria explained that the DPRD continues to support the wishes of the Acehnese people in demanding the immediate ratifaction of the RUU-PA. “The DPRD is still committed to [supporting] the people’s wishes”, he said. “We hope that the RUU-PA will be completed promptly by the RI DPR [House of Representatives]”.

Zakaria also said that he had already phoned the head of the special team from the DPR that is deliberating the law and asked that it be done transparently and openly in order that the Acehnese people can observe the developments in the deliberations. “I also asked that each day the results of the deliberations be detailed to the public though a press release”, he said.

Following his explanation, students continued to pressure them to sign the petition. In the end, only Zakaria was prepared to put his signature to the document.

Meanwhile, the former director of the Forum of Acehnese Non-Government Organisations, TAF Haikal, called for the deliberations on the draft law at the level of the working committee be conducted openly and be accessible to all elements of Acehnese society. “We are asking that the working committee be open, so that the essential parts of the RUU-PA are not lost”, he told Aceh Kita during a break in the action.

According to Haikal, to date the deliberations on the law have been closed and this indicates that many of the wishes of the Acehnese people may be cut, moreover, there are still many crucial issues that have yet to be agreed on. “Such as for example, the distribution of natural [resource] revenue and the authority of the Acehnese [government]”, said Haikal. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]