Civil activists condemn TNI statement on SIRA

Aceh Kita – June 23, 2006
Major General Bambang Darmono (yuniarpw)
Major General Bambang Darmono (yuniarpw)

Radzie, Banda Aceh – A statement by Indonesia’s senior representative on the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), Major General Bambang Darmono, which categorised the Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA) as an illegal organisation has been condemned by civil activist groups in Aceh.

Criticisms and protests were expressed by the Coalition of Aceh Human Rights Non-Government Organisations, the Traditional Society Communication Network (JKMA), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Alliance of Student Executive Councils (ABEM), the Acehnese Civil Society Task Force (ACSTF), the Muhammadiyah University Student Executive Council (BEM), the Anti Corruption Movement (Gerak) and SIRA.

According to Taufik Abda from JKMA, the Indonesian military (TNI) does not have the authority to decide on the status of or disband civil organisations. A decision to disband a civil organisation lies entirely with the civil government, in this case the ministry of home affairs or the regional government. Even if SIRA and other civil organisations are declared illegal, he said, the decision must be made by the government or the courts based on existing laws and not by military officers.

“An accusation by a military officer as to whether an organisation is legal or not, is realm of the work of the civil authorities, not the military”, said Abda during a press conference at the offices of the Coalition of Aceh Human Rights Non-Government Organisations in Banda Aceh on Friday June 23.

According to Abda, the labeling of SIRA as an illegal organisations, as in the case of fronts that were created to fight and quash the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), represents an attempt by the military to use coercion and terror against civil activists. Moreover, at this time these activists are struggling for the ratification of the Draft Law on Aceh Government (RUU-PA), the contents of which are in accordance with the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

“There are concerns that this intimidation is to silence friends who are putting pressure on [those conducting] the deliberations of the RUU-PA”, he said. “The military authorities are also using shock therapy against civil society [groups] that are participating in actions launched by SIRA”.

The Helsinki MoU says that the government must disband illegal groups in Aceh. By illegal groups it is meant the militia who in their activities use weapons and violence. SIRA meanwhile, has never used violence or weapons said Abda.

Because of this therefore, Abda deeply regrets the statements made in the mass media by the commander of the Iskandar Muda Territorial Military Command Major General Supiadin AS and Darmono, that SIRA is an illegal organisation.

“Whey not invite us (civil organisations) to hold an open dialogue on the matter. Why must [they] spread terror through the mass media”, asked Abda who is also a SIRA activist. What is most regrettable said Abda, is that a high-ranking TNI officer made the statement that SIRA is an illegal organisation.

In relation to holding an open dialogue and debate, the Coalition of Aceh Human Rights Non-Government Organisations declared that it is ready to mediate between civil groups, the government and military, in order to straighten out the issue.

Speaking in the same vein, Kontras Aceh coordinator Asiah said that the statements by Supiadin and Darmono are evidence that the military is encroaching on civil authority. “If there are illegal [organisations], why make an example of SIRA, when we know that their activities are not disrupting the peace process”, said Asiah.

Meanwhile, during a press conference the day before at a restaurant in Banda Aceh, SIRA stated that they are not an illegal organisation dispute the accusations by the TNI. “We have already made it clear to all parties, including the AMM, that SIRA is not campaigning for Acehnese independence or to separate from Indonesia”, said SIRA presidium chair Muhammad Nazar.

According to Nazar, SIRA’s activities have never disrupted political stability, security or the peace process in Aceh. “We will not disrupt political stability or security. We support what is being done by the Indonesian government and GAM”, he said.

With regard to the word referendum in the name SIRA, according to the graduate of the Ar-Raniry State Institute of Islamic Studies faculty of culture, the term has quite a broad meaning. Moreover, there is not one article in the Indonesian constitution that prohibits a referendum. “For example, we could hold a referendum to change the Aceh Bill and so forth”, he added. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]