Commemorations of Aceh peace deal marked by protests

Aceh Kita – August 15, 2006
Protesters commemorate 1 year of peace at Baiturrahman Raya Mosque in Banda Aceh (AFP)
Protesters commemorate 1 year of peace at Baiturrahman Raya Mosque in Banda Aceh (AFP)

Radzie, Banda Aceh – The commemoration of one year of peace in Aceh was also marked by an action by hundreds of protesters at the Baiturrahman Raya Mosque in Banda Aceh on Tuesday August 15. The protesters declared their opposition to the Aceh Governance Law (UU-PA) that they say is not in accordance with the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The protesters arrived at the Baiturrahman Raya Mosque at around 9.30am after holding a four-kilometer rally from the Darussalam campus. The action resembled the one held on November 8, 1999, when hundreds of thousands of Acehnese demanded that a referendum be held in Aceh.

Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA) chairperson Muhammad Nazar claimed that the number of participants in the action reached 1 million people. “This includes protesters from five regions that are demanding the division of the province”, said Nazar when speaking with Aceh Kita. The five regions are Singkil, Central Aceh, Aceh Tenggara, Gayo Lues and Bener Meriah.

According to Nazar, ordinary people came to Banda Aceh because of their disappointment with the UU-PA that was ratified by the Indonesian parliament (DPR). “The government and the DPR ratified a law that is not in accordance with the Helsinki MoU”, said Nazar.

He added that during an inter-regional meeting at the Ar-Raniry State Institute of Islamic Studies yesterday, there was an agreement reached to reject the UU-PA if Jakarta does not immediately revise it. In a petition signed by 16 regency/city representatives in Aceh, they stated their disappointment with Jakarta for trimming down the authority of the Aceh government in the law.

“We are urging the Aceh Monitoring Mission, the Crisis Management Initiative and the European Union to safeguard the peace process in Aceh more seriously and permanently up until the formation of Aceh’s own administration”, said the petition that was read out by Dawan Gayo.

The protesters also warned that if the UU-PA is not revised by Jakarta “Not to blame the Acehnese people if they again start demanding independence”, said the petition. In addition to this, the petition also called on the government to immediately release all political prisoners that are still in jail.

The action in front of the Baiturrahman Mosque also included speeches by SIRA activists. Ruslan Razali, the chairperson of the Managing Committee said that Jakarta has trimmed Aceh’s authority. “In the MoU it was written that all matters within Aceh are the right and authority of Aceh, except for six things. But how very surprised we were when in the UU-PA it turned out that Aceh’s rights had been removed”, said Razali angrily. “This is a sign that Jakarta still has a strong desire to deceive the Acehnese”.

In addition to speeches and handing over the petition, the committee also gave journalists copies of the Acehnese Version of the Draft Law on Aceh Governance. Following this the demonstrators disbursed in an orderly fashion. [dzie]

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]