Government accused of erasing history by demolishing Aceh torture house

CNN Indonesia – June 23, 2023
Remains of Geudong House after being bulldozed by local government – Undated (Kontras)

Aceh – The Central Aceh Transitional Committee (KPA), which is a forum for former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) combatants, firmly opposes the demolition of the Geudong House (Rumoh Geudong) building which is a silent witness to the gross human rights abuses that occurred in Pidie regency, Aceh.

KPA spokesperson Azhari Cagee said that the events at the Geudong House represent violations that have been acknowledged by the state, so it is inappropriate for the building to be demolished.

"We at the KPA firmly reject the shift in the function of the Rumoh Geudong historical site in Pidie because whatever its story is it represents historical evidence of the previous period of [armed] conflict", Cagee told CNN Indonesia on Thursday June 22.

Before the building was demolished, the KPA sent a letter to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo asking that the building on the site not be destroyed in order to build a mosque.

Instead, they had asked that the building be turned into a museum or school because two mosques have already been established in the area.

"We don't oppose the construction of a mosque but the residential area already has two mosques. Later if it's pushed through the congregation won't be big enough, if indeed you want to build a mosque why must you insist on having it there?", he asked.

Cagee suspects there is an effort to erase history or destroy evidence of the rights violations that took place at the Geudong House so that the perpetrators who were involved and are still alive will not be indicted.

"We suspect there is a hidden intent to erase history or destroy evidence of human rights violations [during the] conflict by certain individuals who are irresponsible", said Cagee.

Pidie regency government protocol and communication division head Teuku Iqbal has confirmed that the site will be used to build a mosque.

"It's true (the demolition of Geudong House the mosque construction). Hopefully everything will go smoothly", Iqbal said briefly when sought for confirmation by CNN Indonesia on Thursday.

However Iqbal was reluctant to say upon whose initiative the building had been demolished.

The demolition of Geudong House is suspected to have been done as part of preparations for the kick off of an event by the Monitoring Team for the Implementation of Recommendations for the Non-Judicial Resolution of Past Gross Human Rights Violations (PKPHAM) that will be held on June 27 and attended by President Widodo.

Government initiative

Acting Pidie Regent Wahyudi Adisiswanto says that the demolition was done on the initiative of the Pidie regency government.

According to Adisiswanto, it was done to get rid of past grudges so that the next generation of young people in the region would not be saddened by past events. He also understands that there will be pros and cons when demolishing the remains of a building which was the site of gross rights violations.

"Of course there will be pros and cons, so if we talk about human rights, don't let it leave behind a generation of human rights violators, so this demolition is in the context of eliminating grudges", said Adisiswanto, who also serves as the State Intelligence Agency's (BIN) Operations Control and Planning Director, when sought for confirmation on Friday June 23.

He denied however that there are any parties that want to build a museum or a replica of Rumoh Geudong after it is demolished. According to Adisiswanto this will only sow the seeds of future hatred.

"If there are some who are asking for a replica to be made for a museum, that's ridiculous. That will teach grudges to the next generation, hatred will resurface", he said.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski based on two articles by CNN Indonesia on June 23. The original title of the lead article was "Eks GAM Duga Upaya Penghilangan Bukti Pelanggaran HAM di Rumoh Geudong".]