Approaching 100 days of the military emergency in Aceh

LMND – August 23, 2003
LMND protesters hold long-march (Mikan News)
LMND protesters hold long-march (Mikan News)

[The following statement was issued by the National Executive of the National Student League for Democracy (Liga Mahasiswa Nasional untuk Demokrasi, LMND) and the Central Leadership Committee of Student Solidarity for the People (Solidaritas Mahasiswa Untuk Rakyat, SMUR) on August 23. Translated by James Balowski.]

There is no longer any doubt that the implementation of the military emergency [in Aceh] is a material test for the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri in their endeavour to continue to work hand in hand with the military in lead-up to the 2004 general elections. These preparations are to ensure Megawati’s return to power with the support of the military along with the other fake reformists (the Golkar Party, the United Development Party, the National Awakening Party and so forth). And Aceh has become the most important gamble in the 2004 festival of democracy [elections] as a stimulant for the victory of maintaining and restoring the New Order [regime of former President Suharto].

It is almost 100 days since the military emergency was put into place in Aceh under the umbrella of Presidential Decree Number 28/2003, and to this day, the military is still congratulating itself for incapacitating GAM [Free Aceh Movement] forces in terms of this many [GAM members] dead, this many surrendered and this may arrested, while in reality there is almost nothing in these methods which has returned the Acehnese people to a love of the red and white [national flag of Indonesia]. This can be seen from the excesses or the impact of the implementation of the military emergency.

The impact of the military emergency has also flowed through to the economic sector in the form of reducing the people’s purchasing power, prices have skyrocketed because of the high cost of transpiration of basic foods, drastically increasing the levels of unemployment. People’s crops have been abandoned (as a result of being made refugees) and the loss of productive time as a consequence of night time [curfews] and sweeps by the military has resulted in a drastic increase in poverty. Since the prolonged armed conflict in Aceh, it has been calculated that the number of poor in Aceh which in 2001 was as many as 1.2 million people (30.43 per cent) and increased to 1.4 million in 2002 (33.43 per cent), has increased in 2003 to 1.6 million, 40 per cent of a total population in Aceh of 4.1 million. In fact, before the conflict the levels of poverty were only around 26.5 per cent or 1.1 million people.

There have been three regions which have experienced the greatest increases in poverty: North Aceh, with as many as 413,935 people, 39.82 per cent of the provinces population, East Aceh with 286,797 people (42.34 per cent) and Pidie with 206,179 people or 40.33 per cent.

The military emergency has also closed the democratic space which was able to be opened up during period of the Gus Dur [President Abdurrahman Wahid] government because of intimidation, terror and the hunt for people who are considered to be GAM sympathizers, forcing people to obtain new red-white identity cards and prohibitions on gatherings, discussions or [people] voicing their aspirations (press conferences, demonstrations, discussions and so forth), [which have been implemented] without any clear guidelines. Moreover, the military command has explicitly stated that civil organisations such as SMUR are support organisations of GAM.

The people’s right to obtain true and accurate information has been limited by the prohibitions on journalist covering local conflicts unless they are embedded with troops or have the blessing of the local military commander. Press briefings for journalists are in essence a form of pressure and intimidation to [make journalists] report in accordance with the guidelines and interests of the military operation, reports are censored and both domestic and international journalists are required to obtain special permission to cover [the war].

This has made the [TNI’s] media centre the only source of information on the war in Aceh because of the prohibitions on obtaining conformation from other parties [such as GAM]. This means that the stories on the military emergency which are read and consumed by the public do not fulfill the ethics of objective and balanced journalism so that there are considerable opportunities for manipulation in the interests of the military and the authorities. Violence has also occurred against journalists who have not fulfilled the rules and guidelines of the military operational commander and this has resulted in the death of a number of journalists such as a Tempo journalists in Padang Tidji, a 68H Jakarta journalist and one person from a TVRI television crew who was found dead in Banda Aceh.

From the data above, the government and parliament should see that the military operation and the military emergency can be said to have failed in terms of its goals, strategy and impact, which for the people of Aceh has been extreme. In terms of the goal to win the hearts and minds of the Acehnese people and [to persuade] them to return to fold of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), it has instead created the seeds of a new hatred against the government because of the violence which has been perpetrated against civilians, murders, massacres, which represent fertile ground for the development of Acehnese nationalism which will become evermore widespread. A fine goal but with the wrong method and strategy. The frequent loyalty pledges to NKRI which have been seen and propagandised by the military as an achievement, have been because of pressure, and these formalities by the Acehnese people are not based on voluntarism.

We want the people of Aceh to return to the fold of NKRI because we are confronting capitalism which requires national unity, but this unity should not be one based on pressure and intimidation at the end of a gun, it should not be a unity under the threat of a rifle butt, it should not be a unity which kills democracy and humanity, but a unity which is encouraged though joint voluntarism, sincerity and love for the life of the national and state.

This is the agenda of the Megawati-Hamzah regime in holding the 2004 elections, however this cannot be applied in Aceh, the 2004 elections in Aceh must be rejected because the requirements for the organisation of such a festival in Aceh have not been fulfilled at all. These requirements are absolute, it is not possible for the people to hold [an election] or vote comfortably, happily or freely (the requirements for a festival) while under the threat of the muzzle of a gun, even more so while the people are in the grip of fear.

Based on the above realities we from the National Student League for Democracy and Student Solidarity for the People state the following:

  • Revoke Presidential Decree Number 28/2003 on bringing into force a state of emergency in Aceh followed by the withdrawal of all non-organic troops from Aceh;
  • Try the generals who have committed human rights violations in Aceh, both during the period of DOM until now (the military emergency);
  • Reject holding the 2004 elections in Aceh for as long as the military operation is in force, because it does not fulfill the requirements for holding a festival of democracy in Aceh;
  • Promote the process of democratisation with the involvement of all Acehnese people through negotiations involving foreign countries to resolve the conflict in Aceh;
  • We appeal to and remind the entire Indonesian pro-democracy movement to be on guard against the restoration of the New Order and the strengthening of the military’s power in determining the policies of the Megawati-Hamzah administration.

Herein is our statement. Thank you and welcome liberation!

Jakarta, August 23, 2003
Maeda Yoppy, LMND National Executive
Rahmat, SMUR Secretary General

[Translated by James Balowski.]