ACEH: human rights monitor: 'Lift martial law!'

Issue 

BY VANNESSA HEARMAN

MELBOURNE — Rachland Nashidik, who visited Australia at the invitation of Indonesian Solidarity, is program director of Imparsial, a human-rights monitoring organisation in Indonesia. Nashidik's main message, when he spoke at Melbourne University on August 26, was that the Indonesian government must lift martial law in Aceh.

Nashidik said that Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri had given a "blank cheque" to the Indonesian military (TNI) in Aceh. He said he was concerned that the Acehnese people's democratic right to participate in the 2004 Indonesian election would not be respected under martial law. "The TNI [has] warned that martial law could last for 10 years in Aceh', he said.

Nashidik argued that it was too late to demand that Indonesia return to the negotiating table, as TNI figures such as Kiki Syahnakri and Eddy Sudradjat are already claiming victory in Aceh. Instead, martial law must be lifted and civil and democratic rights returned to the Acehnese. "People have to register their names when they want to buy phone cards even, such is the level of harassment of civilians there", Nashidik pointed out.

Nashidik said the key issue is that the Acehnese people should be free to choose the political arrangements for their territory.

Nashidik said Australians should reject Canberra reestablishing ties with the TNI, "especially Kopassus", the TNI's feared special forces unit. General Sriyanto, head of Kopassus, is due to visit Australia in September. He is facing trial before an Indonesian human rights tribunal over the 1984 shootings of Muslim protesters in Tanjung Priok. Nashidik said resumption of military ties would send "a very bad signal" to the Indonesian people.

"The terrorist threat is real in Indonesia and it frightens us, but intelligence agencies such as BIN [the National Intelligence Body] are using this as an opportunity to grab extra power", Nashidik explained. A new intelligence training academy has been set up in Batam Island, off Sumatra.

From Green Left Weekly, September 10, 2003.

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