Acehnese and West Papuan activists speak

May 15, 2002


SYDNEY — "We have no relationship with Indonesia anymore. We have to find our own way", was how Erwanto, a visiting Acehnese democracy leader summed up his people's determination to win their independence.

Speaking at a meeting organised by Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific on May 9, Erwanto, who is the international officer for the Acehnese Popular Democratic Resistance Front (FPDRA), said that under the Megawati government the number of human rights abuses in Aceh have increased.

In Aceh today, the democratic forces are being prevented from even organising meetings. Demonstrations are banned, and people are afraid to travel from village to village until after 6pm.

Negotiations between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government are scheduled for May 11. Erwanto believes that negotiations are important, but to be effective they have to be mediated by a foreign government or, preferably, the United Nations. "Only the UN is in a position to point the finger at Jakarta for its human rights abuses."

Erwanto was emphatic that Acehnese do not want an Islamic state, despite it being on offer from Jakarta. He said when the leader of the fundamentalist militia group Laska Jihad came to Aceh none of the independence groups including GAM, were willing to meet with it.

Rex Rumakiek, a leader of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), described to the meeting a similarly deteriorating situation in West Papua. Indonesian military have been given free rein to carry out their dirty work.

However, he is hopeful that an international campaign launched last year to pressure the UN Secretary General to review the 1969 Act of Free Choice will gain momentum. Rumakiek described the sham UN-organised "referendum" of that year as "West Papua being caught up in Cold War politics". He said that the US desire to contain communism in this part of the world led to the UN undemocratically handing over West Papua to Indonesia.

Already some 40 NGOs internationally have supported the review appeal, with 10 adding their names last week.

Rumakiek is hopeful that this year's South Pacific Forum to be held in Fiji in August will also carry a strong resolution supporting West Papua's struggle for independence. He said that the governments of Nauru and Vanuatu among others would support the push.

Given the abundance of natural resources in West Papua, Rumakiek said "we should all be millionaires, if not for the multinationals like Freeport".

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From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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