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Give the Acehnese people the democratic right of self-determination!

23. June 2003

Statement by the People´s Democratic Party, Jakarta, May 25, 2003

Again and again the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice-President Hamzah Haz has failed to support the mandate of reformasi. This time their failure is shown by their inability to resolve the Aceh problem in a democratic and peaceful manner. Or by their failure to interpret the roots of the problems of the Acehnese people.

As a result, like their ´uncles´, the US and Britain, who resolved the Iraqi problem though a military invasion, the Mega-Hamzah government who had previously pretended to condemn the US attack on Iraq, are also now using a military operation to stifle the demands for independence which have developed and broadened among the Acehnese people.

And once again, these erroneous policies are fully supported by the speaker of the People´s Representative Assembly (MPR), Akbar Tanjung and the speaker of the People´s Consultative Assembly (DPR), Amien Rais. In their response to the military operation in Aceh, civil groups and democratic forces who have taken a contemptible attitude, wearing the mask of narrow nationalism.

There has been no support for the Acehnese people, there has been no condemnation of the Mega-Hamzah government, as there was for the people of Iraq who were invaded by the US and its allies. Are the souls of the Acehnese people, those who will become the victims of the military operation, less valuable or less noble than the people of Iraq?

For us the problems of the Acehnese people are caused by militarism. The emergence of nationalistic sentiment among the Acehnese people, who are demanding independence, must be seen as a form of correction in the face of an economic and political system, which we have applied though the path of militarism.

The militarism which was applied by [former President] Suharto over 32 years has given birth to economic, political, social and cultural injustices in society. These injustices have triggered nationalistic sentiments in a number of regions, such as Aceh and West Papua. Therefore it is impossible to resolve the problems of the Acehnese people though a military approach, the source of the problems of the Acehnese people in the first place. Militarism is the cause of the disintegration of Indonesia.

It is precisely the kind of military operation which is being carried out by the Mega-Hamzah government at the moment which will trigger the spread of nationalist sentiments among the Acehnese people, which can be seen in those areas which have been sealed off from observers, where schools have been burnt down, housewives and young girls raped, people who are suspected of being GAM members arrested and terrorised. Civilian casualties will continue without any of us knowing. This military operation will only justify the views and position of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which is campaigning broadly among the people that the people of Aceh that they are being colonised by Indonesia and the Javanese.

We truly desire the unity of the Indonesian people from Sabang to Marauke, as was struggled for by the founders of our nation, who were truly democratic, such as [Indonesia´s founding president Sukarno], [Vice-President] Hatta and [Prime Minister] Sjahrir.

Moreover, not just for the unity of the Indonesian people alone, but for the unity of all of the world´s people, which is needed to confront the colonialism of the imperialist countries. But, the concept of unity which we wish to build is clearly different from the concept of unity being used by the Suharto regime and the regime of Mega-Hamzah, one which plunders the wealth and natural resources [of the people] and which is maintained by military force.

For us, unity must be built on the basis of people´s voluntary acceptance and consciousness. This voluntary acceptance and consciousness will only be born if the government is capable of implementing economic and political policies which are just and democratic. If the government is capable of holding a democratic dialogue with the people, to explain why being united is better than being separated. Wasn´t the 1928 Youth Pledge which untied youth from all parts of the Indonesian archipelago based on democracy and voluntarism. Not a single drop of blood was spilt in the name of the unity built by the youth of that time, because they were democrats.

Since the period of [former President B.J.] Habibie, there has been no serous attempt to resolve the roots of the Aceh question. Moreover the present dialogue and negotiations [with GAM] which were been conducted by the Mega-Hamzah government were just lipstick, which were carried out while seeking an excuse to launch a military operation, their principle aim.

Dialogue and negotiations which are not followed by justice to address the human rights crimes committed during the previous military operation [when Aceh was declared a military operation zone between 1990 and 1998], the withdrawal of all Indonesian troops and the creation of economic and political democracy (prosperity) for the people of Aceh, is the same as cheating the Acehnese people.

For the PRD therefore, two armed forces are now confronting each other. Violence against civilians will surely occur. It is time to end the violence, and to give the Acehnese people their democratic right to determine their own future though a referendum.

The PRD is of the view that a referendum is the best means to resolve the Aceh question, peacefully and without bloodshed. This referendum could be implemented in two stages. In the first stage, the people of Aceh could choose the option of independence.

In the second stage, which would be organised 15 year later, the Acehnese can evaluate whether the new government which leads them can or cannot resolve the problems which they face. It may be that in the second stage the people of Acehnese will choose to re-join the Indonesian Republic, on the grounds that the new government is not acting in a democratic fashion.

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