|Issue No 84||16 February 2001|
Letters to the Editor
Aceh activist in Sydney
Leading Acehnese activist, Kautsar, toured Sydney in January to build support for the Acehnese people's struggle for self-determination.
Kautsar, the founding coordinator of SMUR (Student Solidarity for the People) the main pro-referendum student-led mass organisation in Aceh was established in 1998. He helped lead the mass campaign in Aceh which finally toppled former President Suharto in May 1998.
SMUR, which leads the student and the civil democratic movement, is demanding: a referendum with the option of independence; for the military to leave; and for human rights violators to be bought to trial. Apart from organising students, SMUR works with small farmers around land issues.
In 1998, SMUR coordinated the massive 12-day strike to end Aceh's "Military Operations Status (DOM)" and also coordinated the successful 70% boycott of the presidential elections.
1n March 1999, SMUR led a general strike involving some 90% of workers. SMUR also helped coordinate the 2-million strong pro-referendum demonstration in November 1999. Aceh has a population of 4 million.
Kautsar explained that Aceh has its own unique culture and language and is abundantly rich in natural resources. However, he said, all but 0.38% of its gas, cement and other natural resources go to the Indonesian government.
"Like East Timor before its referendum, Aceh is occupied by over 30,000 Indonesian troops. Our people are forced to endure state repression, kidnapping, rapes, murders and torture.
"Since 1991, more than 7000 Acehnese activists have been killed and many more have disappeared. Exact figures are unavailable due to the Indonesian government's refusal to allow humanitarian agencies to operate in Aceh.
"Our people are fed up with the repression and economic exploitation. Like East Timor, so we too have the opportunity to determine their own future with a referendum. But despite the majority sentiment for one, the Indonesian government is committing more troops and carrying out more violence and terror."
Kautsar said while the Indonesian government tries to present the struggle for self-determination in Aceh as a religious or ethnic conflict, this is wrong. "Christians and Chinese people are not attacked in Aceh, and are united with the overwhelming majority in their desire for independence. The Indonesian government has repeatedly offered Aceh the right to establish Islamic law in an attempt to mask the real nature of our struggle. We have repeatedly rejected this. Like East Timor, this is a struggle by an oppressed people to control our own destiny."
The Howard government continues to support the Indonesian government by maintaining military ties with the Indonesian military. Of concern the Defence 2000 white paper, indicates that the government plans to step up its military ties with the Wahid administration.
Australian governments have a long and shameful history of backing the Indonesian regime. The reason is that they consistently allow big business interests to determine foreign policy rather than human rights.
Australians need to step up the pressure on the Australian government to pressure Jakarta to agree to a referendum in Aceh and West Papua and to cut ties with a military which is committing human rights atrocities not just in Aceh, but across the whole of Indonesia.
Contact ASIET at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our Aceh campaign.
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