Referendum For Aceh



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An Analysis for Self-Determination for Aceh

The History of Conflict

As the Acehnese, we have always known that freedom comes with a price. This price has been paid by thousands of Acehnese lives. It started when Holland declaration of war against Aceh in 1887; Japanese invasion; Indonesian revolution; Governor Daud Beureeh rebellion; Communist revolution; Hasan Tiro's Free Aceh Movement; DOM (Indonesian Military Security Operation); and the latest is the Democracy Movement for self-determination via Referendum; where hundreds has been tortured, kidnapped, and killed just because they wanted a choice to choose. The root of the problem is that the political system existing in Indonesia was and is not suitable for the Acehnese. And some people in Aceh still argue about the process of transfer of sovereignty from the Dutch power to Indonesia pertaining to Aceh in 1949.

State violence and the process toward self-determination

Within Indonesia, Acehnese only have eight years of relatively peaceful time, the rest of forty-three years, it is filled with military and security operations and armed conflicts where thousands have been killed, missing, displaced, and in some cases (in the last 10 years) hundreds of women were raped. The state violence against the Acehnese happened in the view of the international community and in full view of Indonesian neighbors.

The central government of Indonesia are soon to learn that domination, oppression, misinformation, in-justice and military operation without morality also comes with a price. The Acehnese has decided what that price will be: the right to exercise self-determination. Today, all level of the Acehnese society (from the legally elected provincial governor, legally elected legislative body, head districts, scholars, religious leaders, the student movement, and villagers, the businessmen and women) have accepted the process for self-determination democratically via a referendum for independence to the decide the future of Aceh. If Indonesia use security means again to solve this conflict / the democratic actions, we predict that thousands of Acehnese will be killed.

Indonesia leaderships and referendum in Aceh

President of Indonesia, KH Abdurrahman Wahid, and the Head of General Consultative body of Indonesia, Amien Rais, have agreed that a referendum be held in Aceh. We respect their views. Their direction is in line with the wish of the Acehnese majority. We belief, Gus Dur and Amien Rais are men of Integrity. We belief that the current president of Indonesia, its assembly and most of its cabinet are serious in solving Indonesia's problems. However, their views represent the interest of Indonesia, not Aceh. They have "juggled" with the options of referendum and its timing. The Acehnese, on the other hands, have decided their stand: "A divorce from the 54 years old forceful marriage with Indonesia" through a democratic and peaceful means. 

We wanted to choose whether or not Indonesia is the right home for us. Throughout open dialogs, it has been given a clear sign by the Acehnese that Aceh conflict with Indonesia must be solved by non-violence means. Acehnese are no longer interested in retribution or even compensation for these items only relevant if they wanted to remain within Indonesia.

If the rights to self-determination by the Acehnese is not allowed, Indonesia and Aceh is at risk in long and unnecessary conflicts. It also can fuel other discontents across the archipelagos. The rest of Indonesia is watching.

The Acehnese case is quite different than the rest of the 25 provinces in Indonesia. The abuse, the discrimination, the neglect and failed promises by the central government and military power in Aceh over 54 years have in over time built an effective "anti-bodies" in the Acehnese society. Today, the conflict has become incurable or unmanageable. Additional security threats as well as positive signals sent by the central government are no longer viable; it is either courteously ignored or loudly protested. 

It is in the best interest for the Acehnese as well as the Indonesians as a whole that this self-determination process be done in a orderly and peaceful manner without the use of military / security means. We, the Acehnese don't want to see the history repeat itself. We don't want to see another killing fields in Aceh. And, we also don't want to see Indonesia's internal conflicts be their eternal agenda throughout their existence.

To prolong the conflict means to remove the Acehnese from Aceh or ethnically cleansed Aceh.

If the Acehnese be allowed to hold a referendum and voted for Independence, we envision that the future of Acehnese society will be fully a democratic one. The process of freedom that overwhelming majority of the Acehnese support has been the Democracy Movement.

It is not true that if Aceh decided to be separated, Indonesia will disintegrate. The fact is, the human tragedies that has happened in Aceh in the last 54 years has never happened to other provinces in Indonesia. 

For Indonesia, Aceh case will be a major lesson for the central government: "Behave and treat all the provinces and its people equally or face the consequences."

Peaceful process of Aceh self-determination will avoid future internal conflicts. Delaying the referendum and democratic process will only exhausted Acehnese options and robed them of their basic human rights and it will further demised the credibility of the Indonesian central government not just in the eyes of the Acehnese, but of all Indonesians.

International Forum for Aceh
5002 47th Street 2nd Floor
Woodside, New York 11377, U.S.A.
Tel. (718) 937.0510 Fax. (718) 786.9135

Webmaster: Rizali Pidie 
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Last modified: April 29, 2000