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by M. Yusuf Daud

"Silence cloaks the mass disappearances, unmarked graves and fatherless children in Indonesia's province of Acheh. It is a silence born of fear, resignation and secrecy." The Independent On Sunday wrote on February 9, 1992 - seven years ago. 

The above citation is just a sample of the situation prevailing in Acheh during the era of DOM (Military Operational Area) between 1989 - 1998. Unfortunately, that situation is now here again to hound and terrorize to death the already traumatized Achehnese. After the downfall of Suharto in May last year, the abominable DOM was abolished, and during that brief period the Achehnese were able to experience the era of reformation and openness. Today, Acheh is on hot spot again, anarchy is in progress and the very grave violations of human rights by another military operation called "Operasi Wibawa 99" surpassed that of DOM. 

While the world is busy trying to prevent an economically crippled Indonesia from being disintegrated and finding a durable solution to East Timor's problem, a slow motion of ethnic cleansing is going on in Acheh without being condemned. Since the beginning of this year there have been a series of massacres that have taken place in Acheh: The massacre of Blang Kandang in North Acheh in early February has resulted in over thirty innocent civilian deaths, fifty wounded and dozens arrested. And some of those arrested were tortured to death by a group of smuggled kopassus - special forces - from Jakarta. At the beginning of February, another tragedy occurred in Idi Cut in East Acheh in which almost one hundred unarmed civilians were brutally gunned down when the battle-hardened soldiers opened fire into a crowd of some 5000 people attending a religious ceremony, while another one hundred were injured and dozens have disappeared. And this is the worst massacre since the Santa Cruz when the troops shot dead over hundred East Timorese civilians in 1991. And the recent exodus of over 2000 villagers of Blang Kandang, who have taken refuge in other villages due of the presence of the army there, is another proof of Abri's brutalities in dealing with the people of Acheh. Within this very short period, around 200 innocent civilians, 
including women and children have either disappeared or died in these senseless killings on the name of 'security', territorial integrity', 'unity', 'stability' and what have you! 

As usual, the international community has turned a blind eye and remained mute to the atrocities perpetrated by the armed forces against the people of Acheh; the world has consciously condoned and even abetted these hard-handed actions by the military; nor has the so called the Commission of Human Rights in Geneva condemned these flagrant violations of human rights against the hapless people of Acheh - not to mention of sending its special rapporteurs to Acheh to impartially investigate and monitor the situation there. But some human rights organizations, such as TAPOL from London, have criticized Western Governments for its reluctance to voice its concerns and to put pressure on Jakarta for an investigation into those massacres. 

The Indonesian regime has long argued that Acheh is different from that of East Timor since the latter is a former Portuguese colony. And the International community, particularly the West and the USA, seem to have been romanticized and lulled by this fake, nonsensical argument, as if the right of self-determination was only applicable to the former Portuguese, British or French colonies, but not to the former Dutch colonies such as Acheh; as if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was only designed for the Christian East Timorese or the Buddhist Tibetans, but never to the Moslems of Acheh or Kosova; as if the UN Resolution 1514 (XV), 3314 (XXIX) and 2625 (XXV) were adopted for all the former British, French, Portuguese or Spanish colonies with the exception of the peoples of the Dutch East Indies. This how the UN and the civilized world, if there is any, have been treating the victims of the very same brutal regime differently just because they belong to different colonizers; just simply because all the former Dutch colonies have never been decolonized in accordance with the procedure of the UN Charter; and all the separate colonial territories that the Dutch had conquered by shedding the blood of our ancestors, have never been returned to us - the rightful owners: the Achehnese, the Moluccans, the Papuans, and etc. Instead of decolonization, all those territories of the East Indies have been kept intact and re-colonized by changing the name from Dutch East Indies to Indonesia, and changing the masters from Van Heutz or Van Daalen to LB Moerdani or Joko Pramono. What has been done in the Dutch East Indies was the very opposite of what has been done in all other colonial territories throughout the world. 

What would have happened if all French, British or Portuguese colonies were to be indonesianized? 

If Africa, for example, were to be indonesianized, then there would have been only six or seven major states in Africa today instead of some fifty four. All the French colonies, from Morocco to Malagasy, would have been made only one state under an artificial name. If Africa were to be indonesianized, all Portuguese colonies, from Mozambique to cape Verde, would have been kept as one state with a fabricated label. If Africa were to be indonesianized, then all British colonies, from Ghana to Tanzania, would have also been kept as only one state under some concocted name, and so on and so forth. Therefore, what the Dutch had done to its former colonies of the so called Indonesia is flying directly in the face of the very basic principle of the law of the UN Decolonization. It is clearly against the UN Resolution 2625 (XXV) that "each colonial territory has a separate juridical status, and each has the right to independence." 

Just about two weeks ago, in a five-day congress of Youth and all students of Acheh that had taken place in Bandar Acheh between January 31 - February 4, in which the congress had strongly recommended that the best solution to the unending crisis of Acheh is to hold a referendum that will be supervised by the UN as to give a chance to the people of Acheh whether to continue to be part of Indonesia or to opt for an independent Acheh. These recommendations were supported by an overwhelming majority of the Achehnese society from all walks of life. For the regime, this is certainly a terrible nightmare to which it will do its utmost to prevent this from happening. Bu for the students, the youth and for the whole population of Acheh, there is no point of return - enough is enough. If the regime continues to use extreme violence against the strong, sincere wishes of the Achehnese to be independent, I believe that the regime in question can only rule the dead Achehnese. 

Today, to describe what Abri is doing in Acheh, is to describe a genocide in progress. The anarchical situation prevailing in Acheh now seems no end in sight unless the United Nations and especially the Decolonization Commission exercised its Charter Obligation to protect the right of self-determination of the people of Acheh. Therefore, the UN is duty-bound to intervene immediately in Acheh to (1) stop the killings of the Achehnese civilians and to (2) supervise a free referendum to ensure that the people of Acheh have exercised their right of self-determination. 

Freedom is dear to all, but it is dearer to those who have been deprived of it. 

Stockholm, 21 February 1999 

The writer is the secretary-general of the Free Aceh Movement in Europe.

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Last modified: June 22, 2000