Aceh and West Papua

Down to Earth No 61  May 2004

Aceh Papua Solidarity (SAP), a group which includes political activists from the democratic movement, said it rejected the results of the elections in Aceh and Papua because they were legally flawed and did not conform to the principles of democracy.

The Indonesia human rights campaign, Tapol, predicted that military operations in Aceh and West Papua would make a free and fair outcome of the elections impossible.

In Aceh the elections took place under conditions of martial law, imposed since May 2003. Around 2,000 people have been killed since then. Tapol also points to reports of villagers being forced to vote by the military and of dozens of people being arrested for refusing to leave their villages to vote. The Jakarta Post reported that thousands of members of a military-backed militia, called Aceh Separatist Resistance, were to assist police in guarding polling stations. Indonesian media reports said that people were screened by the military before being issued with voting cards.

Complaints of intimidation by members of GAM, the Free Aceh Movement, were also reported. Candidates critical of martial law were not allowed to stand. 21,000 extra troops were deployed to provide security for the elections.

British-supplied Scorpion tanks were seen deployed close to polling stations, prompting Tapol to urge the British government to demand the immediate withdrawal of all British-supplied equipment from Aceh.

At a press conference at the offices of the human rights NGO, Kontras, in Jakarta, Aceh Papua Solidarity coordinator Arie Arianto said that in Central Aceh, Golkar had already marked their party on the ballot papers and the people arrived merely to witness the count. Thamrin Ananda from the Acehnese People's Democratic Resistance Front (FPDRA) said Acehnese participated in the elections to get their fingers marked with ink to show they had voted; if they didn't they would be considered GAM sympathisers.

In West Papua there has been increased military activity aimed at clamping down on independence activists and human rights defenders. In early April, police were reported to have shot dead an alleged supporter of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) who was trying to escape from police custody. He was arrested for encouraging a boycott of the elections.

Aceh Papua Solidarity reported that many polling stations in Papua had been burned down by the public - a sign that the Papuan people rejected the 2004 elections.

Acehnese, West Papuans and people living in other regions are not permitted to form their own political parties under Indonesia's electoral system.

(Tapol press releases 5&6/Apr/04; Indoleft News Service,13/Apr/04, translated by J. Balowski and circulated by Elsham News Service 20/Apr/2004; Jakarta Post 31/Mar/04)