It is now more than one hundred days since the Indonesian army launched its attack on the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), but there is no sign of an end to the incursion. Indonesian labour leader Dita Sari evaluated the the situation in a talk held in Jakarta on 14 August organised by the People's Lawyers Union.
The prolonged political conflict [over Aceh] has its source in economic and social injustice created by the Indonesian government, beginning with the New Order regime of former-President Suharto, up until the current regime of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Following the overthrow of Suharto the position of the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) was extremely weak. The Aceh conflict has become the most effective means for regaining the prestige of the TNI, by exploiting Indonesian nationalism.
The Aceh military command are supported though a packet of regulations which limit the space for public control, such as Presidential Decree Number 43/2003 which prohibits visits to Aceh by foreign non-government organisations and the foreign press.
The armed forces have deployed 50,000 personnel, 13 scorpion tanks, 23 amphibious tanks, 12 regular tanks, two F-16 jet fighters, four Hawk 200 jet fighters, six transport planes and Hercules paratroop carriers, five Twinpatc helicopters, one Superpuma helicopter, six OV-10 light bombers.
The lack of control over the military emergency has continued for three months and has given rise to an extraordinary dehumanisation of the Acehnese people: 603 schools have burnt down, 677 GAM (Free Aceh Movement) members killed, 494 GAM members arrested, 43 TNI officers killed, 87 TNI officers wounded, 12 police officers killed, 299 weapons seized from GAM, 19,652 refugees.
Of the 603 schools burnt down, the military operational command has re-built 469.
Of the 223 sub-district administrations, 140 are functioning normally while 83 are not functioning properly. From a total of 5,862 village administrative bodies, 972 are not functioning and 1,662 are not functioning properly. The entire administration in Aceh is now run by the military. The civil administration along with the upholders of the law in Aceh must submit to the authority of the regional military commander.
Financing [1.7 quintillion rupiah has been spent] has been obtained from state reserves which are put aside for emergency programs such as natural disasters, social conflicts and used as funds to guard against a sudden drop in income from the sale of oil.
In the lead-up to the 2004 elections, levels of social stability will greatly influence the successfulness of the 'Megawati' government.
'Unity' is a key task for Third World nations in order that they are able to confront the attacks of imperialism and their agents in the Third World countries. Unity in this sense is needed by the Indonesian people, not excluding the people of Aceh. However unity to confront these objective demands cannot be created by the gun. It can only be created and strengthened though democratic spirit and methods.
In the lead-up to the 2004 general elections all elements of the opposition must unite under the umbrella of a political party which has a strong democratic platform. In the short term 'the opposition' must stand shoulder to shoulder in calling for an end to the military operation in Aceh and a democratic resolution to the Aceh problem: giving the Acehnese people the right to self determination (a two stage referendum) and the withdrawal of non-organic troops along with combat weaponry, and the dissolution of the Iskandar Muda [Aceh] territorial command.
Because democratic space in Aceh has been restricted by the military, the task of the democratic opposition is to take responsibility for the destiny of the Acehnese people by building a movement to end the military operation in Aceh.