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Prominent Acehnese Human Rights Activist Visits

Prominent Acehnese Human Rights Activist Visits

Aguswandi, Acehnese human rights activist currently based in London with TAPOL (Indonesia Human Rights Campaign) visits New Zealand from January 21 to January 28, 2005. During his visit he will meet with aid agencies, human rights organisations and politicians and will also be available for media comment.

His visit provides an important opportunity for New Zealanders to reach a better understanding of the context of the aid and relief problems in Aceh, and also to find new ways to support and help the suffering people of Aceh.

Aguswandi has been a key spokesperson for the Acehnese civil society networks in the days following the tsunami, since he is closely in touch with colleagues on the ground. He has been in constant demand for international media interviews about the relief operations.

Aguswandi has called for the Indonesian Government to allow free movement for international aid workers and journalists, and for the lifting of the martial law type restrictions in place in Aceh. The so-called “civil emergency” should be replaced with a humanitarian emergency status. Relief operations should under civilian control, he says.

On behalf of TAPOL, Aguswandi has also urged the Indonesian government to use this tragic opportunity to end military operations against the Free Aceh Movement, GAM, and reinstate the peace process through dialogue and negotiation.

Aguswandi, 27, a graduate in both law and international politics, has been active in the struggle for human rights in Aceh since the time of the upheavals which marked the end of the Suharto dictatorship. As a student leader he helped organise peaceful demonstrations against militarisation. As the coordinator for the Aceh office of Kontras (Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence) he spoke out for his fellow human rights defenders who have been a frequent target of the Indonesian military.

Aguswandi says that the conflict in Aceh has given rise to a new generation of Acehnese civil society who want to create a better life for both Aceh and Indonesia. Since the imposition of martial law in May 2003, there has been very limited opportunity for students, women’s, religious and other community organisations to function freely. However, this new non-violent movement offers positive hope for the resolution of decades of conflict in Aceh, and should have a significant role in resumed peace negotiations.

Aguswandi will address a Public Meeting in the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall, New North Rd, Mt Albert, at 7-30 pm Monday January 24. Aguswandi is available for interview in Auckland from Friday 21 January (late afternoon) Saturday 22 January and Monday 24 Jan.

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