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Aceh: Public Meetings 24 & 25 January

Aceh: Public Meetings 24 & 25 January

Aceh: the tsunami and beyond

Public meetings with prominent Acehnese human rights activist

You are invited to attend a public meeting with Aguswandi, an Acehnese human rights activist currently based in London with TAPOL (Indonesia Human Rights Campaign) who is visiting Aotearoa / New Zealand during January. He will be speaking in Auckland on Monday 24 January, and in Wellington on Tuesday 25 January (see details below). If you are not in either city, or are unable to get to one of the meetings, updated information about the situation in Aceh is available online at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/aceh.htm

The plight of the people of Aceh has been brought to the world's attention by the tsunami which has caused unimaginable loss and devastation there. Reports of the Indonesian government's restrictions on aid and relief workers has increased awareness of the oppressive military rule which the Acehnese have been subject to over many years, particularly since martial law was imposed in May 2003.

Since the tsunami struck, there have been calls from Acehnese and international human rights, peace and aid groups for the Indonesian Government to allow free movement for international aid workers and journalists; to lift martial law and replace the so-called 'civil emergency' with humanitarian emergency status; to place relief operations under civilian control; and to use this tragedy as an opportunity to end military operations against the Free Aceh Movement, GAM, and reinstate the peace process through dialogue and negotiation.

Aguswandi will be speaking about the background to the current situation in Aceh; the development of the non-violent movement which offers positive hope for the resolution of armed conflict in Aceh; and ways in which we can support and help the people of Aceh.

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.

* National media contact for Aguswandi's visit: Maire Leadbeater, Indonesia Human Rights Committee, tel (09) 815 9000 or 025 436 957, email maire@clear.net.nz

* Auckland, Monday 24 January 2005. 'Aceh: beyond the tsunami' - public meeting with Aguswandi, at 7-30pm in the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall, New North Rd, Mt Albert. Organised by the Indonesia Human Rights Committee, tel (09) 815 9000 or 025 436 957, email maire@clear.net.nz

* Wellington, Tuesday 25 January 2005. 'Aceh: the tsunami and beyond' - public meeting with Aguswandi, at 6pm in the Cafeteria, First Floor, Catholic Centre, 22-30 Hill Street, Wellington (limited parking available at the rear of the building, so please park on Hill Street if you can). Organised by Caritas (Aotearoa New Zealand), contact Michael Butchard, email Michael@caritas.org.nz or tel (04) 496 1742; and Peace Movement Aotearoa, email pma@xtra.co.nz or tel (04) 382 8129.

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Peace Movement Aotearoa (PMA)
the national networking peace organisation
PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173 email pma@xtra.co.nz
PMA website - http://www.converge.org.nz/pma
Not in Our Name - http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/nionnz.htm
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