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The Transfer Of Achehnese Prisoners To Java

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26 January, 2004

The transfer of Achehnese prisoners to Java.

Eighty-nine Achehnese that the Indonesian colonial government branded as members of the Free Acheh Movement (GAM) arrived in Yogyakarta last Sunday from their jail cells in Kutaraja (Banda Acheh), in the second such transfer to prisons in Java. The first batch of 54 prisoners arrived on Thursday and were transferred to Semarang and neighboring towns to serve their jail terms. The 143 prisoners have all been sentenced to more than three years in jail. While 79 prisoners were then transported aboard police trucks to the prison island of Nusakambangan in Cilacap regency, Central Java, the remaining 10 were taken to a penitentiary in the provincial capital of Semarang. Twenty-seven of the 79 convicts would be imprisoned in Nusakambangan Penitentiary's Batu jail.

The Achehnese arrived chained to each other at the hands and ankles, and a joint military and police force kept tight watch.

The leadership of the Government of the State of Acheh is naturally very angry about this yet another blatant disregard of human rights by Jakarta, but we are not surprised at all. Indonesian Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Yusril Ihza Mahendra angrily stated: "A newspaper has cynically said that we are aping the approach of the Dutch East Indies colonial administration. That is not true. This is not exile; the justice and human rights ministry has nothing to do with politics,"

But of course this practice is nothing than a modus operandi that Jakarta copies from its former colonial master, the Dutch.

In fact today we can see clearly to what extend the Dutch Government is adamant in assuring its legacy of colonialism to be continued by the neo-colonialist nation it set up in Jakarta when it left more than half a century ago, being forced by a popular struggle spearheaded by Acheh. When most other Western powers are gradually cutting off military assistance to Indonesia, the Dutch has signed an agreement to sell warships to Indonesia, on the pretext that the Indonesian Navy was not involved in the conflict in Acheh. Maybe the Dutch Government has forgotten that the small airfield it built in Blang Bintang, Kutaraja (Banda Acheh), is not capable of receiving 50 000 troops within a few days of the declaration of Martial Law in Acheh eight months ago. Most of these troops were SHIPPED by the Navy transports vessels, escorted by warships. The Dutch Government seems also to be conveniently oblivious of the fact that the Indonesian Navy took out more than 5000 villagers from Breueh island off Banda Acheh coast within a week of the declaration of Martial Law, and moved them to concentration camps, then proceded with the naval and aerial bombardments of the island, "against GAM bases" (the emptied villages, to make sure those running away to the jungle have nowhere to live). The island has now been turned into a naval base. The Dutch government does not need intelligence report to know about this, the Indonesian and international press covered this incident widely when it happened. From last month, and is still going on today, reinforcements of the Raiders battalions are being sent to Acheh by navy vessels.

Indeed, the exiling of the prisoners from Acheh to Java proves once again the colonial nature of the Indonesian to hold on Acheh. We call on the international community to condemn this measure and to send monitors regularly to look into their condition.

Dr. Zaini Abdullah

Minister of Foreign Affairs

of the State of Acheh, in exile


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