Fragile archipelago
Indonesia secrete

IFA regrets:  
Indonesian leading press are no longer able to sustain their freedom  


New York, June 17, 2001(IFA) The International Forum for Acheh, a human rights organization monitoring and reporting on human rights violations in the Indonesian province of Acheh denounced today the Indonesian National News Agency ANTARA for 'lies' regarding a letter by six U.S. Senators to the commander of the Free Acheh Movement (GAM) in the troubled province.


By M. Nur Djuli




Complete report

  'It is quite clear that the "honeymoon period" of the freedom of the press in Indonesia is over.'







'The letter that was released to the Indonesian press by TAPOL of London, and was first mutilated by ANTARA, the Indonesian National News Agency, then reprised and commented in an editorial by the sole Indonesian language daily published in Acheh, Serambi Indonesia,..'

  THE IFA STATED THAT 'the level of misinformation, distortion and falsification of facts taking place in Indonesia as concerned Acheh has reached the level of real incredulity not seen since the fall of the Suharto military dictatorship. Even from such usual sources of lies as the Indonesian National Police contingent operating in Acheh one does not expect to read such blatant lies as those relating to the letter from six US Senators addressed to GAM commander Teungku Abdullah Shafii'.

After its recent meeting in the US capital last April, IFA with the help of its friends in the Indonesia Human Rights Network of Washington (IHRN) have met with staffers of all these senators and provided them with documents and reports pertaining to the situation in Acheh. It is believed that the Senators have written the letter based on this feedback.

It is quite clear that the "honeymoon period" of the freedom of the press in Indonesia is over. The letter that was released to the Indonesian press by TAPOL of London, and was first mutilated by ANTARA, the Indonesian National News Agency, then reprised and commented in an editorial by the sole Indonesian language daily published in Acheh, Serambi Indonesia, and then based on that, "elaborated" again by the official spokesman of the police command in Acheh, Drs Sad Harun.

The letter was sent to GAM commander through Teungku Nashiruddin, the GAM-Joint Committee on Security Affairs, at Kuala Tripa Hotel, Banda Acheh,
which in itself should show Teungku Abdullah Syafii's standing as someone the American Senators feel comfortable enough to write to, despite the oft
repeated American support of the unitary format of the Republic of Indonesia and the Police portrayal of him as a separatist leader.
      It reads:

"Dear Tgk Nashiruddin,

We are writing to convey our concern about the deteriorating situation in Acheh. We support the territorial integrity of Indonesia and we believe that the use of arms to solve Acheh's problems is unacceptable. We feel strongly that dialogue is the only way to end the conflict, and hope that both sides will continue to search for ways to restart negotiations".


      But from Drs Sad Harun, it somehow came out as: "the international community, in particular  members of the US Senate and Human Rights Watch, are closely watching and monitoring the acts of violence being carried out by GAM against the civilian population in Acheh. (The letter does not mention the New York based Human Rights Watch at all, but probably his recent meeting with the fearless HRW Executive Director, Sidney Jones, have clouded his mind somehow).
      The original letter continues:

"We understand that in Acheh there are many groups and individuals who claim to be GAM, and that actions have been carried out in the name of GAM that were never endorsed by the GAM leadership. We are encouraged by your practice of repeatedly denouncing such violations and hope you will continue to do so, but we are also concerned that some GAM actions may prolong the violence, rather than resolve the conflict. One example is the attacks led by Sofyan Daud at the end of March as part of a 'defensive strategy' against the soldiers stationed around the Exxon-Mobil plant."


      From Drs. Sad Harun came: "International organisiations are very concerned about the systematic acts of violence being undertaken, on the pretext of waging struggle. 
Can Indonesia survive its current turmoil?


But their activities are being properly monitored; these organisations are getting accurate information about the cruel actions recently undertaken by GAM against the population, adding that this is as it should be because they have been getting information from official sources and from institutions that are credible."

      The letter:

"While we do not believe that the US government should support a military offensive in Acheh, we would also oppose GAM actions that in any way violate human rights. We urge GAM to respect the fundamental rights of all individuals, including non-Achenese in Acheh, and that GAM as an organization adhere to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva conventions as they relate to internal conflicts".


      This last phrase was of course totally ignored by Drs. Sad Harun.
      The concerned Senators are:

Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat
Senator James M Jeffords, formerly Republican, now
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat
Senator Russell D Feingold, Democrat
Senator Robert D. Torricelli, Democrat


      Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL who first released this letter to the Indonesian press noted: "The letter has already been reported in the Indonesian language press, giving the impression that the senators pressed GAM to engage in dialogue whereas the plea for dialogue is made to both sides.
View detail of TAPOL's response regarding Indonesian press on the Senators letter


The reports make no mention of the first two
sentences in paragraph two and give the impression that the senators accused GAM of launching an attack on ExxonMobil whereas their letter regrets the 'defensive strategy' against the soldiers stationed round the company, which is rather a different matter."  End of PRESS STATEMENT

      M. Nur Djuli is a Press & Communications Director for International Forum for Acheh (IFA)


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