Acheh, 21 Juni 2005
THE FAKE MASS RELEASE OF GAM PRISONERS
Acheh - SUMATRA.
INDONESIA’S LATEST SMOKE AND MIRRORS DON’T FOOL THE ACHEHNESE, BUT MIGHT CLOUD THE VIEW OF WELL-MEANING INDONESIANS AND CONFUSE FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS AND THEIR CONCERNED CITIZENS
Acheh-Sumatra National Liberation Front, Military Central Command, The Commander-In-Chief. Press release 21.06.05
The fake mass 'release of GAM prisoners,' the ongoing human rights violations and the covert movement of thousands of Indonesian troops from their posts to camps hidden from foreign eyes raise the same old questions about Indonesia's commitment to peace and justice in Acheh.
Indonesia's much-trumpeted release of 214 GAM prisoners is supposed to show its commitment to the peace process. The problem is that none of those 'released' was GAM or even a prisoner. They were in fact villagers who had turned themselves in because they had some contact with GAM and were scared by Indonesian threats.
Following established routine, these men and women were placed in a large camp for six months of 'training' and patriotic 're-education.' Among other useful skills, they learned how to wave an Indonesian flag properly and sing the Indonesian national anthem on key. They are among some 1000 people who have been similarly 're-educated' and let go since the martial law was imposed in May 2003. But, up to now, no convicted GAM member has been released based on amnesty during the past two years.
This week, Indonesia stepped up the flag-waving. This time the flags – mostly in the hands of military-run East Timor-style militias - were accompanied by banners: 'Stop EU interference', 'The TNI [Indonesian military] protects us' and 'End the unpatriotic peace talks'. Among the flag-wavers were new devotees to Jakarta's cause: entire GAM families rounded up last week and tortured, including multiple-rape and electric shocks. Indonesia would have us believe they eagerly chanted, "Long live national unity" and "We love Indonesia".
The devil, it is said, rests in the details. And the Indonesian military devils know that all too well. So if these devils can't stop an agreement in Helsinki, experience tells us they will seek to decide the details in practice, in the field. In so doing, they hope to make any accord wholly favorable to them or to simply undermine it over time. The secretive relocation of large numbers of Indonesian soldiers suggests such efforts are now under way.
The movement of troops to camps in the hills and forests is an attempt to hide the military's real numbers in preparation for the visit to Aceh of a European Union assessment team later this month. The conclusions of the team will help determine the number and type of monitoring personnel the EU will send if there is a settlement. Fewer apparent Indonesian troops in the province would probably mean a smaller mission.
The failure of past cease-fires and agreements was in part due to a lack of international monitors in sufficient numbers to investigate complaints and with enough power to compel compliance. In the past – and in the Helsinki negotiations - Indonesia has sought to keep the capacity and number of monitors at the lowest possible level. It's easy to understand why: The succession of illegal government occupying Acheh these past decades want neither the exhumation of past atrocities nor the monitoring of their current criminal connivances.
Of course, no one familiar with the history of successive Indonesian governments and their armed forces – whether in East Timor, Papua or Java - will be surprised by their latest shenanigans. Indonesia's dirty war against the Achehnese has always had a disinformation and propaganda component for internal and international consumption.
Indonesia's latest smoke and mirrors don't fool the Achehnese, but might cloud the view of well-meaning Indonesians and confuse foreign governments and their concerned citizens.
At this critical time, knowing the truth about Acheh is more important than ever.
MILITARY CENTRAL COMMAND