Aceh Government Declares Environmental and Other Activists Groups Illegal

On June 21, Aceh’s acting governor issued a decree declaring 16 Acehnese groups illegal. Most of them are militia groups that were set up by the military prior to the August 2005 peace agreement. But they also include the Aceh chapter of respected environmental group Walhi, the Aceh Referendum Information Center SIRA, Student Solidarity for the People SMUR, and a number of student activist groups. The move has troubling implications for how open and democratic post-conflict Aceh will be.

Walhi has been critical of the Indonesian government’s tsunami reconstruction agency for relying on timber derived from conservation forests and illegally imported timber. SIRA and SMUR have been critical of aspects of the new Aceh governance bill, saying it does not sufficiently adhere to the provisions of the peace agreement.

There has for some time been pressure from military circles to ban SIRA, which has a long history demanding a popular referendum on Acehnese independence. The Indonesian government’s senior representative to the Aceh Monitoring Mission, Major-General Bambang Darmono, had publicly called for the group to be disbanded.

“Aceh: Government Declares 16 Organisations ‘Illegal’,” Green Left Weekly (Australia), 26 July 2006.