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Subject: What 'special status' really means
Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 15:08:46 +0100 (BST)

The offer of 'special status' to East Timor by the Habibie Government has been firmly rejected by resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, and the Protuguese government.

When people mention 'special status', reference is usually made to Aceh where such a status was granted in the 1970s to ward off support for the Daud Beureuh Muslim movement in the province.

However, what is never mentioned is that in 1980, Aceh was designated a 'Daerah operasi militer' or military operation area, known as DOM, which is still in place to this day. DOM has been justified by the armed forces leadership on the grounds of the need to crush the Free Aceh Movement. But for the population, this has meant curfews, road-blocks, raids and a heavy military presence. There have been thousands of 'disappearances' especially during the period 1989 - 1993 at the height of the military operations. DOM has also served as a convenient cover for corrupt practices by military and civilian officials.

There is now a very active campaign underway in Aceh for the withdrawal of DOM. People from all walks of life are supporting the campaign, even including members of the local assembly and top religious leaders. Several students are currently staging a hunger strike 'to the death' unless DOM is withdrawn. They have the moral and material support of the population.

So, even though Aceh has 'special status' which is supposed to mean greater autonomy, the hand of the army weighs very heavily on the region. What is 'special' about Aceh is not greater autonomy but far greater militarisation than most other provinces in Indonesia.

In any discussion of the proposal for 'special status', the farce of special status for Aceh should be highlighted.

TAPOL, Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: Defending the rights of the victims of Indonesian oppression in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh