17 de setembro de 2006

Aceh - Sharia confrontando a Indonésia 

Carta e Relatório enviados, a 8/9/2006, a todos os Membros do Parlamento Europeu, à Presidência finlandesa do Conselho de Ministros da UE, ao Presidente da Comissão Europeia e a diversos Comissários europeus

"Dear All,

Last July, from 19 to 26, I revisited Banda Aceh and Jakarta.
I came in response to an appeal from Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, a Member of the Indonesian Parliament (PKB party) with an outstanding background as an activist for human rights and women's rights in particular. Joanna Chellapermal, with extensive work in Indonesia on conflict prevention and interfaith dialogue promotion, accompanied me.
In Banda Aceh I met with local women's groups, the top representative of GAM (Yusuf Irwandi) and of the Indonesian Government in the peace process (General Darmono), several members of the AMM (Aceh Monitoring Mission) including its leader, Peter Feith, and the head of the local Dinas Sharia (Department of the Sharia).
In Jakarta I met with several members of the Parliament (DPR) from the main parties, including the Speaker of the DPR, Mr. Agus Laksono, and also Mr. Theo Sambuaga (GOLKAR), the Head of Comission I (Foreign Affairs and Security). I also met with women rights activists, representatives of interfaith organisations, top journalists and human rights campaigners and several government officials whose judgement I trust.
I wrote this report to share with you, as a friend of Indonesia who knows well the country and admires its people, my concern - actually my alarm - at a situation I see rapidly developing in Aceh, and elsewhere, and which is seriously threatening the national fabric of Indonesia.
ASEM is taking place this week-end in Helsinki. Please urge the government representatives of your country and the European Commission to start exchanging views on this matter with the Indonesian representatives at ASEM and to follow up those discussions with concrete action to support all those who are struggling to keep Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim nation, united, secular, democratic and tolerant.

Best regards
Ana Gomes, MEP



1. Official Sharia in Aceh - hurting women means perverting Peace

The compound of the WFP-World Food Programme in Banda Aceh was raided on the night of last August 17, the National Day of Indonesia, and the rooms of UN foreign workers were broken into by the local Sharia police. An UN official told the Deutsche Press Agentur that «no one wants to make a big deal about it publicly at the moment».
Indeed, no one seems prepared to raise the issue: not the UN, not Europe, not the US (in fact, the US are paralysed by the lack of credibility of their policies also in this part of the Muslim world). Why ? Despite the billions of dollars spent to help Aceh recover from the 2004 tsunami and a 29 year-long separatist war, no one so far paid attention to the dramatic implications of allowing a moral police, the Sharia Police, to become much stronger than the State Police or any other law enforcing authority, or of allowing a law to be implemented which imposes Taleban style local government.

In Aceh, the women are the first to suffer the consequences of the rise of the Sharia. Talk to any girls there - like the «jilbab»-covered teenagers I met enjoying the sunset breeze on their motorcycles in Banda Aceh port - and they will tell you how they fear the Sharia Police. They fear being beaten and arrested for not wearing their headscarves «properly». Talk to those brave women who actually kick-started the Peace Process back in 2000, the organizers of the «All Acehnese Women Congresses», and they will raise these and many other worries - all of them are devout Muslims who have always followed Sharia as a personal commandment and for whom an officially enforced extremist interpretation of Sharia is offensive, and actually «un-Islamic». For them this perversion of the peace process shows how much women's voices, interests and human rights, have been disregarded by all the main actors: the Indonesian Government, the rebel movement GAM and also the international facilitators. Including the EU, which fielded the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) to monitor the peace process, launched by the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding of August 15, 2005.

The very day I returned to Aceh last July (and I have been visiting since 2000) the news were particularly alarming - the Lhokseumawe Court had just sentenced a man and a woman accused by the Sharia Police of improper sexual behaviour to several lashings. He was a Member of the local Municipal Assembly and a leader of a main Muslim Party, PBB. She was his assistant. They were working on a Sunday in the Municipal Assembly building, in separate offices. The woman's husband testified she was working. Even before the trial, their reputations had been destroyed by the local newspapers. The State Police did not lift a finger. The Judge admitted the verdict did not conform to Indonesian law, but was too scared to decide otherwise, as he had been threatened. As a politician, the man intended to appeal to the Banda Aceh Court and could go as far as the Indonesian Supreme Court. Had he been a common citizen, both his assistant and himself would have already received the lashings. But obviously it was not by chance that he was the target: the case was politically motivated, perhaps to demonstrate that no one is safe from the Sharia Police.

I brought up the question with all top representatives of the parties in the peace process. GAM representative, Yusuf Irwandi, stated that GAM had never fought for the enforcement of the Sharia in Aceh (that was indeed stated by GAM already in 2001, when the local Ulama were lobbying for it and former President Wahid yielded). He was worried with the way the Sharia was being implemented, but unwilling to make religion an issue. Significantly, on August 14 Malik Mahmud, the GAM «prime minister», went further and said publicly what most Acehnese - men and women - have been saying for years: «This is not what the Acehnese want».

GAM must in the meantime have realised what most Indonesian legislators did not, while approving the Law on Governing Aceh (LOGA), last July, at the Indonesian Parliament (DPR): that the LOGA as it stands actually paves the way for more power to the Dinas Sharia (Sharia department), and the Muslim local religious leaders in the Ulema's Council (MPU) - it makes them not just a parallel power to the State institutions such as the local Governor, the Police and the Aceh Provincial Assembly (DPR-D). It makes them the power in Aceh, by giving them law enforcement powers and by making the MPU responsible for all matters, and weighing in decisively with the DPR-D. In effect, it creates a theocracy within Aceh which has little to no accountability or safeguards against abuse of power, similar to what we have been witnessing in Iran and Afghanistan. And it makes a mockery of the very positive developments towards greater democracy and the rule of law in Indonesia.

And GAM must also have realised, in the meantime, that the Dinas Sharia and their supporters in the DPR-D have already drafted even stricter local regulations (qanuns) to implement the LOGA, which are awaiting final approval by the DPR-D, probably after the elections in December.

Hopefully it is not too late for GAM and Jakarta, AMM, the EU, the UN and others to realise that if those qanuns are to respect the aspirations and rights of the Acehnese, including their human rights, and indeed Indonesian law, a drafting committee should be immediately established, including representatives from GAM, civil society and women groups, to ensure that the process is inclusive and not hijacked by a group of radical Islamists. President Matti Ahtisaari, the patron and broker of the Aceh peace efforts, recognized the importance of including women in this process, mentioning their contribution in an important communication he made in Aceh on the occasion of the anniversary of the Helsinki Peace Accord, significantly focused on the "WOMEN IN ACEH".

2. Not just about Aceh - it is about Indonesia

But the problems go beyond attacks on women. And, actually, beyond Aceh.

The soft spoken and composed Head of the Dinas Sharia, Aliyasa Abubakar, whom I went to see in Banda Aceh, made no secret about it: Aceh is a pilot project for all of Indonesia. A pilot project for all those who want Indonesia to drop its secular foundations and become an Islamic State with an extreme version of Sharia.

The same was candidly confirmed by Nasir Jamil, the friendly young Member of the Indonesian Parliament from the PKS, the Islamist political party driving the national Sharia campaign and a partner of the coalition which elected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. I met him in the DPR in Jakarta. He actually worried that the Sharia Police in Aceh was overdoing it, with their military boots, uniforms and brutal raids, scaring the people. And he candidly admitted that it was planned to implement the severest forms of Hudud (corporal punishments such as cutting hands and stoning), which were not yet there but would gradually be enforced.

Tangerang, Banten (outskirts of Jakarta) and Bulukumba (in South Sulawesi) are already outposts of this spreading radical zeal, translated into regional laws: the Tangerang administration, for instance, forbids the presence of women on the streets after dark - and that is causing tremendous problems for women factory workers in the area, who are loudly complaining.

The trouble is that many people at the grassroots in Indonesia welcome this move. Not because they really want a militant Islamist government, but because the radicals have been very successful in presenting Sharia law as the solution to crime and corruption in Indonesia, without explaining what they mean by Sharia Law.

This alarming Islamist drive is being felt, increasingly, also at the national level: the latest attempt comes from the so called "anti-pornography bill", which some Ministers, central government officials and the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) are urging the DPR to pass. It has little to do with preventing pornography. In reality it imposes extremist morality and dress code, and labels much of Indonesian traditional culture, art and dance as pornographic. Moderate Indonesian Muslims, artists, and cosmopolitan women, in Jakarta and in other cities around the country, are up in arms: some 28 provincial representatives and 200 women and cultural associations and NGOs issued in June the «Surabaya Declaration» - in defence of Indonesia and against attempts to undermine Indonesian national unity through legislation or other means and specifically objecting to the "anti-pornography" legislation.

Attempts to radicalise Indonesia are triggering a strong reaction in many parts of the country where other religious groups predominate or are significantly represented - in Hindu Bali, where women were traditionally bear-breasted until some three decades ago, people are increasingly talking of seceding from Jakarta. The same goes for Catholic Flores and other islands of Eastern Indonesia, where tensions are growing between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Even in Eastern Java, where Islamic devotion always co-existed with bare-shouldered dresses for women...

What is at stake is actually Indonesia: Indonesia's national integrity, Indonesian unity and Indonesian nationhood. What is at stake is what was so painfully achieved by the Indonesian founding fathers who liberated millions of people - of diverse cultures, languages, religions and ethnic groups - from the servitude of colonialism by building a formidable Nation on a huge archipelago according to the motto 'Binnekka Tunggal Ika' - unity in diversity. They entrenched the secular nature of the State for that Nation, where the largest Muslim population in the world lives, by proclaiming the 5 principles of the Pancasila. Significantly, a recent inter-faith congress of Indonesian religious leaders agreed to form a joint working group to revive the values of tolerance imbued in the Pancasila, in order to prevent sectarian conflicts.

In Jakarta all those who are alarmed told me that the Government and the Parliament have been too passive in the face of the evident dangers, thus allowing a 5th column in their midst to steer this radical Islamist drive. It has certainly been backed financially and otherwise by the usual Arab patrons - who have long been supporting, in one way or another, Darul Islam, Laskar Jihad and other Laskars, FPI and Jemaah Islamyia (although a top Jakarta official told me that the Sharia masterminds in Aceh can already live without the usual foreign sources of funds - they run the supply business of timber, cement and sand coming from Medan for the reconstruction...).

The unity, stability and democratic progress of Indonesia are too important to be ignored. Not just for the Southeast Asian region but for the world. In the past unity and stability have been used as an excuse for the West to outrageously turn a blind eye towards what was happening in Indonesia - the Suharto regime's repression, rampant corruption and nepotism, the disastrous East Timor adventure, etc... There is no excuse now to go on ducking this serious problem.

The coming ASEM meeting is a crucial opportunity for European leaders to discuss these challenges with the Indonesian President, Ministers and Parliamentarians who are going to gather in Helsinki by the end of this week.

There is no excuse for the European Commission and Member States not to embark immediately and decisively on a strategy to help all those who in Jakarta, Aceh and throughout Indonesia, are keen to keep the country united, secular and tolerant. They are also fighting to consolidate democracy, combat terrorism and promote human rights, women's rights and sustainable development for the people of Indonesia. All these are values Europe claims to defend. The fate of Indonesia is decisive for a world that aims to avoid the dire prophecy of the Clash of Civilizations.

Ana Gomes, MEP
Former Portuguese Ambassador to Indonesia (1999-2003)
Founder and Member of the Portuguese-Indonesia Friendship Association

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