5 April 2004

Aceh voters urged to show joyful face

There are rumors however that the Democratic Party, which was co-founded by Gen. (ret) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has more room to maneuver in the province compared to other parties. The party has denied the allegation.

In the meantime, human rights activists alleged on Sunday that the Indonesian Military (TNI) had asked voters in the areas in which the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) influence remains strong, to arrive at designated polling stations at least by Sunday, or one day before the election. Several subdistricts in Bireun, Tiro area in Pidie, Nissam and Sawang in North Aceh and several undisclosed villages in West Aceh and South Aceh, are declared to be the strongholds of GAM.

'Dozens of people were arrested for their refusal to leave their villages to vote,' said an activist, who asked not to be named.

The Aceh Military Administration however denied the allegations.

The electoral law forbids regional and local parties. This excludes Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh Movement) and Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Organisation) campaigning or winning seats. It also ensures that all parties remain firmly under the control of members of the Jakarta elite. Aceh has been under martial law for over a year and the international press has been forbidden to report there. Papua is not under martial law but the human rights situation is grim.

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