Repression of Supporters of the Republic of Maluku Selatan – ‘Summon Indonesian Ambassador'

8 May 2008

Repression of Supporters of the Republic of Maluku Selatan – ‘Summon Indonesian Ambassador'

On Friday 25th April a commemoration is to be held in Assen marking the proclamation thirty-eight years ago of the Republic of Maluku Selatan (RMS), also known as the Republic of South Molukka. According to the Indonesian authorities the idea of the RMS survives principally in the Netherlands. The vicious repression of RMS supporters in the Molukkan islands themselves demonstrates, however, that there is more going on there than is admitted. The Netherlands, in its relations with Indonesia, must not leave these flagrant human rights abuses unmentioned.

by Harry van Bommel, Member of Parliament for the SP, and Sylvia Pessireron, author of the book Molukkers in Nederland

During a visit by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the island of Ambon at the end of June 2007, the cakalele, a traditional war dance, was performed. With the head of state as the most important spectator, the twenty dancers unfurled the flag of RMS, a flag banned in Indonesia. The men were immediately arrested on suspicion of conspiracy against the state, and tortured. That the Indonesian President saw this demonstration as extremely threatening was shown by the absurdly heavy punishments meted out at the beginning of this month. Johanis Teterissa, the leader of the dance troup, was sentenced to life imprisonment, with other sentences ranging from ten to twenty years.

President Yudhoyono had a specific reason for celebrating Hari Keluarga Nasional, national family day, on Ambon. He wanted to symbolise in this way that unity, rudely disturbed by the bloody civil war between Christians and Muslims in the Molukkan islands from 1999 to 2002, was restored. This war cost thousands of lives, leaving deep traces behind it amongst the islanders. Following the peace accord of 2002, there was hope for a better future. Yet after six years the refugee camps remain, most of the people continue to live below the poverty line and apparently almost ineradicable corruption stands in the way of Molukkan development. Waving the RMS flag was an open protest by the Molukkans against persistent repression by the Indonesian authorities. That this non-violent protest attracted such heavy penalties leads to serious suspicions regarding the 'unity' that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would so like to show to the outside world.

In the run-up to the Olympic Games China has been called to account internationally, including by the Netherlands, over the abuse of human rights in Tibet. We heartily support the demonstrations for Tibet, but at the same time we call on the Dutch government to condemn equally the abuses of human rights in Indonesia, and in particular in the Moluccans. The government has made human rights central to its foreign policy and based this on a principle of universality. This means that our country must not operate a double standard, simply because Indonesia is a former colony of the Netherlands. In concrete terms it means that in the face of persistent human rights abuses the Indonesian ambassador must be summoned and that the Dutch human rights ambassador should be asked to visit the Molukkans. In addition, the Netherlands must bring the sentences resulting from the 'flag incident' before the Human Rights Council of the UN and plead with force for a revision of the sentences imposed on Johanis Teterissa and the others. In the struggle for human rights deeds weigh more heavily than words.

First published in the original Dutch in the regional daily Dagblad van het Noorden, 25th April 2008

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