Indonesia: Aceh's rocky road to peace

News and Press Release
Originally published
Laksamana.Net - Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, marked the start of demilitarization by flying to Lhokseumawe, the main town of North Aceh where GAM has been most active, for a meeting with local leaders.

Along with Minister of Defense Matori Abdul Djalil, Commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI) Gen. Endriartono Sutarto and National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar, the minister was there to monitor latest developments.

Yudhoyono returned to Jakarta on Wednesday (12/2/03) but next day accused GAM of spreading lies through 'propaganda' that the deal would pave the way for an UN-sponsored referendum on independence.

Yudhoyono said GAM had also lied by suggesting to Acehnese that HDC peace monitors would be replaced with UN officers. "This is a lie because in the dialogue will remain within the framework of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. "

'Brink of collapse'

"Peace is on the brink of collapse, although the peace process in Aceh cannot be declared a certain failure," Yudhoyono was quoted as saying by Antara.

The minister highlighted serious violations including political propaganda by GAM that the end result would be secession of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, and that the all-inclusive dialog was misunderstood to be a referendum.

He said in order that the second phase of the peace implementation might succeed, there was an urgent need for GAM to carry out substantial corrections of understanding on the points of the peace agreement.

Yudhoyono said Jakarta only wanted to proceed with the peace agreement on three conditions: Firstly, GAM should genuinely disarm itself within the next five months; secondly, GAM should stop engaging in serious violations and thirdly, GAM should refrain from making any political or military moves in violation of the peace agreement.

However, David Gorman, a representative of the Henry Dunant Center (HDC) that brokered the peace, was more positive, telling reporters in Aceh that both sides were committed to the peace process and he was optimistic the demilitarization phase would succeed.

Demilitarization proceeding or not?

The crucial demilitarization stage began on 9 February, and during the coming five months, GAM should start 'placing' weapons at secret designated sites while the army relocates its forces and changes its role "from a strike force to a defensive force". However, to date not one single weapon has been surrendered nor a soldier withdrawn.

Visiting HDC head Martin Griffiths said there was "enough confidence between the two parties to start the demilitarization."

"I am pleased to say we now have the commitment of both parties, a basis for discussion and a schedule. With that basis, we can begin to negotiate the details of what each side promises to do and when they will do it," he said. "For me, this is a historic movement in a difficult process," he added.

The rebels must lay down 20% of their weapons every month in the next five months as required by the agreement but the military suspects that the rebels are using the peace agreement to strengthen their fighting force.

"GAM's got to trust that HDC will not reveal the placement locations. The Indonesian government must trust that HDC is carefully, accurately monitoring the placement," Griffiths said.

"GAM is currently choosing 32 locations spread in eight districts as sites to place their weapons," Tengku Kamaruzaman, a GAM member of the Joint Security Committee charged with monitoring the peace process, said.

Libyan-trained GAM military leader Muzakkir Manaf said Tuesday (11/2/03) the group had begun placing their weapons but warned that the military must relocate its troops if the process was to continue. GAM wants the sites to be hidden from the security forces but wrote to the HDC reaffirming commitment to the agreement.

"GAM is determined to carry out its responsibilities under this agreement and has already begun the process of demilitarization with sites for placement of its weapons identified," the group said in a letter released Thursday (13/2/03).

"GAM across Aceh is now ready to store their weapons. But is Indonesia also ready to relocate troops and reformulate (the role of police paramilitary) Brimob troops as stipulated in the Geneva peace deal?" Manaf said.

"What exists now is the gradual storing of weapons by GAM rebels," he told reporters in Lhokseumawe, adding that he had not received instructions from Sweden-based GAM supreme commander Hasan Tiro to store all weapons.

An HDC spokesman said the group would appoint four people to verify the weapon placements. "Under the agreed upon system, GAM will not be able to move the weapons that have been placed in the designated sites without the consent of HDC. GAM has to comply with the request of HDC to conduct no notice inspections at any time," he explained.

McCulloch says peace process hijacked

British academic Lesley Jane McCulloch, 40, released earlier this month after spending five months in an Aceh jail, arrived back in the UK last week, vowing to return to Indonesia. Scottish-born McCulloch said she intended to fly to Scotland for a reunion with her parents, Donnie and Mattie, but expected a 'bit of ear bashing' from her mum.

McCulloch, a British citizen who had worked at Australia's University of Tasmania, said she intended to return to Indonesia after finishing a book on military and police corruption that she had been researching at the time of her arrest.

McCulloch said, "the level of intimidation and harassment was pretty awful" during her first three months of detention in the Aceh provincial police headquarters. Banda Aceh prison was little better.

She told Reuters: "I think that the peace process is being hijacked by Indonesia and the international community."

She said the pact has failed to involve ordinary Acehnese. "The peace process should belong to the Acehnese. But the Acehnese don't understand this peace process...and the mandate of HDC and JSC."

Leading Aceh activist arrested

Jakarta is increasingly concerned that the cease-fire is being used by GAM to boost support among the Acehnese for independence and Amnesty International last week called for the immediate release of leading pro independence activist, Muhammad Nazar, who was arrested Monday in Aceh. They warned that the detention of activists risks discrediting the two-month-old cease-fire agreement in the province.

Nazar, chairman of the Aceh Referendum Information Centre (SIRA), was arrested at his home in Lampulo Baru village, Aceh in the early hours of Wednesday (12/2/03). He was charged with organizing an illegal rally in Lhokseumawe, North Aceh District, on 9 January 2003.

"The cease-fire agreement, although fragile, has been successful in reducing levels of violence between the two conflicting parties in NAD, but ultimately it will mean nothing to ordinary Acehnese if they continue to experience human rights violations." said Amnesty in a press release.

SIRA promotes a referendum on independence for Aceh and at the January rally four men were reportedly shot and injured when members of the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) opened fire, apparently to prevent people from attending the demonstration. Another leading activist, Kautsar, has also been threatened with arrest in connection with the same events.

The Organisasi Rakyat Independen-Sumatera (Independent Sumatra People's Organization) quickly lodged a protest at Nazar's arrest, saying it was an example of how the government was using a repressive approach to the Aceh problem. In a four-point demand made in a statement of protest in Bengkulu it demanded the Aceh police release Nazar and cease further initimidation of the population.

New Maluku Team

The provincial government of Maluku established a new monitoring team Tuesday (11/2/03) designed to solve IDP (displaced persons) issues by the end of 2003. Members of the team were drawn from several institutions, such as social welfare, health, public works, and manpower and transmigration departments, as well as from a non-governmental sector, such as NGOs, religious leaders and the media.

The preliminary court hearing of members of the so called "Coker" gang, led by Berty Manuputty, who are accused of bomb attacks in Maluku started at a North Jakarta court a day earlier.

Local newspaper Ambon Ekspress quoted the Commander of Military Division II Pattimura (Pangdam), Maj. Gen. Djoko Santoso, as saying on Monday that so far there have been no indications of a Laskar Mujahidin presence in Maluku, as suggested by the mass media.

Santoso added that those who do not want Ambon to be in a stable situation might have spread such rumors. He advised that people should not be easily provoked by such allegations.

Regional Disasters Predicted

The Center of National Space and Aviation Institute (LAPAN) warned that Banten, West Java, Central Java, East Java, Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau, Bengkulu, West Sumatra, Lampung, Central Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and West Timor provinces can expect floods and landslides until March this year.

The year has been marked by floods and killer landslides in quick succession across Indonesia. Storms across Java, southern Sumatra, Kalimantan, and southern and southeastern Sulawesi, have led to the dislocation of tens of thousands of people.

Togu Manurung, director of Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), the national chapter of a global, independent forest monitoring network, blames deforestation.

"The landslides and floods that hit several areas in the province over the last two weeks have a lot to do with the continued deforestation and rampant logging carried out by PT Pertuhani, which should no longer have the authority to slash trees in forest areas in the province," he told provincial officials.

In Papua a landslide in Jayawijaya district in December caused ten deaths, many of them due to food shortages and disease, since there was no medicine available in the local community healthcare centers or any food supply during the disaster.

Landslides on 18 January in the same district caused one death and displaced 77 families.

In Java the latest major floods were in the West Java towns of Garut and Kuningan less than two weeks ago, which claimed at least 30 lives.

Minister of Regional Infrastructure and Resettlement Sunarno said the government would issue a regulation on spatial planning in Java in a bid to minimize environmental damage.

The regulation would restrict conversion of farmland, plantations and forests into construction projects and help regain the ideal 30% proportion of conservation area on Java. The regulation, due to be issued later this month, will also ban further road construction along the northern coast of Java, which is a rice belt, but recommends construction to move to the south, which has less farmland.

The destruction of forests, farms and plantations on Java costs up to 30,000 hectares of land annually.

"We have to immediately save the environment, and the regulation will require all local administrations to comply with the arrangement," the minister said.

West Timorese Demand End to Emergency

Residents of West Timor are demanding the United Nations revoke a security status imposed on the province after a mob killed three UN humanitarian workers in 2000, saying it is keeping away aid workers, tourists and foreign investors.

Head of the West Timor Care Foundation, Ferdi Tanoni, disclosed on Friday (14/2/03) that 1,500 West Timorese have signed a petition asking UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to revoke the emergency status.

The petition was handed over to U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce who visited East Nusa Tenggara province on Tuesday (11/2/03). Boyce promised to discuss the petition with the UN and other related parties.

West Timor is home to thousands of East Timor refugees who were forced to flee East Timor after the mayhem following the UN referendum in September 1999. Pro-Indonesian militia also crossed over to West Timor

The murder of an ex-militia leader, who was named a suspect in the rampage in East Timor, triggered an attack on the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Atambua. A mob stormed the office and hacked to death three civilian UN refugee workers.