Indonesia: Real peace nearer in Aceh

News and Press Release
Originally published
Laksamana.Net - Aceh enjoyed a full week of peace last week as the deployment of international monitors throughout the province continued.
"A month ago, I can't imagine anyone even remotely considering that seven days could go by without some kind of armed conflict between GAM (the rebel Free Aceh Movement) and Indonesia," Henry Dunant Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HDC) mediator David Gorman said in a statement Friday (10/1/03).

The monitoring teams were established within the first month of the ceasefire along with a Joint Security Committee (JSC) made up of representatives of the government, GAM and the HDC.

The Indonesian military (TNI) and GAM agreed on December 26 to use the JSC to inform each other of their planned movements by reporting to the committee 48 hours before any scheduled move. Neither party is allowed to attack the other after they have received a movement report from JSC.

Ninety monitoring team members have been deployed, still short of the total 150 members agreed to by both parties in Geneva. The monitors work mostly in North and East Aceh.

JSC said this week it was having difficulty investigating 28 reported ceasefire violations as witnesses were too scared to testify.

In Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, some 3,000 people staged a rally Thursday (9/1/03) demanding that the government completely withdraw troops from Aceh. Though they had not been issued a permit for the rally, the protesters were allowed to go ahead under the watchful eye of local police.

More support from West, Japan

In a further move to show support for the month-old peace pact, the World Bank announced that it would join officials from Japan, the US and the European Union in a visit to the province next week.

The delegation will gather information about the implementation of the accord and the prospects for reconstruction and development in the post-conflict period, the bank said.

Indonesia and GAM signed a comprehensive peace deal in Switzerland on December 9 after several failed ceasefires agreed since 2000. A total of 4,000 people -- civilians, government troops and rebels -- were killed in the conflict in the two years preceding the pact.

US Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, Japanese Ambassador Yutaka Limura Italian Ambassador Francesco Maria Greco as the European Union Representative, and World Bank country director Andrew Steer are planning to visit the war-torn province of Aceh on Monday (13/1/03) to determine effective measures to rebuild the province.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to accompany them.

"We would like to have a talk with the local government, representatives of civil society and the business sector about what we can do in order to help reconstruction and rehabilitation in Aceh," Ambassador Limura said after a meeting with President Megawati Sukarnoputri at the state palace on Friday.

Limura said there would be several sessions regarding the fund for Aceh in the coming talks with the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) on January 21 in Bali.

Vote GAM in 2004

Indonesia's chief negotiator for Aceh said Friday the GAM separatists should be allowed to contest elections in 2004.

"We need to find a way to enable GAM to participate in the political process," Wiryono Sastrohandoyo told a seminar on Aceh held by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"What we want is to ask them to return as citizens who are able to participate in politics in Indonesia."

Others have also called on the government and the House of Representatives to allow the Achenese to establish their own political parties in the belief that such a move could also provide a solution to accommodating GAM as a political movement.

Wiryono said the government must continue negotiating with GAM over the separatists' demands that they not be tried for alleged human rights abuses.

"One of my duties is negotiating the issue," he said.