Friday, January 28, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ Towards Peace Talks

The latest development and back issue. A compilation of appeals and coverage towards peaceful resolution in Aceh. In chronological order. We have to monitor how these talks go and insist on civil society participation for any peace agreement to be meaningful or lasting.


Source: The Globe and Mail - International
Date: 15 Jan 2005

Jakarta offers talks with Aceh rebels
Tsunami recovery adds new impetus to end 28-year-old Sumatra rebellion

By Karima Anjani, Reuters News Service, with AFP - Page A18

BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA -- Indonesia wants a lasting truce with separatists in tsunami-ravaged Aceh province, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said yesterday, as both sides expressed a willingness for talks to end the 28-year rebellion.

Mr. Kalla, speaking to reporters in the region's capital, Banda Aceh, said Jakarta wants more than just a ceasefire while a massive international aid effort is under way in a province where more than 110,000 people were killed and 700,000 left homeless.

"Ceasefire means you stop now, and fight another day. No, we're making [it] permanently," he said in brief remarks in English after prayers yesterday.

He later told reporters that the government is seeking to hold talks with the rebels.

"We want to solve this problem thoroughly and we will discuss the solution in a good manner," he said.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Indonesia has already made contacts with rebels leaders with the Free Aceh Movement, better known by its initials GAM.

"I would like to share with you, we have been in contact with the rebel leaders in the field and there is a process behind the scenes on how to strengthen the process toward reconciliation," Mr. Wirajuda said, without offering details.

The rebel prime-minister-in-exile, Malik Mahmud, said in a statement from Stockholm on Wednesday that GAM repeated their ceasefire offer to help efforts to rebuild the region.

"Under the present situation, this is a good chance for both sides to sit down and try to discuss a settlement to the political situation," he said.

Peace talks between the two sides broke down in Tokyo more than two years ago, after which Jakarta clamped martial law on the province and launched an offensive to crush a rebellion that has killed 12,000 people, mostly civilians, since 1976.

Meanwhile, plans by a U.S. missionary group to place "tsunami orphans" from Aceh province in a Christian children's home in Jakarta drew protests yesterday in the world's largest Muslim country.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa denied a statement by WorldHelp, published in The Washington Post, that 300 children among thousands orphaned by the disaster had been airlifted to Jakarta with government permission.

"[The statement] ran counter to the stance of the Indonesian government, which is also supported by the international community," Mr. Natalegawa said.

"The government has from the beginning been wary of attempts by certain groups to subvert orphans in Aceh under the pretext of humanitarian aid. There are regulations against such practices," he said.

Rev. Vernon Brewer, president of WorldHelp, said in Washington that $70,000 (U.S.) had been raised through an Internet appeal to provide a home for the first 50 children from Aceh for one year.

But he said the group may stop raising funds if the Indonesian government does not allow the children to be flown to Jakarta.


Source: FPDRA (Front of Acehnese People's Democratic Struggle)
Date: 24 Jan 2005

Dialogue towards cease-fire in Aceh must fulfill three important points

Political conflict combined with military violence has become a part of post-Indonesian-independence history of the Acehnese people. Military violence has begun since the New Order (Suharto’s rule) by the implementation of Military Operation Area (DOM) in Aceh, when the province became target of several military operations with different code-names for the total period of 10 years since 1978.

The Reformasi in 1998 has become a significant historical moment by interrupting military violence in Aceh and revoking the DOM; however it did not last for long. Military operation remained an option taken to suppress the Acehnese people political demands. In 2003, the government implemented again the Martial Law status in Aceh for one year, followed by civil emergency status. During the Martial Law and the civil emergency, many Acehnese became victim of such Human Rights crimes as involuntary disappearance, arbitrary arrest, extra-judicial killing; and cases of rapes against Acehnese women perpetrated by the military were not uncommon.

Human Rights crimes perpetrated by the government are well hidden from the public as the government limits the flow of information, restricts foreign journalists, and even heavily censors local journalists.

In December 26th 2004, still during the Civil Emergency, Aceh suffered the greatest tragedy of the century; that is, the earthquake and tsunami disaster that killed hundreds of thousands of Acehnese. The situation pressed the international, as well as the Indonesian community to express all forms of solidarity. The massive flow of solidarity forced the Indonesian government to break its isolation of Aceh from the international and national public.

The opening of access allowed many groups and organizations to visit Aceh and to see the situation with their own eyes. Unfortunately, amidst the aftermath of the great disaster that not only killed hundreds of thousands, but also destroyed up to 75% of infrastructure in Aceh, military violence or the war between the TNI and GAM still continued. This armed conflict is ongoing despite government’s call for cease-fire and peace with GAM, and despite GAM’s similar call – GAM had even guaranteed the safety of every relief-workers working in Aceh.

The statement of both belligerents has not been met with its implementation in practice. The war is still ongoing and armed clash is still part of Acehnese’s daily lives as it has been before the tsunami disaster. Therefore to materialize any intention of cease-fire and peace, both sides must carry out a concrete step in the form of dialogue (negotiation). In the road to negotiation, both sides must release all political prisoners detained during the Martial Law and the civil emergency – this point is important to build the trust between both sides.

In order to prevent any deadlock in the dialogue, as happened in the past when the dialogue failed and was followed by another war in Aceh, both sides have to agree on three important points:

First: Both sides must agree to have the dialogue or the negotiation mediated by the United Nations, as an institution with the authority to act against any party that violates the agreement – this point is important to eliminate and to avoid the shortcomings of the past peace agreement (CoHA)

Second: Both sides must agree not to bring political issues (the option of Special Autonomy for Aceh or the option of Independent Aceh) to the peace negotiation, but to focus on an indefinite period of cease-fire supervised by the UN and on the reconstruction of infrastructure and superstructure until Aceh can fully recover.

Third: Both sides must involve all political spectrums existing in Aceh as an important party within the negotiation or the dialogue. This party consists of civilian elements as a party outside of both the government and GAM. This civilian element includes academics, Moslem clerics, political activists, students, and other Acehnese public figures. The involvement of civilian element in the negotiation is very important, considering that the conflict in Aceh does not only involve GAM and the Government of Indonesia; and that in every phase of the conflict, civilians have always been treated as combatants by the belligerents.

In the case when all parties agreed on the above three points, Special Authority Body (Badan Otoritas Khusus – BOK) will no longer be necessary for the future development of Aceh because the parties that will be responsible for and will allocate fund for the development of Aceh in the future are all the parties and elements involved in the negotiation. They are the authority that will rebuild Aceh. Therefore, the abundance of assistance to rebuild Aceh, offered by various groups and organizations, must not to be fought over but to be handed over to the Acehnese people represented by the four parties: the Government of Indonesia, the GAM, the civilian element in Aceh involved in the negotiation, and the international community represented by the UN.

Thus we made the statement with the hope of peace and justice for the Acehnese people.

Banda Aceh, January 24, 2005

Central Committee of Front of Acehnese People’s Democratic Struggle
Komite Sentral Organisasi ~ Front Perlawanan Demokratik Rakyat Aceh

Thamrin Ananda

Contact person : Thamrin Ananda (08158153172)


Source: Guardian Unlimited
Date: 24 Jan 2005

Cautious hope for Aceh in new peace talks
Indonesian government to meet rebels in Helsinki

By Vaudine England

A further attempt to make peace between the Indonesian government and Aceh separatists will begin in Helsinki on Thursday.

As the Indonesian death toll from the tsunami was given as at least 173,000, moves towards solving the longstanding insurgency progressed under the auspices of the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari's Crisis Management Initiative.

Last week the Indonesian foreign minister, Hasan Wirayuda, promised new talks before the month's end, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's office said the president had hoped for a new peace initiative even before the tsunami struck on December 26.

The response of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has been more equivocal. A military spokesman told the Guardian by phone that he assumed that Thursday's meeting would be "preparatory".

He added: "The time is always good [for peace talks]. But the question is: what is the intention of the Indonesian government? We don't know why they want talks now. Why not before? Why not stop the military offensive? They only talk peace after we lost nearly 200,000 people in the tsunami."

About 2,000 bodies are still being recovered every day, almost a month after the tsunami hit. Aid officials say that several hundred thousand people are still without adequate food, shelter and security.

The armed forces commander, Endriatono Sutarto, says his forces have stopped making attacks. But the hardline army chief of staff, Ryamizard Ryacudu, insists that his troops have to defend themselves and aid convoys from attacks, and this has resulted in them killing 208 rebels.

GAM said it had lost 23 fighters since the tsunami, and the others killed were civilians.

"The government says it is doing no operations, but it doesn't feel like that. The armed forces do business as usual, they have no shame. It is just their normal game," the source said.

He suggested that peace talks could be fruitful only if there were no pre-conditions. If Jakarta insisted on GAM laying down its weapons or accepting its claim to Aceh, the talks would not progress.

The last attempt to end 30 years of fighting fell apart in May 2003 when the army began a brutal new offensive. Aceh was put under martial law and closed to outside observers.

Opinion is divided on whether peace prospects are any better than before. Observers say the combatants have shown little sign of moving from their positions, despite both sides declaring a ceasefire after the tsunami.

"There is so much anger still, the old anger about the military is still very much alive," the Australian academic Edward Aspinall said in Banda Aceh.

Any mismanagement of the relief effort will deepen the Acehnese sense of grievance. Regardless of what is said in Finland, people in Aceh are watching levels of compensation, how refugees are relocated, what rights to land are respected, what housing is offered to whom, and whether Acehnese people are being consulted about any of it.

Nevertheless, some analysts feel the tsunami may have offered the best chance of peace.

"Empathy for the Acehnese after the tsunami is real, throughout the country, which helps foster a sense of belonging," Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a former foreign policy adviser to government, said. "It is not in the best interests of this government to pursue civil war for the benefit of the military. We must give this government the benefit of the doubt."

She added: "I am cautiously hopeful. Peace won't break out overnight, as confidence building will take time. But I hope peace-building will be part of the reconstruction process."


Source: Radio Singapore International
Date: 26 Jan 2005

Will Talks Between Indonesian Government and GAM Rebels Yield Anything Significant?

An Indonesian ministerial team departs for Finland today to meet Free Aceh Movement or GAM's leadership-in-exile, but though both sides expressed optimism, there is scant hope the talks would end decades of conflict in the province. The dialogue, the first formal contact between separatist rebels and the government since a truce broke down 20 months ago, was organised after both sides urged peace in the wake of the tsunami disaster. Ahead of the talks, there were few signs the rebels and Jakarta would be able to do more than formalise a post-tsunami ceasefire. Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda has said that the government would reject any demands for independence and progress could only be made if the rebels were willing to accept an offer of special autonomy.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono helped fuel doubts of progress in the talks by telling defence officials that his country needed a stronger military, insisting more firepower could have helped it crush Aceh's rebels. For more on this, Bharati Jagdish (BJ) spoke to Sidney Jones (SJ) from the International Crisis Group.

SJ: "The Indonesian side says it's prepared to talk about anything short of independence and this would include questions of an amnesty for GAM fighters, it might include questions of participation of GAM in local government or the local parliament and it might include various aspects of a ceasefire and hovering in the background, is the possibility of some kind of economic concession, but it's not clear how all of this will be conveyed. If all of GAM has to swear allegiance to the Indonesian republic before any of this takes place, everything could be off the agenda from the beginning."

BJ: Some analysts say that the GAM rebels on the ground in Aceh may be more willing to agree to be content with special autonomy at this time especially after the military operation and the tsunami disaster. Do you think this is even possible?

SJ: "I think that if there were no GAM leadership in Sweden, it might be possible to think of field commanders taking a more pragmatic approach, but it seems to me that it would be unlikely that the field commanders on the ground in Aceh will deviate very much from what the political leadership in Sweden decides to do, so I think a lot is still going to hinge on the attitude and stance of the GAM leadership-in-exile."

BJ: Do you see the government being more willing to make concessions to the GAM rebels at this stage, short of independence, of course?

SJ: "I don't know. One of the sticking points during the last round of talks in May 2003 was the issue of political participation because the Indonesian government wasn't willing to allow for the possibility that GAM could turn itself into a political party because there are no regional political parties in Indonesia. There are only national political parties and without the option of becoming a party rooted in Aceh, it doesn't seem likely that there would be a way for political participation to take place, unless it's on a completely non-party base and then the question would be whether GAM would be interested in that and I don't know what the answer is."

BJ: But how far would you say the government is willing to go in terms of concessions or is there this feeling amongst the government's ranks that they could just easily resume military operations to crush the GAM?

SJ: "The problem is that I don't think we're dealing with a united government. I don't think the government in Indonesia is speaking with one voice. We're getting one view put forward by President Yudhoyono, another view from the Vice-President, Jusuf Kalla and yet another from the head of the military in Jakarta. Then there's a fourth view put out by the local military commanders on the ground in Aceh. It's not clear that everybody's operating on the same wavelength, so it's difficult to fathom what the government's viewpoint is."

BJ: Would you say then that these talks are more of a confidence-building measure than anything else?

SJ: "I think neither side has anything to lose by taking part in these talks. I think it's useful that they're taking place. It's not clear what the prospects are, that they're actually going to make significant progress. They could undermine confidence as well as build it. It depends on the attitudes that both parties bring to the talks in the first place."


Source: Radio Australia
Date: 26 Jan 2005

INDONESIA: Peace essential for reconstruction of Aceh

There are doubts that talks aimed at achieving peace in Aceh will go ahead. The Indonesian Foreign Ministry says no date has been set for talks proposed by Finland between the government and members of the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM. GAM has been fighting the Indonesian military since the 1970s, demanding nothing less than full independence from Jakarta. The conflict had wrought destruction in one Indonesia's poorest regions, but hopes had been raised, in the wake of last month's catastrophic tsunami, that both sides might pursue reconciliation.

Presenter/Interviewer: Karon Snowdon
Speakers: Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia's Minister for Planning

SNOWDON: Even before the waves washed away so many lives and property, Aceh was one of Indonesia's poorest provinces, with people at risk of abuses from the military and the rebels alike.

Now billions of dollars are needed to rebuild Aceh's roads, schools, shops, hospitals and houses.

It's perhaps also an opportunity to improve on what infrastructure there was.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister for Planning, has the overall co-ordinating role for reconstruction and to ensure the money is accounted for.

Speaking on her mobile phone on her way to a Cabinet meeting, she says her immediate concern is relocating more than 300,000 people in new settlements.

She says consultations will not exclude GAM while the resettlement timetable is an ambitious three months.

INDRAWATI: We think that we are going to do this job within three months but in a few days or this week we have to come with at least a clear idea of relocation first before we can proceed with the much bigger issue of reconstruction. I think the policy is very clear that we are treating all the people of Aceh equally, and I think the most important part in my responsibility is to make sure that the people of Aceh become the central player of all the process. So the most difficult part now is actually to talk to them and then to put them into a role that they will decide for themselves what kind of life they will have.

SNOWDON: Despite an informal ceasefire operating, the military claims troops have killed 120 GAM rebels since the tsunami struck for stealing aid supplies.

Sri Mulyani maintains government policy is to issue aid to all comers.

INDRAWATI: There is no obstacle or there is no policy of constraining any humanitarian effort. So if there is an impression of any constraint of access it's more because of the security rather than maybe the policy of helping the people.

SNOWDON: Finland has offered to host peace talks between the government and the European-based leadership of GAM to end the three-decade long conflict.

Both sides are being urged at home and by the international community to seize the opportunity to resolve the civil war, which has claimed 12,000 lives over three decades.

Aceh had been under a military-controlled state of emergency and closed to aid agencies and the media prior to the December disaster.

The informal ceasefire could at least be strengthened by face-to-face talks between the two sides, which will find common ground for peace hard to find.

Sri Mulyani says peace is crucial for post tsunami reconstruction.

INDRAWATI: It will help a lot, significantly in at least agreeing to support all this effort for the best future for the people of Aceh that will keep a certainty for us to move forward.

SNOWDON: And focussing on the talks with GAM, if they were to prove unsucessful, could that threaten the process of reconstruction. Do you feel there could be a renewed risk of tension or violence in the province?

INDRAWATI: Well I'm not going to speculate, but I think we are all agreed at least until today, we want this to become the process of reconciliation, and I think we also hope there is going to be strong reason and strong momentum from everybody to participate in a more constructive way.


Source: Joyo Indonesia News
Date: 27 Jan 2005

Indonesian delegation arrives in Helsinki for peace talks

HELSINKI, Jan. 27 (AFP): A government team from Indonesia arrived in the Finnish capital early Thursday for peace talks with the main rebel movement in Aceh province, where a long running conflict was overtaken by last month's devastating Asian tsunami disaster, an airport official told AFP.

The government delegation, which is due to meet later in the day in Helsinki with members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), arrived from Singapore and comprised around 10 people, said Jenni Parviainen, a Helsinki airport official.

They were met by representatives of the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari's Crisis Management Initiative, a private foundation which is organizing the talks, she added.

The cease-fire negotiations, aimed at hammering out a truce for Aceh during the ongoing relief operations there, are expected to start at a Helsinki hotel later Thursday, when GAM's exiled leadership arrives from neighboring Sweden.

The Indonesian province of Aceh, where GAM has fought a battle of independence since 1976, is the area worst hit by the tsunami that devastated the countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean on Dec 26.

The talks are shrouded in secrecy, and few details are likely to leak out before a scheduled press conference on Sunday held by Ahtisaari.

It will be the first time that the two parties have met since a truce brokedown 20 months ago.

However the negotiations are unlikely to go beyond formalizing a month-long cessation of hostilities, participants told AFP earlier.


Source: The New York Times
Date: 27 Jan 2005

Indonesia to Open Talks With Aceh Rebels
By Jane Perlez

JAKARTA, Indonesia, Jan. 26 - Indonesia said Wednesday that it would open peace talks with separatist rebels of tsunami-devastated Aceh Province on Friday in Helsinki, Finland, a move intended to assert full government control over the troubled region.

The former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari, a well-known negotiator, is to be involved in a two-day session that will bring together leaders in exile of the Free Aceh Movement and three members of the Indonesian cabinet.

The defense minister, Juwono Sudarsono, said the government hoped that it could reach "a deal," but government officials acknowledged that they were looking for sufficient progress to begin more formal negotiations later.

The exile leaders live in Sweden and are considered to be more hard-line than the fighters in Aceh.

Soon after the tsunami struck on Dec. 26, Aceh's rebels declared a cease-fire and said they welcomed all foreign donors and hoped to attract sympathy to their cause.

If the government could achieve a cease-fire with the rebels, it would please the foreign governments delivering relief to the tsunami victims, Western diplomats said.

In another attempt to reassert control over the province, the government has said that because the tsunami victims are in an area that is also a conflict zone, aid agencies must inform the military of all their movements. In some cases, the military has insisted on escorting food deliveries to civilians.

The negotiators for the government are an unusual mix, and do not include the foreign minister, Hassan Wirajuda, or its chief negotiator in the past, Wiyono Sastrohandojo.

The coordinating minister for security, Widodo Adi Sucipto, will lead the team. The two other government negotiators are the minister for justice, Hamid Awaludin, and the minister for communications, Sofyan Djalil, who comes from Aceh.

Significantly, the Indonesian military, which has run Aceh Province since the conflict began 30 years ago, has not approved the Helsinki talks.

As early word of the talks began to circulate last week, the military seemed to do what it could to undermine their prospects. The army chief, Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu, said his soldiers killed 120 members of the Free Aceh Movement in the previous two weeks.

The announcement of the talks came after background maneuvering by the Indonesian vice president, Jusuf Kalla, who is known to believe that the rebels are more malleable after being pummeled by the military over the last two years.

The basis of the brief Mr. Kalla delivered to the negotiating team revolves around Indonesia's offers in the past, according to diplomats who have spoken with him. The vice president was willing to negotiate on special autonomy, amnesty and general welfare issues, they said.

In the past, the Sweden-based rebel leadership has refused to budge on its stance for independence.

The military, which had about 40,000 soldiers posted in Aceh before the tsunami, was largely responsible for the breakdown of a peace accord that was sealed in Geneva in late 2002 and fell apart in May 2003.

One Indonesian political analyst said he was skeptical about how far the talks would go.

"We had better prepare ourselves for the steps after the cease-fire," said Jusuf Wanandi, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

"What is the endgame?"

Now that foreign aid is pouring into Aceh, the province is more tempting to the army. The military receives about 30 percent of its budget from the government and makes up the rest through its own businesses and corruption.

"The Indonesian military would benefit from Aceh with all the goodies, all the money," a Western diplomat said. "They will not be easily persuaded that peace is in their interest."


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 27 Jan 2005

Acehnese Pin Hopes on Helsinki Talks
By Tony Hotland and Ruslan Sangadji, Banda Aceh

The Acehnese have long dreamed of peace and prosperity in their homeland, which has seen decades of conflict and, at the end of last year, tsunamis that left more than 166,000 people killed or missing and presumed dead.

Local religious leaders and other community figures urged on Wednesday the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to end the separatist conflict in the predominantly Muslim Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

The plea came as the government and rebel group leaders geared up for renewed peace talks in Helsinki, Finland, later this week, following the devastating tidal waves, which many have suggested provided a chance for peace in Aceh.

"The warring parties must sit together and be willing to backtrack, rather than stubbornly maintaining their different stances, because such an result in anything positive and will only prolong the misery of the Acehnese," Tengku Baihaqi Yahya, secretary-general of the Aceh association of the Dayah Muslim scholars, told The Jakarta Post in Banda Aceh.

He said an earlier series of negotiations between the rebels and the government -- who once reached a truce, albeit temporary, in 2002 -- had broken down, due to both sides' unwillingness to compromise.

In the end, those who suffered the most were the ordinary, innocent people of Aceh, he added.

"Everything that happens here, and is related to the TNI (the Indonesian Military)-GAM conflict, has caused nothing but suffering and trauma for the Acehnese. And, if the next peace talks are not successful, it will be everybody's loss.

"You can imagine how much money the government has spent on its military operations here. But after all that, nothing better has emerged for the Acehnese. Do they want to continue in this way, after such a disaster?" Tengku Baihaqi said.

He called on both the TNI and GAM to involve local Muslim leaders in peace talks this week, arguing that religious figures are eager to participate, as long as their security is assured.

"Therefore, the talks should be held in a Muslim country instead of Finland," he said.

Similarly, Acehnese figure Hasballah M. Saad suggested that the government and the separatist group should put the interests of the local people as its top priority during the peace talks.

He expressed hopes that the planned dialog would result in a chance for the two sides to focus on rebuilding Aceh after the catastrophic tsunami.

"They only need a common understanding. If the demand for Aceh's independence is impossible, they have to formulate another resolution," said the former human rights minister.

Hasballah said the amnesty offer proposed by President Susilo Yudhoyono for GAM members could become a starting point for a brighter future in Aceh.

If GAM did not get involved in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Aceh, the rebels could not claim themselves as freedom fighters struggling on behalf of all Acehnese people, he explained.

The most important thing is that both sides should use common sense during the peace talks, he added.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Tengku Muslim Ibrahim, chairman of the Aceh Muslim Scholar's Consultative Assembly, who said that the Acehnese had suffered "more than enough for nothing", due to the separatist conflict.

He said the tsunami catastrophe could be viewed as a chance to stop the violence.

Ordinary people have voiced their own appeals for peace.

"Please, try your best during the talks, we need peace here. Make it work this time, so we no longer live in fear. Personally, I want Aceh to remain partof Indonesia, so GAM must surrender," said Teuku Darnis, 49, who works for a labor agency in Aceh.

"In fact, I don't care whether we are independent or not, as long as our lives improve," said another resident, Helmi.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 27 Jan 2005

Ministers off to Finland for talks
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta

Three government ministers left Jakarta for Helsinki on Wednesday to meet Acehnese separatist leaders for peace talks, the first meeting between the two sides since talks broke down in May 2003.

Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono said the government delegation was now comprised of Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adi Sucipto, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin and Minister of Communications and Information Sofyan Djalil.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda will, however, not attend the two-day dialog with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which is set to begin on Friday.

His ministry said the separatist rebels were not entitled to international diplomacy. "The issue is not in the domain of diplomacy. GAM has no diplomatic standing," foreign affairs minister spokesman Yuri Thamrin told AFP.

Officials had earlier said Hassan would be among the Indonesian delegates.

Juwono said Minister Hamid serves as the chief negotiator in the renewed talks as he has been involved in a series of informal talks with GAM leaders before this week's meeting in Helsinki.

GAM will, meanwhile, be represented by several of its top leaders, who now live in Sweden, including Aceh's self-styled prime minister, Malik Mahmood, foreign minister Zaini Abdullah and GAM spokesman Bakhtiar Abdullah.

The fresh peace talks will be facilitated by the Finland-based Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), which is led by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and has extensive experience in mediating conflicts.

"So far, there have not been any specific (schemes from either side). This meeting is a good step," Juwono told the press after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Widodo, Hamid and Sofyan all refused comment on what the government would offer GAM during the talks.

On Tuesday, Hamid said he would meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss the issue before departing to Finland. "We will ask for presidential directives because it's a political and a legal matter."

President Susilo had earlier said the government would grant amnesty for GAM members who surrendered to the authorities, and would press ahead with the implementation of the special autonomy status in Aceh.

Asked whether the United States, Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Britain or Libya supported the meeting, Juwono replied, "There are GAM representatives in those countries. We have made it clear that it is not appropriate for them to help GAM."

President Susilo met on Jan. 10 with the ambassadors from those six countries at the presidential office, appealing for their help to end the separatist fighting in Aceh.

He told them that the Indonesian government wanted to find a peaceful solution to the decades-old war.

GAM has been struggling for the independence of Aceh since 1976, and has accused the government of siphoning off the province's natural riches.

In May 2003, the military relaunched a major offensive against the rebels after a short-lived truce began in December 2002 and peace talks collapsed in Tokyo, as both parties complained about each other's interpretation of the peace accord.

Armed conflict between GAM and the Indonesia Military continued, even after the Dec. 26 tsunami devastated so much of Aceh. The military says more than 2,500 rebels have been killed since 2003.

Negotiations between the government and GAM started in 2000. Earlier, the government offered a special autonomy package that was supposed to give Acehnese more say over their affairs, but insisted it would never allow an independent state.

Rebels agreed to use the autonomy package as a starting point but said they wanted nothing short of independence.

The government has also been trying for several years to get the Swedish government to take legal action against GAM's top leaders, including those now holding Swedish citizenship, but to no avail.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 27 Jan 2005

The 'price' of peace talks for troubled Aceh
By Meidyatama Suryodiningrat and Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta

The wheels of diplomacy and bureaucracy are notoriously slow. Apparently not so in the case of this weekend's peace talks between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the government, in Helsinki.

After talks broke down in 2003, the military, yet again, launched an extensive operation to wipe out GAM forces. Prior to the tsunamis, no resolution, ostensible or otherwise, was in sight. Less than a month later, the two sides were suddenly rushing to the Finnish capital for negotiations.

The scale of the devastation was clearly the catalyst of the new talks, but the expedience with which the two sides agreed to confer suggests more than that.

While the coming meeting is being facilitated by the Finland-based Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), it is strongly believed that Jakarta had privately contacted various GAM representatives, even before the tsunami. The disaster of Dec. 26, in effect, merely accelerated the process.

Various sources consistently point to the role of Vice President Jusuf Kalla. In fact, even before Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had been confirmed President, Kalla had privately divulged that he had been tasked by his running-mate to pursue peace talks on Aceh.

Kalla has certainly built a reputation as the "peacemaker" through his relative success in Poso and Maluku; and, even as coordinating minister, he had attempted to engage GAM officials at home and abroad.

For the latest initiative, Kalla employed his close circle of fellow Makassar aides along with Aceh-born officers to make initial contact some two months ago.

Through a series of "middlemen", it is believed that preliminary meetings were held with GAM allies and kin in Malaysia who, it was hoped, could convince hard-line elements in Aceh -- led by GAM Commander Muzakkir Manaf -- to at least consider the proposals put forward.

It is not inconceivable, as some have suggested, that cash was channeled to secure the meeting with either GAM allies in Malaysia or the GAM commander.

Curiously, the meeting did not immediately take place. Sources suggest two alternative accounts: the money was disbursed to "brokers" but the intended meeting was never set up; or that GAM representatives in Malaysia refused to meet with Kalla's people.

A meeting eventually did take place, however, about a week before the tsunami struck, and after President Susilo dispatched two respected Acehnese clerics.

It was during this meeting -- believed to be in Kuala Lumpur -- that the latest proposals were relayed by the clerics.

Apart from the unimpressive pledge of ensuring the welfare of the province, rebel leaders were offered amnesty and a safe passage to foreign exile. In return, a one-time "compensation" package, in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars -- if we are to believe the accounts of some -- would be paid out.

In short, this was an attempt to buy off the rebels.

For the architects of this plan, the current GAM force could be divided into three: the ideologists, the regular leaders and the criminals.

The first and third were the minority. The first could not be changed, no matter what, while the third group just needed to be rounded up and jailed. Without the second group, it was concluded, the rebellion would dwindle.

Where would that astronomical amount of money come from?

It is not difficult to imagine foreign donors with long term natural-resource interests in Aceh pitching in to "buy" peace in the province.

Whether such an offer is morally acceptable is debatable, but if it is truly the only one on the table than negotiators in the next three days will certainly reach an impasse.

It would become particularly complicated if GAM representatives arrived in Helsinki with the perspective that the talks were merely preliminary, with the simple intent of confirming a cease-fire.

It is clear that Jakarta does not want to be dragged into lengthy negotiations, which would only serve to raise GAM's profile as a political entity.

For a military man like Susilo, it is also inconceivable to accept anything less than a reaffirmation of Aceh as part of the unitary state.

Hence, despite the high hopes, neither side seems to be entering the talks with compromise in mind. Otherwise the question could be as simple as "what price, then, is peace?".


Source: Guardian Unlimited
Date: 28 Jan 2005

Tsunami disaster prompts peace talks
By Mark Oliver and agencies

The Indonesian government was today holding talks with rebels to try to pin down a formal peace deal following the tsunami disaster.

Talks were also expected to take place today between Sri Lankan officials and the rebel Tamil Tigers.

In Helsinki, Finland, Indonesian officials were holding talks behind closed doors with representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) which has been fighting for independence in the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

It was unclear what exactly was on the negotiating table although the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyno, has offered the rebels an amnesty if they stop the conflict and asked them to drop their goal of independence in favour of "special autonomy".

It was hoped a formal ceasefire would emerge from the talks, which were mediated by Finnish ex-president Martti Ahtisaari's crisis management initiative.

Some 12,000 people have died in Indonesia in fighting between rebels and government forces since the 1970s and peace talks had broken down in recent years.

However a new impetus for peace was created after the Boxing Day tsunami, which killed up to 178,000 people in Indonesia, with Sumatra being the worst hit. The tsunami killed people in 11 countries and left tens of thousands more missing and feared dead.

Rebels in Jakarta and Aceh held a ceasefire after the disaster, however both sides have since accused each other of renewed fighting that threatens to disrupt the huge international aid efforts in the province.

Meanwhile, moves were also under way in Sri Lanka to ease tension between Tamil Tiger rebels and the government. The two sides were to meet today to discuss rebel demands for greater control over relief efforts in areas they control in the north and east.

Elsewhere, two UN reports said that while the situation in the areas hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami had improved, a month on there were still concerns about the malnutrition of children and the sanitation of relief camps.

A report by the UN's children's fund warned that 12.7%, or roughly one in eight, of children in Banda Aceh are suffering malnutrition. Unicef said that figure showed there was a "critical emergency" requiring immediate intervention, and warned that conditions could be even worse outside the provincial capital.

"It's a scary finding. Quite honestly, unless we improve water and sanitation in the camps where these children are staying, it's going to get worse," said Ali Mokdad, a US researcher who headed a Unicef survey team.

In a separate report, the UN said the threat of disease was also still threatening unsanitary relief camps and aid deliveries were inconsistent. It said conditions were especially worrying in camps along Aceh's west coast.

Bo Asplund, the UN representative in Indonesia, echoed the sentiments in the report but insisted the situation was "well on the path of recovery".

"Some coastal communities - small ones - are still needing adequate food ... Other communities need better water and sanitation," he said.

Speaking in Banda Aceh, Mr Asplund said: "We know there are needs that are not being met ... [but] we are no longer worried about [whether] anyone is starving. The schools are reopening. That is a sure sign of recovery."


Source: The Jakarta Post Online
Date: 28 Jan 2005

Indonesia, rebels talk peace for tsunami-hit Aceh

HELSINKI (Reuters): Indonesian ministers and rebels seeking the independence of Aceh province met in Helsinki on Friday to discuss ending three decades of fighting, after the tsunami that devastated Aceh inspired renewed peace efforts.

"We are going to have face-to-face talks now," Zaini Abdullah, foreign minister of the exiled leadership of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), told Reuters on the way into the meeting. "I am hopeful but it is still too early to say anything."

The Stockholm-based GAM leaders and a top-level Indonesian delegation, led by chief security minister Widodo Adi Sutjipto, met at a manor house near Helsinki for talks mediated by Finnish ex-President Martti Ahtisaari's Crisis Management Initiative.

About 12,000 people have died since 1976 in fighting in the gas-rich province at the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The population of four million are devout Muslims.
Peace efforts were disrupted 21 months ago but after the Dec. 26 tsunami, which hit Aceh harder than any other spot in the Indian Ocean, both sides made ceasefire offers.

It is unclear what is on the table at the closed-door talks, which a Finnish official confirmed had started, and were expected to last until Sunday.

But President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia was offering "special autonomy status" -- which GAM has previously rejected. However, officials in Jakarta say GAM's negotiating position is now weak.

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