Thu, 10 Mar 2005

Forum seeks to set up body for Aceh recovery

Dedy Ardiansyah, The Jakarta Post, Medan

Although the central government has aborted its plan to establish a special body to take charge of reconstruction of Aceh, the recently held Aceh Recovery Forum was adamant that such a body was badly needed by the Acehnese people.

Mawardi Ismail, the head of the Institution and Governance Working Group at the forum, said that the body would be important for ensuring the success of reconstruction and rehabilitation projects.

Earlier, the National Disaster Management and Refugee Coordination Board (Bakornas), chaired by Alwi Shihab, had been at the helm of disaster management and dealing with the refugees, but since the emergency phase has wound down and Aceh has seen the start of the reconstruction and rehabilitation stage, it appears that nobody is in charge of the projects.

The government earlier planned to establish a special authority called the BOK to supervise the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Aceh, but the plan was dropped after criticism from various sides.

"The establishment of such a body is a must. The power of the governor is limited and he cannot coordinate and supervise the work of ministers. There has to be a person on a par with ministerial rank who leads the body if it is to be effective," said Mawardi during a press conference on Wednesday following a three day seminar on recovery in Aceh.

The Aceh Recovery Forum is a loose alliance of scholars, NGO activists and ulema representing the Acehnese people.

Ahmad Humam Hamid, the chairman of the Aceh Recovery Forum, said that the special body they proposed was somewhat different to the one that had earlier been proposed by the central government.

While the Special Authority (BOK) was to have been supervised by the National Development and Planning Agency (Bappenas), the new body would be supervised directly by the President, said Hamid.

According to Hamid, the loose forum had proposed the new body as the earlier proposals for the BOK had been unclear as regards the division of labor.

Hamid, who is also a sociologist at the Syah Kuala University, said that the body's members had to be credible people in order to boost international confidence.

The new body would have to be based on solid legal ground -- either a presidential decree or a law -- in order to ensure its credibility it the eyes of the public, said Hamid.

Besides proposing the body's establishment, the forum also recommended that Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) emphasize the use of dialog to resolve the prolonged conflict in Aceh. In the economic sphere, the forum recommended that the government should focus on creating new jobs.