Fri, 15 Dec 2000

Aceh wants 80% of revenues from natural resources

JAKARTA (JP): Aceh has proposed to the government it be given 80 percent of all revenue from natural resources in the province.

Aceh Governor Abdullah Puteh said here on Thursday the distribution of revenue from natural resources should be regulated through a special law.

"The province's local legislative council has formally sent a revenue sharing proposal (to the central government)," Abdullah said after a ceremony here in which the governor symbolically accepted humanitarian aid from state oil and gas company Pertamina.

The government is drafting a special autonomy bill for Aceh and Irian Jaya in a bid to subdue growing calls for independence in the two provinces.

Puteh said Aceh's demand for 80 percent of revenue from natural resources should be clearly outlined in the bill.

Irian Jaya has made similar demands, asking for an additional "percentage" of the revenue from natural resources on top of what it is allocated under the current intergovernmental fiscal balance law.

Under this law, provinces receive 80 percent of the revenue from the mining, forestry and fishery sectors.

But for the oil and gas sectors, the intergovernmental fiscal balance law allocates provinces 15 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Puteh said the main consideration behind the proposal was that Aceh simply deserved to receive a higher share of the revenue than the central government.

"We are looking at our current condition in Aceh; our economic recovery and the various social and community issues," he said.

The province has been torn apart by years of fighting between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and government security forces.

The violence has continued despite the humanitarian pause signed last May by representatives of GAM and the government.

Calls among the Acehnese for a referendum similar to the one held in East Timor in 1999 intensified during GAM's anniversary commemoration last week.

The continued violence has virtually halted investment in the province, and companies have stepped up security measures to protect their operations.

In April, GAM members wounded two employees of the American Exxon-Oil Mobil Inc., in an attack on an airfield run by the company in Lhokseumawe.

A month later, the oil company was forced to temporarily halt its exploration and administrative activities due to rising security concerns.

Exxon-Mobil Indonesia operates Arun, one of the country's largest gas fields.

"Based on the aspirations of the people of Aceh, the best (revenue) split is 80 percent and 20 percent," Abdullah said.

He said the local government was calculating how much more money it would receive under the proposal. Abdullah added that the local government also was interested in acquiring a stake in Exxon-Mobil.

"I actually want the local government to have a stake in every company operating in Aceh," he added.

Pertamina donated Rp 43.7 billion (US$4.6 million) in humanitarian aid in the form of school busses and ambulances, among other items.

The donation was handed over in conjunction with Pertamina's 43rd anniversary.(bkm)