Thu, 04 May 2000

Act firmly on Aceh rebels!

If we read the news in our dailies, especially about the violence in Aceh, we cannot help feeling that the situation there is going from bad to worse. The police are attacked almost every day and casualties among civilians and members of the police are mounting. Besides attacking the police, the rebels burn houses, attack offices and government installations.

I can understand the difficult psychological position of law enforcement troops. If they act harshly they can be accused of violating human rights; but rebels committing atrocities receive no blame and sometimes they are even considered heroes.

When I was a close confidant of the late Dr. Mohammad Hatta, our first vice president, the latter told me that in facing rebels, we must be prepared for almost everything to happen. You have to keep your left hand ready to hit and your right hand to shake hands in peace.

I note that President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) has given a tough statement in this case, that can only be interpreted in one way. When visiting the USA he said, "The integrity of the whole of the unitary Republic of Indonesia must be preserved and defended. We will negotiate with those who are willing to negotiate, but those who are not willing to talk or if their demands are unreasonable, we will face them sternly and harshly."

In an interview on state television on March 14, Gus Dur said, "I told the minister of home affairs and the coordinating minister of political affairs and security that if there are people who talk about wanting to be independent, let them talk. But if they prepare time schedules and organize power and arm themselves, they must be arrested. The government is very serious about this."

In his latest interview with Jaya Suprana, the President mentioned the situation in Papua, where some people have already made a time schedule starting from the year 2000, then 2001 and ultimately they will be free in 2003. This is a blatant subversive movement.

We don't need more tough statements. The President has given his opinion and law enforcers should act on those statements and take actions, without waiting for specific orders. The President as a seasoned politician, will stay on the safe side and refrain from giving those specific orders. If people protest later, then the President can safely say that he never gave orders to attack the rebels.

The rebels, especially in Aceh, have become more and more brutal because they feel that the police do not know what to do. Consequently, they become victims.

The Police, helped by the military if necessary, should act firmly based on the President's statements and wipe out all rebels who call themselves Free Aceh Movement (GAM) armed forces. If this is done, the government will have a strong bargaining position when it decides to talk with those rebels.

With the current weak position of the government, talk will only benefit the rebels.

I think the majority of the people in Aceh are still staunch supporters of the Republic of Indonesia proclaimed in 1945. The President said that the majority of the Aceh people prefer to stay in the Republic.

We must admit that many mistakes have been made by the government and the people in Aceh have suffered a lot, but indecisive effort at present will only prolong their sufferings. We are one nation and our country stretches from Sabang to Merauke. We have vowed to keep it that way. The Indonesian Military will defend the Republic and they are prepared to die for it. So let us not waste any more time. Act now and talk later!