Wed, 07 May 2003

Autonomy and welfare

The impudent cat-and-mouse game of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) concerning their participation, location and timing of the Joint Council meeting proves once more that GAM has never been, and will never be, serious about resolving the Aceh conflict peacefully.

It is regrettable that most of the media have decided to label GAM members as the good guys with only noble intentions, and the Indonesian military as the bad guys who kill "innocent civilians". Such a black-and-white picture ignores the reality. The fact that GAM members have suffered under Soeharto's harsh military operations doesn't make them noble freedom fighters.

The real object of GAM's struggle is money and therefore, Aceh's independence comes, "according to GAM leaders", at a "fixed price" and is an "absolutely non-negotiable matter". It is therefore only logical that GAM did not honor the first or second humanitarian pause, nor the peace agreement signed in December 2002 in Geneva, nor accept special autonomy for Aceh.

Before the special autonomy law was introduced on Jan. 1, 2001, the Acehnese had experienced injustice and corruption. Further, despite its vast natural resources, Aceh was one of the country's most impoverished provinces, because it received only crumbs of its own wealth.

Now, after two and a half years of special autonomy, nothing has changed. For the people of Aceh, special autonomy, which allows Aceh to retain up to 70 percent of its revenues from oil and gas, has turned out to be nothing but a transfer of injustice and corruption from central authorities to those at the provincial and regental levels. The provincial and regental administrations have totally failed in their duty to improve the people's welfare.

Therefore, the government should not consider a military operation but should do everything in its power to make sure that the special autonomy law will be truly implemented.

Only a true implementation of the special autonomy law would keep Aceh as part of Indonesia; and the same applies to Papua.

HILDE MAY, Jakarta