Fri, 28 Mar 2003

Donors urge govt, GAM to respect peace accord

Tiarma Siboro and Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Donor countries pressed Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) Thursday to pursue peaceful solutions to the Aceh question while stressing that any settlement should be within the framework of territorial integrity of Indonesia.

Japan, the United States, the European Union and the World Bank, all co-chairs of the Tokyo Preparatory Conference on Peace and Reconstruction in Aceh, called on Indonesia and GAM to develop mutual confidence and restrain from activities that could jeopardize the peace process in the province.

"We call upon all sides to refrain from provocation and violence and, in particular, to cease political acts that violate the objectives and principles of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA)," they said in a press statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

They also expressed hope that both Indonesia and GAM could begin the demilitarization process soon, as it would be a critically important step in the implementation of the COHA signed by both parties in Geneva in December last year.

"We call on GAM to carry out the placement of weapons as planned and hope that this step, together with the phased relocation of Indonesian armed forces in the field, will further strengthen the implementation of the COHA," the donors said.

GAM was supposed to start stowing away their weapons on Feb. 9, but has not done so as the Indonesian military (TNI) has yet to withdraw to defensive positions as stipulated in the peace agreement.

The donors also reiterated their commitment to provide reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in the conflict-torn province as it was believed that "one of the greatest potentials for sustaining the peace is in community development programs."

The donor countries have begun several short-term aid activities in the province including the distribution of food aid, health care and education.

Separately in Jakarta, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that the government would likely reevaluate the current peace process in Aceh should "the situation change dramatically."

Speaking to reporters after holding a limited ministerial meeting on political and security issues, Susilo expressed wariness about whether "the peace solution in Aceh would end up as the country had wanted it."

He was referring to several clashes that erupted recently in the province.

Meanwhile, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu said in Lhokseumawe, Aceh on Thursday that the Army would deploy more troops in a bid to strengthen the current military command in the province, saying that "the deployment is crucial as the Iskandar Muda military command has a shortage of personnel."

He said the Iskandar Muda military command comprised three battalions, of which only one had as many as 500 personnel. The ideal number of personnel for each battalion was 700, Ryamizard continued.

Ryamizard, along with 75 other top Army officers, are in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, to hold a three-day leadership meeting expected to end on Friday.

The meeting has raised fears that it would affect the peace process, but Susilo defended the meeting on Thursday, saying: "The Army supports the government's efforts to the promote peace process, and such a meeting is also aimed at making preparations if the process fails to meet our expectations."