Sat, 03 May 2003

Foreign commitment to RI integrity questioned

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government reacted strongly on Friday to the international community for keeping up pressure on Indonesia to avoid the use of force in Aceh, saying it had failed to live up to its commitment to the country's national integrity.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the international community had treated Indonesia unfairly as it had not conveyed its demand to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

"I cannot accept statements (from the international community) saying we are not pursuing peaceful means to address Aceh's problems," Susilo said.

"I have conveyed the government's stance, especially to Japan and the U.S., and told them that they should support our territorial integrity: It is inappropriate to pressure us alone."

Susilo's statement came a day after his meeting with a senior Japanese official, who asked Indonesia to maintain the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement it signed with GAM last December.

Japan, the U.S., the European Union and the World Bank have repeatedly called on Indonesia and GAM to stick to the peace agreement after violence returned to the natural resources-rich province over the past two months. Over 50 people have been killed in sporadic clashes involving the two warring parties, casting doubt over the future of the five-month truce.

During Thursday's meeting, Japan warned that additional funds to reconstruct Aceh would very much depend on developments in the peace process.

The international donors cochair the Tokyo Preparatory Conference on Peace and Reconstruction in Indonesia's westernmost province and have pledged funds to rebuild postwar Aceh.

Talks to try to save the deal were scheduled for last week in Geneva, but fell through at the last minute with each side blaming the other, although the donor group put the main responsibility on GAM.

The government has set a May 12 deadline for GAM to agree to a meeting to keep the peace agreement intact, on condition of its acceptance of the unitary state of Indonesia and laying down its arms.

The peace agreement signed last year requires the Indonesian Military and police to take up a defensive position and GAM to lay down its arms. None of the parties has apparently complied with the deal.

Susilo said on Friday that leaders of the People's Consultative Assembly, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Advisory Council had thrown their weight behind the government's plan to take firmer action against the rebels.

"I believe these three institutions represent our people," Susilo said.

The minister further criticized the Swedish government and accused the country of doing nothing about GAM leaders who resided there, despite the fact that "its citizens have committed something that poses a serious threat to Indonesia's domestic security."

Susilo was referring to several GAM leaders, including Hassan Tiro, Abdullah Zaini and Malik Machmud, who have lived for a long time in Sweden and obtained Swedish citizenship. They are believed to have lobbied several countries, also the UN, to support independence for Aceh.

Zaini represented GAM during the signing of the peace deal with Indonesia in Geneva last year.

"Indonesia has sent a special envoy three times to take a diplomatic approach over the issue, but Sweden keeps on asking us for evidence of whether its citizens are involved in the secessionist movement in Aceh," Susilo said.

Meanwhile, GAM announced on Friday its agreement to return to the negotiating table, but stressed that it would reach a decision on resuming peace talks in its own time.

"Dialog should not involve ultimatums. They are only used in war. Therefore, we call on Indonesia not to make any ultimatum," GAM senior representative Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"GAM will give its decision after the ultimatum has passed," he added.

Asked what would happen if Jakarta rejected talks after the two-week deadline had passed, Sofyan said: "It's Indonesia's own problem."

He had said earlier that GAM would prefer to hold the meeting in Geneva on the grounds that Switzerland was considered to be neutral ground and it was also the base of peace facilitator the Henry Dunant Centre.

Nevertheless, he did not confirm whether or not the rebels would agree to discuss special autonomy as a final solution to stop the 26 years of violence committed by both the government and GAM since the later declared independence in 1976.