Fri, 17 Nov 2000

Former minister urges govt not to respond rashly on Aceh

JAKARTA (JP): Former minister of human rights affairs Hasballah M. Saad urged the government here on Thursday not to respond rashly to a recent seven-point declaration which called for recognition of Aceh's sovereignty as a separate nation.

Hasballah said whatever the government's response to calls in Aceh for a referendum, it must act soon based on sound and thorough deliberation.

"If the government answers 'no', this should not only be voiced by one minister. It must be a Cabinet decision which has been reached after consulting the House of Representatives. And then there also has to be a solution," he said.

Commenting on the declaration issued by the Information Center for an Aceh Referendum, Hasballah said the declaration was not new, with much of its substance having been expressed by Free Aceh Movement (GAM) leader Hasan Tiro in 1976.

Hasballah also said the Acehnese had often been "deceived" by the government, leaving them with a deep resentment.

"Bung Karno pledged to let the Acehnese enact Islamic law, but this never materialized. Soeharto also spread his sweet promises," he said.

Separately, Minister of Defense Mahfud MD asserted that the government would not tolerate moves to hold a referendum in Aceh, and rejected foreign intervention in the territory.

Speaking following a meeting with Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri at her residence here on Thursday, Mahfud also dismissed suggestions that troops be withdrawn from the province.

"If military troops and police are withdrawn from the province, the situation will get worse. Who will take responsibility for security?" he asked.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf said in a statement that the activities of separatist rebels in Aceh had seen a marked increase recently.

These activities, he claimed, included ambushes, kidnappings and other attacks.

He said that on Tuesday armed rebels attacked a Mobile Brigade police post in Puwodadi village, West Aceh, resulting in several adjacent homes being damaged.

And on Wednesday, two men, a civil servant and a soldier, were kidnapped in Banda Aceh and Pidie, respectively, he asserted.

The fate of these men is still unknown. (01/02/50/lup/jaw)