Fri, 01 Dec 2000

GAM seeks to delay talks in Geneva

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) is seeking to delay further talks with the government of Indonesia scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6.

Spokesman for GAM at the Geneva talks, Sofyan Ibrahim Diba, told reporters here on Thursday that when GAM agreed to the dates, no one remembered that Dec. 4 was the anniversary of GAM.

"So we are asking for a delay as we will be attending the GAM anniversary ceremony," Sofyan said, adding that GAM preferred to meet between Dec. 10 and Dec. 15.

"It looks impossible for us to be in Geneva on Dec. 5 while we are still in Aceh on Dec. 4," he said.

Sofyan denied that the request for the delay was merely GAM's political maneuver to extend the peace talk, saying that an official letter requesting the delay had been sent to the Henry Dunant Commission (HDC) the peace talks arranger in Geneva.

"HDC told me that a response from Indonesia is awaited," Sofyan said. "The Indonesian officials in Geneva have also acknowledged our request."

The Indonesian government has accused GAM of buying time to make internal consolidation and enhance its political propaganda by seeking to delay the talks.

"It's up to Indonesia. GAM is not making political maneuver by seeking the delay," Sofyan told reporters.

The meeting was first scheduled to take place in the middle of September. The meeting between GAM and the Indonesian government would provide an opportunity to discuss requirements for formally extending humanitarian pause in Aceh.

The two sides signed the first three-month humanitarian pause in Geneva on May 12. It officially took effect on June 2. President Abdurrahman Wahid has agreed to extend the humanitarian pause pending further negotiations with GAM.

Indonesian government records indicate that 166 people have been killed in 457 cases of violence in Aceh during the extension of the humanitarian pause.

I Wayan Karya, spokesman for the office of the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Social and Security Affairs, said on Wednesday that 12 of the victims were military members, 17 police officers, 50 were civilians, 64 were members of separatist groups and 23 were unidentified.


When asked if GAM would declare Aceh's independence on Dec. 4, Sofyan said, "Aceh became independent 24 years ago when Hasan di Tiro announced it on Dec. 4, in 1976."

He did not reveal where the GAM anniversary ceremony would be held, saying that the festivities might be held any place.

Locals said that people's expectations for the GAM anniversary were not as strong as last year.

"This could be because the Jiemjiem area where the GAM headquarters is located has been isolated by recent floods.

People are concentrating on cleaning up their residences after the flooding, moreover it is now the Muslim holy fasting month," a local, who asked not to be identified, said.

Police promised on Thursday to take stern actions against separatist rebels attempting to hoist their own flag instead of the national flag in the restive territory.

"There is no regulation which allows the hoisting of flag other than the Red and White in Indonesia," the police's special operation deputy spokesman Supt. Yatim Suyatmo told Antara.

He said security troops would continue the crackdown on the separatist rebels and other operations to sweep illegal firearms.

Suyatmo said the insecurity had been on the rise over the past few days. In the latest outbreak of violence on Wednesday, an Ulim police subprecinct officer, First Sgt. Nurdin Sabon, in Pidie regency was abducted and a security post in North Aceh was attacked, both by armed rebels.

In Jakarta, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf said a group of armed rebels attacked a patrol of Police Mobile Brigade Unit in Jeulikat, North Aceh, injuring two police officers. The police found in the scene of incident a GLM bullet caliber .4 millimeter and a GLM projectile in the location, Saleh said.

The armed rebels, he added, also threw a grenade at Sgt. Maj. Sofyan S.A, a police officer at Samudra subprecinct, who was on his way to pick up his ailing son in Lhokseumawe. The grenade, however, exploded on the street, while the officer was left unharmed. (50/51/lup/sur)