Sat, 02 Dec 2000

Government not to extend humanitarian pause in Aceh

JAKARTA (JP): The government confirmed on Friday it would not extend the humanitarian pause in restive Aceh province but would turn to stiff measures if the separatist rebel group failed to show commitment to peace.

Defense minister Mahfud MD told The Jakarta Post the current humanitarian pause, which was aimed at restoring peace to allow humanitarian aid to reach the province, could be put to an end before its second extension period on Jan. 15.

"By that time, if our offers are ignored then we will use all resources in the country to reinstate the functions this unitary state used to play in the territory," he said.

He said the decision was taken in a meeting between state officials in charge of security at the vice presidential palace on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan on Thursday evening.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Social Affairs and Security Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Widodo AS, the three armed forces chiefs and National Police chief attended the meeting presided over by Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

"The pause can be halted unilaterally before time if GAM fails to show good intention to negotiate and refuses to touch the substantial matters of solutions to Aceh's problems," Mahfud said.

Violence has not stopped since the humanitarian pause took effect in June.

The government has offered special autonomy status for Aceh and Irian Jaya, another resource rich, restive province, to deal with persistent demands for independence.

New rally

After a mass rally in support of independence in Banda Aceh almost three weeks ago, another event, called the International Solidarity on Aceh Human Rights Violation Week (Persikab HAM Aceh) is slated to take place here from Dec. 4 to Dec. 10.

Spokesman for the organizer of the Nov. 11 Mass Gathering for Peace (SIRA RAKAN) Muhammad Taufik Abda said here on Friday that all Acehnese people were expected to join the event, but he could not say what kind of event it would be and where it would be held.

Taufik said the event was meant to be the substitute to a planned mass strike, scheduled to take place from Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, 2000.

"The activity is expected to bolster solidarity among the Acehnese, and to draw world attention and humanitarian aid to create peace and uphold democracy and human rights in Aceh."

If the event does take place, the province will be very busy as the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) plans to commemorate its anniversary on Dec. 4.

Observers speculated that SIRA RAKAN and GAM engineered the activities in such a way that GAM's request for the delay in further talks with the Indonesian government looked reasonable.

The talks were scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6, but GAM wants to delay from Dec. 10 to Dec. 15, on the grounds that it would be impossible for GAM officials to be in Geneva on Dec. 5, while they were still in Aceh on Dec. 4 for the GAM anniversary.

Both GAM and SIRA RAKAN have claimed that they do not have any (political) links.

Taufik said detailed plans on the Persikab HAM Aceh would be announced on Dec. 3 after consulting several non-governmental organizations abroad.

Speaking about fighting between GAM members and soldiers, Taufik said that both GAM and the military should respect the holy month of Ramadhan. He wants the violence to be stopped, especially during the fasting month.

Meanwhile, the fighting continues, five rebels were killed in operations in Seulimeum area in Aceh Besar regency on Thursday, Police Special Operation Cinta Meunasah deputy spokesman Supt. Yatim Suyatmo said on Friday. (50/bby/dja/lup)