Tue, 18 Mar 2003

Govt blames GAM for violence against JSC

Muninggar Sri Saraswati and Fabiola Desy Unidjaja The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The government has moved to consult the House of Representatives (DPR) to decide on immediate action against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) separatist group, whom it said had sparked fresh violence in the province.

Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said after a ministerial meeting on Aceh that GAM's failure to comply with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement had resulted in the violence.

Susilo was referring to two recent attacks on offices of the Joint Security Committee (JSC), whose job it is to monitor the implementation of the truce, which was signed last December.

"We have been continuously evaluating the situation in Aceh. If there is a dramatic development, why should we wait until the end of the demilitarization phase? Our sovereignty is at stake," he said.

Citing intelligence reports, witnesses' accounts and a field investigation, he said that the government believed the perpetrators of the recent incident in Takengon were GAM members.

"It's interesting to note that the attack was aimed at common people, instead of the police or military. This has sparked suspicion that the attack was the work of GAM," he said.

A mob attacked the JSC offices in the Central Aceh town of Takengon on March 3, injuring two monitors from GAM and the government. Another attack took place 10 days later, targeting the JSC offices in the East Aceh town of Langsa, but no injuries were reported.

The Aceh office of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) had linked the Takengon attack to the military.

JSC was established by Aceh peace broker the Henry Dunant Centre, in a bid to monitor the implementation of the demilitarization phase, which will take place over five months until July 9. The committee incorporates representatives from GAM, the government and international monitors.

Susilo said that the government move was out of its obligation to maintain the unitary state and it did not mean to violate the truce.

However, Susilo said that the government would give GAM a chance to settle the conflict.

"It can only happen if all the parties are committed to the spirit of the truce and GAM does not betray it and there are no irregularities by GAM," he added.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government is set to launch a community-based development program in the established peace zones in Aceh as part of a reconstruction program in the war-torn province.

Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia Yutaka Iimura said after meeting with President Megawati on Monday that the program would begin as soon as possible. However, he did not specify a date.

"The community-based development program will start soon, but we cannot give a time because we are still waiting for a proposal from the NGOs to support the program," Yutaka said.

The development project is part of the post-war reconstruction project, supported by 23 countries and international donor agencies for Aceh.

The program, supported by a US$500 million fund from the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), began soon after Jakarta and GAM signed a peace deal in Switzerland on Dec. 9 last year.

"I stress that we continue to support the peace process in Aceh and the problem should be resolved in the context of the territorial integrity of the country," the ambassador said.