Mon, 08 Sep 2003

Govt talks about Aceh economy

Nani Farida The Jakarta Post Banda Aceh, Aceh

The government along with the military met with a select group of concerned people in Aceh on Saturday to hold discussions on economic recovery in the province, in the event that the economy- hindering armed conflict comes to an end.

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla told the Aceh-based figures, including local government officials, businesspeople, academics and non-governmental organization (NGO) activists, that the province should "rely on their own strength".

"Do not expect too much from foreign assistance as such loans may not benefit the Acehnese," Kalla claimed without elaborating.

The gathering was held in Takengon, the capital of Central Aceh regency.

Also present was the Iskandar Muda Military Commander and Aceh martial law administrator Maj. Gen. Endang Suwarya as well as Aceh Governor Abdullah Puteh.

During the meeting, they talked about solutions to the various problems in the province, including unemployment, agricultural recovery and repair of damaged infrastructure.

One of the concrete resolutions that came out of the meeting is that they agreed to call on local banks to disburse loans to address those problems.

A group of foreign donors, including the United States, the European Union, Japan and the World Bank had promised millions of dollars of assistance to rebuild Aceh to support a peace pact signed in December 2002. But the pledge was put on hold after peace talks between the Indonesian government and Free Aceh Movement (GAM) broke down and the current round of hostilities were launched by Jakarta on May 19.

The government and the military initially assumed a six-month timetable for the current offensive against the rebels, but there has been talk of late of extending that, so the foreign assistance may not be forthcoming any time soon.

Meanwhile, a police officer announced on Saturday that the military and police troops had destroyed 57 bombs and other weapons apparently belonging to GAM, which had been discovered in Banda Aceh, and Neuheun village in Aceh Besar regency on Friday.

Among the explosives and weapons were rockets, grenades and artillery mortars.

A suspected GAM bomb specialist was arrested during the operation, the Tegak Rencong law enforcement operation chief Brig. Gen. T. Gulian Syah said.

He added that a search was underway for other GAM bombmakers, whose capture would cripple their network.

"Besides the bombs we destroyed today, there were some explosives demolished as soon as they were found," he said.

bisa dipotong

With the military operation now in its fourth month, Maj. Gen. Endang said that the strength of GAM had been nearly decimated as most of their territory was under TNI control.

However, he said many GAM members remained among the civilian population, making it difficult for the TNI and police to capture them.

"Guerrilla war will take us a long time, not only months but also years, to finally win it," he said.

Endang called on the locals to help the TNI crush the rebels as soon as possible so the military could create peace.

According to official TNI figures, they have arrested 2,600 suspected GAM members and killed 800 others, with 134 taken to court.