Fri, 14 Feb 2003

Govt warns GAM of total breakdown in peace process

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Banda Aceh

The Indonesian government warned the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) of a total breakdown in the peace deal as both sides failed to build mutual confidence in implementing the cessation of hostilities agreement they signed two months ago to end 26 years of hostility.

Accusing GAM of disseminating lies among the people, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the government was preparing a contingency plan if the cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed in Geneva on Dec. 9, 2002, fell apart.

"The government cannot say the deal has failed but it will require a total conversion (by both sides) to save the peace agreement," he said after a meeting with President Megawati Soekarnoputri at the Presidential Palace here on Thursday.

Susilo, who returned from a three-day visit to Aceh on Wednesday, accused the separatist rebels of spreading the lie among the Acehnese that the peace deal would end with a referendum for independence.

"If we see that the agreement is failing, of course we will take contingency steps to maintain national unity," he said.

Since the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement, both the rebels and the military have been found to have violated the deal.

The Joint Security Committee (JSC), a tripartite body supervising the peace deal, recently declared that GAM had committed two very serious violations of the agreement, while the military had committed a minor violation. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of complaints of extortion by both rebels and security personnel of mining companies, traders, businesspeople and villagers.

Susilo also said the five-month demilitarization process was a crucial period for GAM to show its commitment to the peace deal.

"We urge GAM to truly lay down its weapons, stop violating the agreement and halt its political and military activities," the minister said.

According to the peace agreement, during the demilitarization process GAM is to lay down its arms and store them in secret locations supervised by the Henry Dunant Centre (HDC), while the military pulls back its soldiers from the province in phases.

The police are required to redeploy their Mobile Brigade personnel as a defensive force rather than a combat force.

In Banda Aceh, GAM deputy prime minister Malik Mahmud said GAM was committed to complying with the cessation of hostilities agreement and that rebels were laying down their weapons as part of the demilitarization process.

He called on Jakarta to honor the peace agreement "and stop making statements that are contrary to the agreement".

According to the peace agreement facilitated by the Geneva- based HDC, the Acehnese people, represented by their political leaders, including GAM, will hold an all-inclusive dialog to begin building a democratic administration, including preparing for fair and democratic gubernatorial and regental elections.

HDC chief David Gorman said the demilitarization process had yet to begin as the two side were still discussing the mechanisms for storing GAM's weapons and for the redeployment of security personnel.

Gorman said the parties were currently discussing credible measures to ensure that GAM rebels were laying down their arms.

He said GAM had to be prepared for HDC inspections to guarantee the rebels were not retaking the weapons they had surrendered.