Mon, 24 Jan 2000

Gus Dur upbeat Aceh's woes soon over

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid maintains that the troubles in the restive province of Aceh can be solved by the end of March.

In an interview with private television station RCTI on Sunday evening, Abdurrahman calmly and easily answered questions regarding the restive provinces, but did not elaborate fully on why he was so confident the prolonged conflicts would cease.

When pressed further to explain his conviction, Abdurrahman referred to imminent financial assistance.

He said humanitarian aid worth Rp 248 billion (US$35 million) would be forthcoming while massive infrastructure development was also being planned for the province.

"The humanitarian aid is aimed at helping widows and orphans who suffered as a result of the military operations in the past," the President said.

He said additional assistance would come from some Muslim countries in the Middle East.

Abdurrahman stressed that dialog and listening to the aspirations of the main groups in Aceh would go a long way in appeasing the dissatisfaction there.

He identified two main groups which had to be approached -- Ulemas and Students.

He said other groups such as the bureaucracy and non- governmental organizations would follow suit with the opinion of the ulemas and students.

Abdurrahman reiterated that Aceh would be given a special autonomy status. (jun)