Tue, 07 Nov 2000

Gus Dur welcomes new Aceh governor

SEMARANG (JP): Convinced of his nationalism and knowledge on the problems facing the Acehnese, President Abdurrahman Wahid eventually welcomed the election of former youth leader Abdullah Puteh as governor of Aceh and asked Minister of Home Affairs and Regional Autonomy Surjadi Soedirdja to recognize the newly- elected governor.

The President and the minister had earlier demanded local legislators to delay the election until after the humanitarian pause ends in January next year.

"I believe Puteh has strong nationalism and understanding of the local problems," he said in a dialog on Islam and humanism here on Monday.

"Let's support Puteh in building democracy and upholding the supremacy of the law in Aceh based on good and clean governance," he added.

Abdurrahman said he had ordered Army chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto to end the violence while handling the separatist movement in Aceh.

"Talks will be fruitless if they (security apparatus) use a violent approach," he said.

In a related development, public transportation services plying the Banda Aceh-Medan routes have been told to cease operations until Wednesday, leaving hundreds of people stranded, a resident said.

"We do not know why but we heard that public transportation would not run for the next two days," a resident who asked not to be named, said.

Residents said they had seen security personnel checking passengers of public minivans and buses entering the capital of Banda Aceh.

Separately, Aceh Police special operation Cinta Meunasah information chief Sr. Supt. Kusbini Imbar confirmed that the police inspection had been launched to prevent a planned mass gathering in Banda Aceh before the end of the week.

"We learned that residents in several regencies have been forced to attend the gathering," Kusbini said, adding that the police had no special security plan but to remain alert.

The mass gathering, dubbed the "Acehnese Grand Meeting for Peace", is slated to be held this week at the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, aiming at fostering unity and brotherhood to create peace in the strife-torn province. The gathering is expected to draw tens of thousands of local residents.

Separately, the three-day congress on Victims of Human Rights Violation in Aceh, ended on Monday with recommendations on the importance of holding an international standard tribunal to try human rights violations and to restore the Acehnese rights to freedom of expression, including a referendum. (50/lup/har)