Fri, 03 Dec 1999

House commission recommends Aceh referendum

JAKARTA (JP): A special House of Representatives committee on Aceh concluded its work on Thursday by recommending a referendum in the restive province, but neglected to include the option of independence.

A referendum was among the 10 recommendations to be later brought before a plenary session of the House by the special committee.

Committee chairman Ali Yahya said on Thursday that the recommendations would be submitted to House leaders on Monday to be later discussed in a plenary session.

He said among the recommendations for Aceh was special autonomy, a nonmilitary court for human rights abusers, a rejection of martial law and a dialog between the central government and the people of Aceh.

While agreeing to propose the possibility of a referendum, it left the exact purpose of the referendum up in the air and purposely avoided mentioning independence.

Ali, a legislator from the Golkar Party, contended that the committee was just absorbing the aspirations and desires of the people of Aceh.

He said the recommendations from the 50-member committee, 12 of whom were Acehnese, were formulated without a vote.

There were heated debates, particularly on the question of a referendum as some committee members wanted its inclusion in the final recommendation to be decided by a vote.

Committee deputy chairman Tengku Syaiful Ahmad, a senior Acehnese native, threatened to walk out of the meeting if the committee went to vote on the matter, and in the end all agreed for it to be included.

"If a referendum is not included in the recommendation we will walk out," Syaiful, a National Mandate Party legislator, said during a break in the meeting.

The committee in its work summoned top military brass, both active and retired, whom they considered were connected with the Aceh issue.

Among those they questioned were Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Gen. Wiranto, National Police chief Gen. Roesmanhadi and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Widodo A.S.

They questioned retired generals, such as Try Sutrisno, Feisal Tanjung and L.B. Moerdani, on Monday.

None of the names of the generals were mentioned in the committee's report.

Meanwhile, at least 500 students from various universities conducted a rally in front of the House compound, demanding the government solve Aceh's problems peacefully. (jun)