Sat, 13 May 2000

Indonesia, GAM sign peace agreement

JAKARTA (JP): Representatives of the Indonesian government and Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed a Joint Understanding on Humanitarian Pause on Friday in Davos, Switzerland, which could pave the way for permanent peace in the restive province of Aceh.

The accord was signed by Indonesia's permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva Hassan Wirajuda and GAM's health minister Zaini Abdullah at the remote Swiss town at 1:30 p.m. local time.

"The Joint Understanding is an early step of a hundred-step journey in efforts to find a final solution of the Aceh problem," Hassan said in a statement received here on Friday evening.

While elements of the Joint Understanding all point toward a cessation of violence, coined under the term "humanitarian pause", top Indonesian officials are adamant that the accord should not be construed as a cease-fire, or even in any way a formal recognition of the rebel group GAM.

Last minute deliberations from the Indonesian side thwarted foreign minister Alwi Shihab's plan to witnesses the ceremony.

En route to Geneva, Alwi was abruptly forbidden to attend the signing ceremony by President Abdurrahman Wahid, who conceded that it could be misinterpreted as a recognition of GAM.

The President said he instructed Alwi, who was in the Netherlands at the time, not to go to Geneva, but continue his trip to Washington to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"Only after his meeting with Albright, will Pak Alwi Shihab talk to the media about the signing of the agreement," said Abdurrahman said here on Friday.

The President insisted that the government remained firm in its position of not recognizing the existence of the rebel group. He said he also accepted the reality that GAM does not recognize the Indonesian government either.

"It (the accord) absolutely has nothing to do with the recognition by either the government or GAM," the President said at Merdeka Palace.


The accord was reached after three rounds of dialog, facilitated by the Henry Dunant Center for Humanitarian Dialog in Switzerland.

The objective "humanitarian pause", so prominently mentioned in the accord, includes delivery of humanitarian assistance to Acehnese affected by the conflict and the provision for security modalities to support the relief operations and reduce tension overall.

The accord consists of six articles, containing objectives, components, organizational structure, time frame, transition and public communication of the Humanitarian Pause.

To carry out the accord, two joint committees and a monitoring team will be setup in Aceh.

The first committee, the Joint Committee on Humanitarian Action, focuses on the effective delivery of humanitarian relief, while the second, the Joint Committee on Security Modalities, focuses on reducing violence.

However, this second committee could have far reaching implications as it is aimed at impeding the movement of "third party" disruption in the province.

President Abdurrahman Wahid has often stated that there are "certain parties" attempting to disrupt the government's peace efforts.

The security committee will set up ground rules for humanitarian activities, guarantee the halt of military action and ensure the police's function of maintaining law and order.

Each committee will comprise a maximum 10 members while the Monitoring Team consists of five members.

A Joint Forum will be set up in Geneva as the highest decision making body. All mechanisms will come into effect on June 2 and will be reviewed after three months.

State Minister of Human Rights Hasballah M. Saad said here that the makeup of the committees had not been decided, but he insisted it would consist of people with high integrity and credibility.

"The security committee, of course, will consist of authorized people in the security field, maybe from the National Police and Indonesian Military (TNI), along with GAM's security members," Hasballah said.

When asked about the possibilities of other armed faction parties besides GAM leader Hassan Tiro's group, Hasballah said: "That is what we are going to monitor, all this time we have only known one group, GAM".

Separately, legislators of the House of Representatives Commission II for administration and legal affairs have conditionally expressed support for the Joint Understanding.

"It's not a problem if the memorandum is for humanitarian purposes and a cease-fire. But it should not lead to another East Timor case," commission chairman Amin Aryoso said referring to the former Indonesian province.

But Amin, who represents the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), expressed regret that the House was not consulted about the plan.

"In the future, the government should communicate such things with the House, at least the foreign minister with the press commission," he remarked.

Earlier, researchers from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences' Political and Regional Affairs Center expressed their concern at the foreign ministry's negotiations with GAM, describing them as diplomatic misconduct.

In a statement, they said that as an authorized representative of a sovereign government, the foreign ministry's negotiations with GAM could create a legal precedent of negotiating with external entities.

"This means recognition, directly or indirectly, of the existence of GAM as an international actor and no longer part of a domestic matter," the statement said. (prb/dja/jun)