Sat, 04 Jan 2003

JSC reports fall in violence after peace deal

Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

The Joint Security Committee (JSC) reported on Friday a significant decrease in the number of civilians killed in the troubled province of Aceh after the signing of a landmark peace agreement on Dec. 9.

The Henry Dunant Centre (HDC) project manager in Aceh, David Gorman, said the number of civilian fatalities had decreased from an average of 87 people per month before the signing of the agreement to 11 after the deal was sealed.

"This is a sign of readiness from both sides to stop the violence," Gorman said during a media conference here on Friday afternoon.

He emphasized that both the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government expressed regret over the fact that conflicts in the province continued to claim the lives of innocent civilians.

Gorman added that people often made phone calls to the monitoring team, reporting any incidents that took place in their surroundings such as extortion or abduction.

One case reported to the JSC in Banda Aceh was the abduction of nine people following an armed conflict between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and GAM soon after the peace agreement was signed.

Gorman added that the JSC, which is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in the country's westernmost province, was investigating the case.

Touching on extortion cases, the JSC said most people were too afraid to report these incidents to the committee. According to David, the committee would provide protection to people reporting extortion cases.

Meanwhile, the 12 monitoring teams deployed throughout the regencies in Aceh were investigating cases of violence taking place after the peace agreement was signed.

Gorman said 28 cases of violence topped the priority list of the monitoring teams.

"Reports on the result of investigations will be submitted to the JSC in the next few days for further processing," he said.

The JSC has not yet discussed punishments to be imposed on violators.

JSC cochairman Maj. Gen. Thanungsak Tuvinan said the committee would discuss the details of the punishments next week.

"Possibly, all of the penalties will be settled next week," he said.

The most important thing is that penalties will be handed down after all the facts and evidence have been verified, he added.

Discussing refugees in North and East Aceh, Gorman said monitoring teams had been sent to the locations.

"The teams have met with the refugees," Gorman said, adding that he did not know why these people fled their homes.

According to Gorman, the monitoring teams would not only monitor the implementation of the peace agreement, but also ensure local people that security in their villages had returned to normal.