Sat, 15 Jan 2000

National dialog planned in Aceh

JAKARTA (JP): The government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) will participate in a dialog aimed at seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict in the restive province, organizers of the talks announced on Friday.

Indonesian Prosperous Labor Organization (SBSI) chairman Muchtar Pakpahan said the dialog -- jointly organized by SBSI, the Aceh Legal Aid Foundation and the Forum for Care for East Aceh Youths (Forpatt) -- was scheduled to be held in Langsa, East Aceh, on Jan. 25.

Speaking during a meeting with People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais here, Pakpahan said all related parties had confirmed their participation and would send delegations to the talks.

"We have made official contact with GAM, Aceh ulema, students, non-governmental organizations, the military and the National Police. They have all pledged to send representatives," Pakpahan said.

Amien said he would also attend the dialog.

Pakpahan also said he, Aceh Legal Aid Foundation chairman Yacob Hamzah, Forpatt chairman Said Zamal and Siti Hartati Murdaya from the Indonesian Buddhist Community met with State Minister of Human Rights Affairs Hasbalah M. Saad and the chief of the Army's Strategic Reserve Command, Lt. Gen. Djadja Suparman, on Friday to make the necessary preparations for the dialog.

The organizers of the talks will meet with President Abdurrahman Wahid on Saturday morning to report their progress in organizing the event.

Pakpahan said dialog organizers had already met several times with the President, a number of government officials and GAM leaders regarding the proposals which would be put forward during the talks.

Yacob said organizers would seek approval for self-governance for the province -- excluding matters of foreign policy, defense, monetary policies and justice -- during the talks.

"Under our arrangement, a presidium whose members will consist of the current governor, the commander of GAM and the speaker of the Aceh provincial legislature will jointly run the administration before a permanent government is established," Pakpahan said.

He said the President, the military and GAM had thrown their weight behind the proposal.

The military, he added, remained unhappy with a plan to pull out combat troops and police from the province because of the absence of a security guarantee following the withdrawal.


Yacob blamed disturbances and violence in Aceh on the local security personnel, who he said were also intimidating those connected to the planned dialog.

"The recent killing of nine Acehnese and the burning of 80 houses in Lhoksukon involved security personnel wearing police uniforms and provocateurs dressed in the uniforms of the Army's elite Kopassus force."

Yacob said the killings and arson attacks early this week followed the shooting of a soldier by a police officer.

He also said the recent beatings of an RCTI cameraman and local reporters working for foreign media in Lhoksukon were evidence that security personnel in the province continued to resort to repressive measures.

Yacob urged the military to help create a conducive situation for the dialog to demonstrate the government's commitment to making the talks a success.

He warned of an increase in violence in the province if the planned dialog failed and the military's approach to the conflict remained unchanged.

The latest outbreak of violence in Aceh took place in Sigli on Wednesday night when two men were shot dead by unidentified attackers.

The victims, identified as 42-year-old Fauzi, an engineer working on a school construction project on the outskirts of Sigli, and Mahdi, 31, a computer expert, were working late when the attackers fired on them through the window of their office.

"The incident took place at around 11:30 p.m. Witnesses said they heard the sound of motorbikes fleeing the scene right after the attack," Sigli Police chief Lt. Col. Endang Emiqail Bagus said.

Police are still investigating the motive behind the shooting, as none of the victims' belongings were missing, Endang said.

"The office was previously a cabin used by former president Soeharto. A couple of years ago it was changed into an office," a local resident said.

Two more bodies were discovered in West Aceh later in the week. Muhammad Amin, 37, was found on Thursday afternoon in Cot Ujo Mudi village in Kramatiga district. The body had already begun to decompose.

The remains of Midi, 34, were discovered under Lambuso bridge in Johan Pahlawan district on Friday morning, a volunteer from the Indonesian Red Cross, Teuku Akbar, said.

Separately, 21 activists from the People's Crisis Center staged a hunger strike at the Aceh office of the National Commission on Human Rights, to protest assaults by security personnel on volunteers working at the center. (50/51/edt/rms)