Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Some groups want 'to sabotage peace efforts in Aceh'

HONG KONG (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid said on Sunday there were domestic groups attempting to sabotage peace efforts in Aceh, and also revealed he had asked for an Army officer to be removed from his post in the province.

"There are still groups who don't want my policy to succeed and because of this, they will try as much as possible to raise obstacles," Abdurrahman told journalists during his visit to Hong Kong.

Nevertheless, the President remained confident a solution to the problems in the province could soon be reached.

The President also said he had asked National Police chief Lt. Gen. Rusdihardjo and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Widodo A.S. to remove Col. Jusuf Muharram from the command of the joint TNI and police operation in Aceh known as Sadar Rencong.

"He (Jusuf) was a former deputy commander in East Timor and he was moved to Aceh, and now I have asked him to be removed as far as possible, and to prosecute him if possible.

"We will take every necessary step to ensure that peace will return to Aceh," Abdurrahman said.

The President said he had asked for Jusuf's removal because "he was participating in and ordering the burning of people, the burning of houses and schools in Aceh".


Meanwhile in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, organizers of the Aceh People's Congress (KRA), a major gathering aimed at forging peace in Aceh which had been scheduled to begin on Saturday, said the congress had been delayed until mid-May.

The chairman of the organizing committee, Tengku Syech Syamaun Risyad, said on Saturday the postponement was aimed at allowing organizers to disseminate more information about the congress.

"We are also ready to deploy around 500 students to remote areas in the province to help people sign up to join the congress," Syamaun said.

Organizers have not set a new date for the week-long congress, which was initially slated to be attended by around 1,500 participants, including representatives from the moderate wing of the Malaysian-based Free Aceh Movement Administrative Council.

Syamaun denied suggestions the postponement of the congress was due to concerns over security, which has deteriorated in the past week, particularly in Banda Aceh and the neighboring Aceh Besar regency.

Congress organizers said they hoped village representatives would account for about 60 percent of participants, with the rest coming from social and political groups as well as religious, youth, women and non-governmental organizations.

The commander of the armed wing of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), Tengku Abdullah Syafi'ie, said in a media release on Saturday evening that GAM rejected the congress because "KRA has been interfered with by Jakarta".

"KRA is being held based on Jakarta's interests and not for the sake of the people of Aceh," Abdullah said in the statement.

Abdullah said that if the congress went forward, GAM would call for a mass strike.

President Abdurrahman Wahid has voiced support for the congress, although he has ruled out independence as an option for Aceh. Abdurrahman has also vowed to provide protection for any members of GAM who wish to attend the congress. (50/51/edt/byg)