Wed, 07 May 2003

The Aceh conflict: The long road to peace

S. Wiryono Jakarta

The beginning of an involvement

1. It was in early January 2002, with the fasting month of Ramadhan having just come to a close, when Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda asked me if I was willing to accept the position of negotiator on the side of the Indonesian government on the problem of Aceh. The negotiations had been launched two years earlier with some encouraging results, but had been in suspension for about seven months. I accepted the offer as a matter of patriotic duty but with a great deal of trepidation. I actually began assuming my duties as negotiator when the suspended talks resumed in Geneva on Feb.2 2002.

Historical background

2. Aceh has a history of militancy, having fought the Portuguese in the 1520s and the Dutch from 1873 to 1913, and having waged an Islamist uprising against the Republic of Indonesia in 1953. In that uprising, the rebellion, called Darul Islam, aimed at establishing an Islamic republic all over Indonesia, which was also sought by religious militants in West Java and South Sulawesi. It came to an end 1962 when, after negotiations, the Sukarno government gave assurances that Aceh would be given status as a special region, with broad autonomy with regard to religion, customary law, and education. Over the years, however, that pledge was largely unfulfilled.

3.The current secessionist rebellion in Aceh began on Dec. 4 1976 when Muhammad Hasan di Tiro declared Acehnese independence. Di Tiro and his closest followers had been involved in the Darul Islam rebellion of 1953 but this time their uprising, to which they gave the name Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) or Free Aceh Movement, was of a clearly secessionist intent.

Not long after that declaration of independence, the forces of the GAM began attacking government troops, only to reel back in the ensuring government counterinsurgency operation. By 1983 the GAM forces had been defeated in the field and di Tiro had fled to exile abroad where he and some of his followers eventually became a Swedish citizen.

4. During most of the decade of the 1980s the GAM recuperated, rationalized its political status, and strengthened its military arm, Angkatan Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (AGAM). During this period, some 400 Acehnese cadres were reportedly sent to Libya for military training. By 1989, GAM felt strong enough to challenge the Indonesian government once more, attacking troops, civilian personnel and suspected informers. The government responded with a massive military operation and repression.

5. By 1992, it appeared that the government had the situation under full control. Military oppression characterized by widespread violation of human rights, however, fed public resentment against the government in Jakarta.

The human rights violations in Aceh came to public light soon after Soeharto bowed out of power in the political tumult of May 1998. Pressured by a public outcry all over Indonesia at the atrocities and human rights violations in Aceh, the Indonesian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief General Wiranto apologized for the excesses of the military from 1989 to 1998 and lifted Aceh's status as an area of military operations, promising substantial troop withdrawal from the province. Peace did not come, however, as the GAM, taking advantage of the demoralization of the military, launched an offensive. Armed confrontation resumed.

6. In mid-1994, the GAM organization split when Kuala Lumpur- based officials broke off from the Sweden-based leadership, which includes Hasan di Tiro. Apparently the main difference between these two factions was the form of government that Aceh would assume after independence. Di Tiro favors a monarchy, with himself as Sultan, while the Kuala Lumpur-based group favors a modern Islamic republic. Di Tiro, who claims to be a descendant of the last Sultan of Aceh, has secured the loyalty of most of the GAM forces operating in the province. A window of opportunity

7. During the administration of president Abdurrahman Wahid, there was a window of opportunity for peace in Aceh, which both sides were able to seize, for a while at least. The Wahid administration's overtures for dialog received positive response from the GAM faction led by Hasan di Tiro.

In May 2000, representatives of the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement signed in Geneva a document called "Joint Understanding for Humanitarian Pause for Aceh" the stated objective of which was to allow the free flow of humanitarian aid to a population in dire need of it.

Reached after a series of confidential talks with the mediation of the Henri Dunant Centre, an international humanitarian NGO, the Joint Understanding was an important confidence-building measure that created common ground between the two sides on which further dialog could be built.

Although this development was welcomed by the war-weary people of Aceh, it was less than satisfactory to many circles in Jakarta. For one thing, parliament was not consulted on this matter, nor was there any discussion in the press or anywhere else in which experts and academics could have contributed their views.

8. The negotiator of this agreement on the Indonesian side was Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda, then Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the UN in Geneva, who would later become Foreign Minister of Indonesia. The government took care to explain that Dr. Wirajuda, while representing the government, was not negotiating in his capacity as Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva.

This explanation was apparently given to reduce criticism that by negotiating with the GAM, the government had made a blunder and the GAM had scored a diplomatic victory, since the act of negotiating with the GAM implied recognition, putting the GAM, at least theoretically, on an equal footing with the government.

To a number of legislators, some academics and a few in the media, the talks in Geneva represented an internationalization of the Aceh problem. This negative reaction becomes easier to understand when cast in the light of what many Indonesians have seen as the consequences of the internationalization of the problem of East Timor.

9. Nevertheless, the administration of president Abdurrahman Wahid persevered in pursuing dialog. That dialog, in spite of many difficulties brought about partly by the situation on the ground, proceeded steadily forward so that in January 2001 both sides reached a "Provisional Understanding" that contained various provisions that would make possible future arrangements to check the violence and carry out confidence-building measures.

By the middle of the year, the government side put on the table the offer of special autonomy, and both sides agreed on an eventual holding of an all-inclusive informal dialog of all sectors of Acehnese society, including the GAM. But for about seven months after that, from July 2001 to February 2002, dialog could not proceed mainly because of difficulties on the ground brought about by an increasing frequency of skirmishes. Meanwhile, President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who has a more nationalistic outlook than Wahid, had taken over the reins of government, and she had appointed Indonesia's negotiator, Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, as Indonesia's Foreign Minister.

Some aspects of the problem

10. Within the Southeast Asian region and among various countries with which Indonesia has bilateral relations, as well as in international forums like the Non-aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the European Union, etc. there is strong support for Indonesia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, especially with regard to the question of Aceh and even Irian Jaya.

The GAM, on the other hand, has no external support for its claim to statehood except perhaps from some NGOs. It did at some point received military training support from Libya but not much else. To some degree, the GAM is in control of a force and enjoys some support, which is difficult to estimate, from the people of Aceh. There is widespread concern at the continuing violence resulting in frequent violations of human rights and producing a great number of internally displaced persons, while crippling the socioeconomic life of Aceh. This concern translates into domestic and international pressure on both sides to bring the conflict situation to an end, to establish durable peace and rebuild the socioeconomic life of the province.

11. A good number of observers have identified one extremely formidable obstacle to peace in Aceh, and that is a situation of widespread corruption that gives everyone involved an economic motive for leaving the problem unsolved.

There is reportedly a great deal of smuggling of luxury goods going on in the free port of Sabang. Extortion and protection racketeering by both the military and the GAM guerillas have been observed to be endemic from one end of the province to the other. Weapons from foreign sources are regularly brought ashore by fishing boats in a thriving arms trade that keeps the GAM and other groups of a more criminal nature well armed. The national government can to a large extent curb the corruption by simply making provincial officials and other authority figures more accountable, but such a crackdown may have its own destabilizing effect.

The situation in 2002

12. By the time I was entrusted with the task of leading the Indonesian side of the dialog, some 10,000 individuals have died as the course of the conflict and killings were averaging five a day. Enormous damage had been wreaked on the economic and social life of this resource-rich province. The people of Aceh were weary of the conflict. Having succeeded to some extent in solving the conflict situation in the Maluku islands and Central Sulawesi through the Malino peace processes, the government had a sense of momentum that it could soon enough solve the Aceh problem as well. The government, both the executive and the legislature had publicly affirmed in various statements and documents that the best solution was through dialog within the framework of a comprehensive approach, which also included the use of military and police work. In effect, it was a two-track policy.

13. In spite of that two-track policy, there was already a widespread perception in the government, including parliament, that the Indonesian armed forces had the upper hand in Aceh. Until today, many of these feel that there is no need to negotiate with a losing and weakening secessionist movement that has no international support. There are also not a few hawks who believe that there is only one thing to do about a separatist movement and that is to crush it, period. In this kind of atmosphere, dialog has proven difficult to pursue.

Nevertheless, I proceeded to do what I could to get a dialog going with the GAM. I interpreted my mandate to be the continuation of the negotiation process with a view to consolidating what has been achieved so far in a document -- if possible in the form of an "interim agreement" -- that would cover both the points of consensus and the points for further elaboration so that succeeding meetings of the two sides will have a foundation to build on. As previously agreed, the two sides formed a Joint Council for Political Dialog with five internationally eminent individuals acceptable to both sides serving as advisors.

14. Having been briefed on the situation in Aceh and on previous developments, the negotiator drafted a "Proposed Guidance" for his own use in the negotiations. The Proposed Guidance recognized the desire of the Acehnese people to administer themselves peacefully in freedom and democracy. This would be achieved through three main courses of action.

First, the conflict would be ended and peace established over a transitional period, and special autonomy would be accepted as the final solution to the conflict. Second, during the transitional period, there would be cessation of hostilities, an intensive confidence-building process would take place, and socio-economic life in Aceh would be normalized with humanitarian aid and economic assistance from the government of Indonesia and the international community.

And third, an all-inclusive dialog among all elements of Acehnese society, including the GAM, would serve as the consultative forum for achieving a negotiated peaceful settlement to the Aceh problem on the basis of the Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) Special Autonomy Law, a legislation passed during the tenure of President Wahid granting special autonomy status to the province of Aceh. After conclusion of that all-inclusive dialog, preparations could then be made for general elections in Aceh to enable GAM followers to participate in the Indonesian national elections of 2004.

15. In the February 2002 meeting, the Negotiator explained to the Henri Dunant Centre officials and all the advisors the ideas contained in the Proposed Guidance. They generally responded positively to the Proposed Guidance, particularly since it allowed dialog to proceed without explicitly discussing the sensitive issue of the GAM'S DEMAND for Acehnese independence. The only source of difficulty was the core of the government's position and that was the acceptance by the GAM of the government's offer of autonomy spelled out in the NAD Law. Its acceptance by the GAM would have implied abandonment of its demand for independence.

16. The two sides discussed intensively during that February meeting but in the end, the GAM side was not ready to sign the joint statement that would have been the outcome of the meeting, as it sought more time to consider the offer of autonomy. And since the draft joint statement could not be jointly issued by the two sides, it was agreed that the facilitator, the Henri Dunant Centre, would issue it on their behalf.

The text of that statement clearly stated that the two sides agreed "to use the NAD Law as a starting point for discussions" and "to a period of confidence-building in which they will cease hostilities and then move towards democratic elections in Aceh in 2004." The document therefore served as a road map for the peace process ahead, stipulating a cessation of hostilities, an all- inclusive dialog and elections.

The May 10 Agreement

17. The subsequent meeting between the two sides held in early May 2002 resulted in the formalization of the February document issued by the Henri Dunant Centre. On 10 May 2002, they signed a Joint Statement with essentially the same content as the February document. Difficulty arose when the two sides interpreted the text differently.

The government had thought that it had secured commitment of the GAM's "acceptance of the NAD Law as a starting point," while the GAM seemed to understand it only as the first thing to be discussed. One of the principal spokesmen of the GAM side, Mr. Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba, upon his return to Aceh, firmly denied that the GAM had accepted the NAD Law.

What made matters worse was that armed elements claiming to belong to the GAM started attacking government facilities, particularly electric pylons, and in the process killing a considerable number of innocent civilians, including women and children. The military responded by bringing in more troops and intensifying anti-insurgency operations. This followed a pattern where every time both sides reached an agreement, elements on the ground would issue statements repudiating what had been agreed on take hostile action that set back the dialog process.

18.Thus, a third meeting, which should have taken place in June, did not materialize as the deteriorating situation on the ground made negotiations untenable. On Aug. 19, the Indonesian government announced a new policy on Aceh: It gave the GAM until the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan, which fell around Dec.7 2002, to accept the offer of special autonomy as a prerequisite for future dialogs, or face the full brunt of Indonesia's military power. In fact, the dialog process is now in suspension, without any assurance that the GAM would return to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, violence has escalated and continues to claim more lives. An attempt was made recently on the life of the governor of the province. Just before the end of August 2002, however, the government softened its stance a little with the announcement by the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs that "we expect to have another round of talks (with the GAM) in September, perhaps not official ones, but we will continue to pave the way for a peaceful settlement."

19. In early September the government of Indonesia submitted a draft agreement for the cessation of hostilities to the Henri Dunant Centre and the advisors. The Centre and the advisors subsequently made amendments to the draft, which means that they adopted it so that it could serve as basis for further dialog between the government of Indonesia and the GAM.

And that was precisely what happened: The draft as amended and consolidated by the Centre was negotiated with the representatives of the GAM and in a series of meetings of indirect negotiations the two sides were facilitated by the shuttle diplomacy of the HDC held in Singapore, Paris, Geneva and Stockholm. That process took several weeks.

On Nov. 19 2002, the Centre announced that both sides had committed themselves to reach an agreement. Although a few issues still had to be resolved, an agreement on cessation of hostilities was planned to be held on Dec. 9 2002.

Essentially, the draft agreement called for the formation by the government of Indonesia, the GAM and the Henri Dunant Centre to form a 150-member Joint Security Committee to monitor the cessation of hostilities, to investigate violations and to take measures, including sanctions, to restore calm. The Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) Special Autonomy Law would be the starting point of an all-inclusive dialog among the Acehnese leading to provincial elections in 2004.

The unresolved issues included such details as the timing and manner of the laying down of arms by the GAM, and the counterpart measures to be taken by the Indonesian security forces. The whole process is designed to take the guns out of politics.

A positive turn of events

20. While the Henri Dunant Centre sounded confident that the signing would take place as scheduled, there were actually many hitches that, up to the last moment, had to be overcome. It greatly helped that the international community took an interest in the process and demonstrated its support by holding in Tokyo on Dec. 3 2002, six days before the scheduled signing of the agreement, a conference of donor countries led by Japan and the United States and international funding agencies to raise funds for the reconstruction of Aceh after both have signed the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

Other countries that participated in that conference were Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Qatar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom. Also in attendance were the European Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the UN Development Programme and the Henri Dunant Centre. The GAM was invited to the conference but did not attend.

21. The holding of the conference was a manifestation of the concern of the international community at the continuing instability of Indonesia, which was partly due to the problem of Aceh. If the problem of Aceh as well as those of Papua, Maluku and several other provinces could be altogether solved in the months ahead, it would be to the tremendous relief of neighboring countries that had been anxious at the adverse effects of the internal conflicts in Indonesia on the general stability of the region. For Indonesia, the solution of these internal problems would to a large extent restore its standing in the international community and among foreign and domestic investors.

22. It was agreed at the Tokyo Conference on Peace and Reconstruction in Aceh that once the agreement was signed, a multi-agency mission would be sent to Aceh to assess the requirements of the social and economic rehabilitation of the province. The participating countries and institutions would then raise the funds needed for humanitarian assistance, support for the demobilization of combatants, short term high-impact community-driven investments, improvement of health and education facilities and infrastructures-building.

The Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) would coordinate the donors while local communities and civil society will be engaged to ensure that the funds reach the people as quickly as possible, with accountability and transparency. The idea was to ensure that the people would feel that they were immediately reaping "peace dividends" and thereby the peace process would be strengthened.

23.The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed in Geneva on Dec. 9 2002. I was privileged, as the Indonesian government negotiator, to sign the Agreement on behalf of my government. My counterpart on the GAM side was Dr.Zaini Abdullah. In my remarks on that occasion, I pointed out that this was a modest but significant victory for both sides and for all that were interested in peace, but not yet the final victory, for which we still had to work hard.

We still had to make the Cessation of Hostilities work so that durable peace could be attained in Aceh and that was the hard part. Important new details of the Agreement include the provision of a two-month grace period during which both sides would demonstrate their commitment to peace by not increasing their forces and relocating these forces to defensive positions. Demilitarized zones would also be designated during the period. After that grace period, the GAM would designate where it would place its weapons.

The placement of weapons would be completed in five months. After that preparations would be made for the all-inclusive Aceh dialog during which they would negotiate on the modality for the review and possible revision of the NAD law.

24.By January, it was already apparent that the road to peace would be a bumpy one, especially during the first two months. Much would depend on the skills and wisdom of the Joint Security Committee under Maj. Gen. Thanungsak Tuvinan of Thailand and his deputy, Brig. Gen. Nogomora Lomodag of the Philippines. As of Dec. 30 2002 there were already some 50 incidents of fighting between the GAM troops and the Indonesian security forces.

From the moment the Agreement was signed up to this writing, the body count has dropped considerably but it has been going up lately. There was also the problem that resulted from a late rejection by the GAM of the Filipino observers in the Joint Security Committee: The GAM contends that because the Philippine government is fighting a Moro secessionist movement and because Indonesia has brokered a peace agreement with another secessionist group in 1996, the Filipino monitors cannot be impartial. The matter was soon smoothed over, with the Filipino monitors who were already in place remaining where they were posted and the rest replaced by Thai monitors.

25. And yet the general effect of the signing of the Agreement had been widespread optimism verging on euphoria all over the province -- and that is because the Agreement is already perceived to be a peace agreement. The fact is that the guns are not yet altogether silent and it will not be until the end of July that these guns will be removed from politics. But the people believe that they already have peace in their hands and would not let go of it. Sick and tired of decades of armed conflict during which more than 10,000 persons, mostly civilians, died, the Acehnese want peace that badly. With hopes and expectations raised so high, the risk is that if the peace process failed, the letdown could be very severe.

26. In Jakarta, the signing of the Agreement was greeted with approval but with a more cautious sort of optimism. No sector of society and no faction in parliament came out critical about the agreement. President Megawati herself demonstrated her government's commitment to the Agreement by visiting Aceh soon after it was signed. GAM units were heading back to their bases. A multi-agency United Nations team visited Aceh in order to assess the requirements of the rehabilitation of the province.

The initial finding of the team was that the province was in dire need of financial aid to rebuild school and health facilities destroyed in the course of the conflict. In Jakarta, the government organized a team to distribute humanitarian aid. The government also pledged to give priority to the hundreds of thousands of Acehnese who had been displaced during the conflict.

Within the month, the Joint Security Committee, which monitors the cease-fire, was partly deployed. There was a dramatic reduction in the incidence of killings in the province. These positive developments could have gained tremendous momentum -- but that did not happen. Instead, the process got bogged down and at one point it became difficult to see how it could still go forward.

27. It did not take long before the Indonesian military and the GAM accused each other of cease-fire violations. There were press reports of civilians intimidating members of the Joint Security Committee, a charge that the military denied. At any rate, for their safety, the monitors were withdrawn from the field. The government complained that the Committee had become ineffective in the field because of the negative statements of GAM personalities.

In fact the GAM was brazenly holding pro-independence rallies and carrying out a public disinformation campaign to promote a public perception that the final result of the implementation of the agreement would be independence for Aceh. It also undertook heavy recruitment in the villages to swell the ranks of GAM fighters and appointed new officers of its fighting force. It smuggled in weapons to arm that expanded fighting force. At the same time, it continued to build and expand its political structure in the villages, which competed with the provincial government for administrative control of the province.

This underground government went so far as to collect what it calls a "Nanggroe tax." This was, of course, a form of extortion and a crime. The government also noted that with very little time left before the end of the demilitarization phase of the implementation of the agreement, there was no indication of the system, plan and process of placement of GAM weapons, which would be overseen by the HDC. This greatly damaged the HDC's image. With very little time left to act, it was regarded as highly improbable that the GAM could still comply with the provision on the placement of GAM weapons as stipulated in the agreement.

28.The government then registered a strong protest with the Henri Dunant Foundation, charging that the GAM was in material breach of its obligations under the COHA. On this basis it demanded the immediate convening of the Joint Council, which is composed of high officials of the government, the GAM and the HDC. The Joint Council was created by the COHA itself to settle disputes arising from its implementation that could not be resolved by the JSC created by the agreement. The demand for a meeting of the Joint Council was conveyed to the HDC in the early part of April 2003 on what the government called a last-ditch effort to save the COHA.

29. Soon after that, President Megawati sent a Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Sweden to formally inform the Swedish government that a number of its citizens, referring to Di Tiro and some of his prominent lieutenants, were engaged in rebellion and other criminal activities that have caused enormous loss of lives in a friendly country like Indonesia. The Swedish government responded by requesting for more concrete evidence to back up Indonesia's grievous allegations. Indonesia seems to be preparing to accommodate this request.

30. Initially, the GAM responded to the Indonesian government's demand for a convening of the Joint Council by sending a letter indicating its decision not to attend such a meeting. The government at once started preparing for military operations in Aceh, as it seemed that the process toward peace was falling apart.

In mid-April, however, the GAM communicated through the HDC that it was ready to attend the Council meeting and the government welcomed this change of mind. They still had to agree, however, on the date and place of the Joint Council meeting. The government proposed Tokyo. The GAM wanted it to be held in Geneva. The government reluctantly agreed and set it on April 25, a Friday, considering that in the past the GAM preferred to meet on weekends. The GAM indicated its agreement but not long after that, changed its mind again.

The government offered a compromise where the opening formalities would be held on April 25 with the respective advance parties in attendance, and the actual discussions will be held on April 26 and 27. But, for no clear reason, the HDC could not persuade the GAM to agree to this compromise. The GAM would agree to meet only on April 27, a Sunday but what could be accomplished in only one day when there were so many sensitive and complex issues to straighten out? The HDC was not able to bring the GAM to the meeting , so it could not be held..

31. The government had taken all pains to be flexible even when its patience was stretched to the limit. On the other hand, the GAM was not only inflexible without any clear reason, it also displayed a streak of obstructionism and disdain for the government's demonstration of goodwill.

32. The big question now is: What next? The answer may be derived from a consideration of the past behavior of the GAM. Since negotiations began in early January 2000, the GAM 's behavior has followed a pattern of perfidy.

It would accept an arrangement such as the humanitarian pause but would use it only for the purposes of consolidating its forces, only to resume fighting when it would be confident that it had sufficiently gathered political and military strength. On the other hand, the government's behavior has always been consistent with its statement of Aug. 19 that it would adhere to a strategy of exhausting all peaceful means before deciding on an "appropriate action," which many would interpret as a military operation.

33.The Joint Statement of May 10 and the COHA of Dec. 9 are not perfect documents but these constitute a sufficiently clear road map, with the acceptance of the NAD law as a starting point, followed by cessation of hostilities, an all-inclusive dialog and finally the election of 2004.

While the precise format and schedule of the all-inclusive dialog are yet to be decided, the election specified in the COHA is clearly the election in Indonesia in 2004. There is no way the wording of the COHA could be interpreted as pertaining to a referendum or independence.

34. The fact is that the fundamental commitment of both the government and the GAM is expressed in the preambule section of the COHA, which states that "the GOI and GAM share the common objective to meet the aspirations of the people of Aceh to live in security with dignity, peace, prosperity and justice." So, while the HDC-facilitated talks are important, they do not represent the heart of the matter. Their shared mission is not to find the road to peace, but to make peace the way to achieve their common objective. And the only way to achieve that common objective is to adhere to the letter and spirit of the COHA and to sustain the focus on the common objective.

35. By exercising patience and flexibility in the face of the GAM's intransigence and arrogance, the government believes that it has secured the higher moral ground. If it must now reformulate its policy on Aceh in the face of GAM's unwarranted behavior, it is important that it must do so in a way that it keeps its hold on that higher moral ground.

The government, therefore, can take either of two options: It can undertake some kind of military action, or it can retry the peace process.

36. Resuming the peace process does not appear to be a politically attractive option for some, while on the other hand, the view that peace should be endeavored at all cost has been strongly expressed by many prominent politicians, ulema and Achenese in general. But as the agreement provides for a five- month period during which the placement of arms is to be accomplished, theoretically the government still has the option to wait until after July 9, which is the deadline for the placement of the GAM's weapons, before it can be justified in carrying out a military operation in the province. As of this writing the debate is still ongoing.

37. When a decision is finally made to take military action, operations should be carefully planned so that what is waged is not war in the traditional sense but a "humanitarian war" that is based on a recognition that the exceedingly complex political situation in Aceh cannot be resolved through military force alone.

Moreover, there is the risk that military action may backfire if sizeable civilian casualties are incurred. Hence, the military operation should be designed not only to win battles and skirmishes but primarily the hearts and minds of the people of Aceh. The spirit of the time demands that even the justified use of military force must take all precaution against "collateral damage."

A large number of civilian casualties could engender a new sense of grievance on the part of the people of Aceh, thereby frustrating the attainment of the objectives of a humanitarian war. Indeed, it is imperative that the people of Aceh support the operation at least to some extent, and should therefore be conducted in such a way that it is perceived as not in disregard of their interests and their lives. The humanitarian aspect of the operation should be of primary consideration.

38. This means that it should not be an effort of the military forces alone. Social, political, economic and, indeed, public relations considerations should be integrated into the substance of the operational plan, and should involve appropriate operational contributions from the government agencies concerned with the delivery of social services.

This means that the flow of humanitarian aid to communities that suffer collateral damage will be as important as the availability of ammunition and other war materiel. Above all, military personnel in the field must not only actually respect the human rights of the people of Aceh even in the heat of the fighting, but must also be seen as doing so by an observant world that will be keenly monitoring the progress of the operation.

39. Above all, the effort should be as brief as possible. As the Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu put it, "There is no instance of any nation having gained a benefit from prolonged war." Certainly not if it will take another 26 years, as it has happened in Aceh.

The writer is Indonesia's chief negotiator in the Aceh issue. The views expressed in this article are entirely personal.