Wed, 15 Jan 2003

World Bank pledges aid for Aceh after truce

Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh, Aceh

The World Bank pledged on Tuesday to provide nearly US$10 million (around Rp 89 billion) this year in support of last month's peace agreement to cease 26 years of hostilities in the troubled province of Aceh.

Scott Guggenheim, a senior World Bank official, said his office would allocate around US$8 million (Rp 72 billion) to finance the Subdistrict Development Program (PPK) in the province.

In addition, between US$500,000 and US$1.5 million in aid would also be earmarked to help promote the empowerment of widows whose husbands were killed in the separatist conflict since 1976, he said.

Guggenheim was speaking at a news conference in the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh, where he accompanied World Bank country director Andrew Steer during a two-day visit to the province.

Among the delegation members were United States Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, Japanese Ambassador Yutaka Iimura and Italian Ambassador Franscesco Maria Greco. They were accompanied by Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Industry and Trade Rini Soewandi.

The delegation ended the visit on Tuesday and flew back to Jakarta.

The World Bank also pledged more assistance funds to help develop education in the troubled province.

Guggenheim could not give the amount of the aid however, as the World Bank was gathering more data on educational needs in Aceh, where hundreds of school buildings were attacked or set ablaze in the fighting.

Steer echoed Guggenheim's statements, saying the World Bank would begin disbursing the pledged funds next month.

Around 200 people are being trained as facilitators in channeling the money properly, Steer added.

Aside from the World Bank, foreign donor countries and the Indonesian government have also pledged to fund several "quick impact" reconstruction projects designed to show the benefits of peace to the Aceh people.

"Peace in Aceh is like a new born baby," said Japan's Iimura. "All sides, including us, must look after this baby."

Meanwhile, Boyce told the same news conference that the one- month-old peace process in Aceh is entering a "critical" time.

"We understand that these are critical times for peace in Aceh," he was quoted by AP as saying. "The international community stands ready to work with (the people of Aceh) on the hard work necessary to make peace," he added.

The truce, signed on Dec. 9, has stemmed, but not completely stopped, bloodshed in the province, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives since the mid 1970s.

Separately, At least two soldiers were severely injured after being shot by what was believed to be around 10 gunmen in renewed violence on Tuesday at Lokop village in Serba subdistrict, East Aceh regency.

"Second Lt. Ferdiansyah and Second Pvt Warsoyo were shot by GAM members on their way to a nearby military post," East Aceh military chief Lt. Col. M. Naqim claimed.

The Joint Security Committee, which is comprised of GAM, the government and HDC members, confirmed the incident took place, but would not confirm who was responsible.