Indonesia and rebels sign Aceh peace deal
HELSINKI: The Indonesian government and rebels from Aceh signed a truce on Monday aimed at ending nearly three decades of fighting in the province devastated by last December’s tsunami.
The deal, signed in Helsinki by Indonesian Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin and Malik Mahmood of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), provides for an amnesty and disarming of the rebels from Sept. 15 and restricts government troop movements in Aceh. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called it a “very happy, thankful and historic day” and expressed gratitude to his “brothers” in GAM for working to “reunite with the big Indonesian family to build a better future in Aceh”.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he hoped the truce would “facilitate the effective rebuilding of Aceh after the tsunami disaster”.
But GAM immediately warned that the truce, to be monitored by officials from the European Union and Asia, could be derailed by local militias it says are armed by Indonesian troops.
“Militia members have recently been saying that after GAM is disarmed, they will kill GAM members,” Malik Mahmood told reporters. “If GAM defends itself against these militias it will be the excuse the military is looking for to relaunch military operations against GAM. This will end the peace process.” Such fears outline the tough task facing monitors to avoid a return to fighting. A previous truce signed in December 2002 broke down after just five months when Jakarta said GAM had failed to disarm, GAM accused troops of hostilities, and frustrated monitors left. “They have said they had an agreement before, yet there were still gunbattles and they killed people,” said Mariana, 32, a housewife who lives near the main provincial airport in Aceh.
Already Jakarta and GAM have blamed one another for sporadic clashes since the deal was agreed last month. Military officials said one rebel was killed on Saturday. But GAM says its fighters will start laying down their weapons immediately. The pact calls for GAM to disarm over three months from Sept. 15 and for Indonesia to withdraw the bulk of its troops. It stipulates the Indonesian military cannot move more than a platoon of troops at a time in Aceh without informing foreign monitors, according to a copy obtained by Reuters.
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said there would be 250 unarmed monitors from the EU and Asia, though it is not clear what they could do about any violation of the truce. The EU said in a statement that ASEAN states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand would send monitors, as would the EU itself, Norway and Switzerland. reuters