Aceh rebels ready for disarmament
‘Provisional understanding’ is that Free Aceh Movement will end violence and fight for independence politically.
Indonesia yesterday said that rebels in Aceh were prepared to give up armed struggle in their fight for independence in what could be a breakthrough to ending decades of bloody violence in the restive province.
But both the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and senior military officials poured cold water over the idea almost immediately, saying that they were not willing to compromise their core interests in Aceh.
Defence Minister Mahfud M.D. disclosed that a temporary truce plan arose overnight from the latest round of peace talks between Jakarta and GAM representatives in Geneva, Switzerland.
He told The Straits Times that both sides had, during their three-day meeting, agreed to a 30-day “peace moratorium in Aceh from Jan 15 to end all forms of conflict”.
“It is a good sign that both sides are talking and taking action,” he said.
“The provisional understanding is that GAM will change from being an armed movement into a political one. They will continue to pursue their objectives, but without the use of arms.”
GAM sources in Pidie – an area in the province that suffered from human-rights abuses by the military and where the separatists are believed to be most active – were not opposed to the plan.
But it needed reciprocal action from the Indonesian military (TNI), they maintained.
A GAM official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the TNI was prone to launching “black operations” to intensify conflict in the area so it could have the justification to crack down even harder on the rebels.
“Of course, this idea of disarmament seems very appealing. It is very nice to hear. But in reality, it could be difficult for us, knowing that our enemy is just waiting to kill us,” he said.
Aceh’s military commander Syarifuddin Tippe said that security forces would not be prepared to accede to GAM’s demand that they, too, disarm.
“I hope the government realises that the TNI has the legal right to carry arms,” he said. He said it was difficult to strike a deal with GAM because it was divided into different factions, each with leaders and followers who pursued their own modus operandi in Aceh.
The army’s lukewarm response to any talk of a truce in Aceh stems from fear that a real threat to separatism does exist in its westernmost province.
While the civilian government is advocating peaceful dialogue, the TNI wants force to be the arbiter. Indeed, sources reveal that TNI personnel and intelligence operations are on the increase in the area.
Diplomatic sources said the truce idea indicated that Jakarta and GAM were “in theory reaching a certain common ground, even if both sides are far away from it in practice”.
Said a Western diplomat: “The problem … is that both parties are giving their own spin to what they have signed. Neither side wants to be seen as the one that spoiled the agreement.”