Subject: In Aceh, Reintegration of Ex-Combatants, Rights Victims Remains Slow

The Jakarta Post Saturday, May 10, 2008

Despite peace, reintegration remains slow in Aceh

Hotli Simanjuntak

Despite peaceful conditions, the reintegration of ex-combatants and victims of human rights abuses in the once-restive Aceh province has stalled on political and economic issues.

The chairman of the Aceh Reintegration Agency, Thamrin, said the program not only insured compensation payments were made to ex-combatants but also sought to involve them in political and economic fields to integrate them into society.

"All economic potentials and resources should be developed to empower ex-combatants following their disarmament and demobilization. This is important to allow them to live normal lives in society," he told The Jakarta Post here recently.

He said a huge fund had come to Aceh from international donor countries, but that it had yet to stimulate economic growth.

He said many ex-combatants still depended on government cash aid transfer and that the situation could endanger the peace agreement between the government and the then Free Aceh movement signed in Helsinki, Finland, on August 15, 2005.

Former Aceh peace facilitator Martti Ahtasaari, who along with foreign envoys toured the province last week, said the reintegration was not going as well as expected.

"I think the reintegration process remains a heavy task for all of us, and it still needs several more years," he said.

Ahtasaari, who is now director of the Crisis Management Initiative and a former president of Finland, said despite the stagnancy, the peace process in Aceh was already running in a good and encouraging way.

"In my meetings with the people of Aceh in the districts of Southeast Aceh, Central Aceh and Banda Aceh, they said they were enjoying the peace process," he said, while accompanied by Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, Iskandar Muda, Military Commander Maj. Gen. Supriandin and Aceh Police Chief Insp. Gen. Rismawan.

He said he was hopeful the reconciliation process in Aceh could be implemented soon.

The Finnish former president said recent sporadic criminal acts in the province, including an incident referred to as the "Atu Lintang" case, in which five Aceh Transition Committee members were killed in Central Aceh, had not effected proceedings.

"Although a few acts of violence have occurred, they have not disturbed the peace process in Aceh."

Law practitioner Hendra Budian said the project's stalling had a lot to do with the absence of a standard concept, or a blue print, on how to carry out the program.

He said he was deeply concerned that thousands of ex-combatants had yet to receive government compensation.

Irwandy pledged last year he would resume the reintegration this year but so far no measures have been taken.

Since the program was first initiated, more than 2000 ex-combatants have received compensation from the government but most have remained unemployed due to a lack of education and skills.

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