Subject: Nobel laureate warns polls could ruin Aceh peace

Nobel laureate warns polls could ruin Aceh peace

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Feb 25 (AP) - Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari warned that a hard-won peace in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh could unravel if upcoming elections are plagued by violence or cheating.

He told a conference in the provincial capital on Tuesday that international monitors should help oversee the process.

The region has been relatively calm since the government signed a peace deal with separatists in 2005, ending 29 years of fighting that left 15,000 people dead, but there has been scattered political violence in recent weeks.

Some candidates have been intimidated, party offices attacked with grenades, and a politician killed ahead of parliamentary polls scheduled for early April, when Indonesia's stages general elections.

Regional peace is "still in its infancy" and needs to be protected, said Ahtisaari, who won the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the conflict in Aceh and other troublespots.

"There is of course the danger that any false moves, by any party, to hijack or manipulate the election process would derail efforts to establish sustainable peace," he said, adding that bringing in foreign monitors would be "instrumental in preventing disputes."

Aceh, an oil- and gas-rich province of 4 million people on Sumatra island's northern tip, had experienced almost constant warfare for more than 140 years.

Efforts to end the fighting gained momentum after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck on Dec. 26, 2004, leaving at least 156,000 of the province's people dead or missing and a half million others homeless.

As part of the 2005 peace deal, the rebels gave up their long-held demand for independence and disarmed. In exchange, the government allowed them to participate in local politics.

They held their first ever direct election for governor, mayors and district chiefs in 2006 and will pick members of national and regional legislatures on April 9.

The Jakarta Post February 24, 2009

Military warns of increased tension ahead of Aceh polls

photo: Holidaying with SBY: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono chats with a tourist during his visit to Aceh on Monday. Courtesy of Presidential Office/Abror Rizki

Indonesian Military (TNI) Chief Djoko Santoso said Monday that widespread vandalism, intimidation, threats, attacks and even murder could occur during the 2009 polls in Aceh province.

“Conflicts will occur in Aceh as a consequence of the heated political situation there,” Djoko said at the House of Representatives during a meeting with legislators in Jakarta on Monday.

Djoko said conflicts would arise both between warring parties and also among the inter-party factions, as well as with the local election commission (KPUD).

The military chief also predicted a soar in the number of crimes being committed, saying they would disturb the election process.

“We will deploy local soldiers to help the police secure election proceedings in Aceh. We have no plan to bring in troops from outside of the province,” Djoko said.

“Aceh is at peace now, just like in other provinces,” Djoko said, adding that the institution would use the election law to ensure security in the region.

President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono, on an official trip to the province Monday, also underlined the need to keep peace processes in Aceh intact following the 2005 Helsinki agreement between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

“I hope no party will disturb the Aceh people’s decision to enjoy peace and to end the conflict. Therefore, let us protect and continue the peace process in Aceh,” the President said.

The Secretary General of the Aceh People’s Party (PRA), Thamrin Ananda, however, acknowledged the possibility of conflict.

“We acknowledge there is tension, but we hope incidents like those which occurred earlier this year were unrelated crimes, not of a political motive,” Thamrin told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

In October last year a grenade exploded at the residence of Muzakkir Manaf, Aceh Party Chairman and former commander of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

On Feb. 5 this year, a gunmen shot dead two former Aceh rebels and wounded another. All were members of the Aceh party, the political faction started by GAM.

A day before, Secretary of the Aceh Transition Commision (KPA) branch in Bireuen, Dedi Noviandi, was found dead in his car from bullet wounds in Gampong Baru village in Bireuen on Tuesday night.

At the end of January, two armed men raided the KPA’s Aceh Besar branch in Kajhu village, killing one person and seriously wounding another. On Jan. 16, a bomb exploded in front of the UKM Hotel in Banda Aceh, destroying three cars, including one belonging to the Aceh Party.

“I am afraid people will resort to criminality to further their interest in the political process, as it could destroy the peace agreements in Aceh,” Thamrin said.

He said Aceh was the only pro-vince allowed to have local political parties.

“If we fail in this experiment with democracy, local party regulations will never be allowed to occur in other provinces,” Thamrin said.

According to Hayatullah Khumaini, an Aceh Lawyer, since January 2009 there have been more than 15 violent incidents in the province related to local parties.

“The conditions are getting worse because the police have failed to establish justice and order in Aceh,” Hayatullah said.

“The recent incidents were probably meant to give the impression that Aceh, with the coming elections, was in a state of insecurity.”

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The Jakarta Post February 24, 2009

Aceh peace must hold, demands SBY

by Erwida Maulia

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has warned against disrupting the peace in Aceh, following years of conflict and the devastating tsunami.

The President also said that with the post-tsunami reconstruction agency leaving Aceh soon, rebuilding work in the country’s westernmost province should continue to reintegrate the community.

Echoing Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf’s remarks, Yudhoyono asked all parties in Aceh to leave the “old point of view” and begin a “new chapter on life” by supporting the reintegration process.

“I hope no one will infuriate the Aceh people for opting for peace over conflict — the same thing we have chosen and want. So let’s secure and maintain peace in Aceh,” Yudhoyono said Monday in Banda Aceh while inaugurating 13 infrastructure projects.

“There should be no more such terms as the Military Operations Area [DOM] or the Free Aceh Movement [GAM]. Dismiss selfish thoughts and care only about making the peace process a success.”

Yudhoyono's statements came on the heel of rising tensions in Aceh ahead of the upcoming legislative elections.

Over the past few months, acts of violence, including murder, intimidation, shootings and terror threats targeting politicians have begun to mar the long-standing peace.

Indonesian Military chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said in Jakarta the violence could further escalate as the April 9 election day drew nearer.

Yudhoyono is on a two-day visit to Aceh to inaugurate reconstruction projects by the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR), worth a total of Rp 715.3 billion (US$59.6 million).

The projects include the reconstructions of Keuliling Dam in Aceh Besar, valued at Rp 270.3 billion; Aceh Polytechnic in Banda Aceh (Rp 160 billion); Ulee Lheue Crossing Port (Rp 74.2 billion); Aceh Tsunami Museum in Banda Aceh (Rp 67.9 billion); and the “Aceh Thanks the World” Park (Rp 2.4 billion).

The President also handed over Mandiri National Community Empowerment Program (PNPM Mandiri) funds worth Rp 222.9 billion in total for 30 regencies and municipalities in Aceh, as well as 3,000 basic commodities packages for underprivileged local residents.

He also witnessed the symbolic disbursement of loans for micro and small businesses, worth a total of Rp 300.7 billion, by three state-owned lenders: PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), PT Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) and PT Bank Mandiri.

Yudhoyono is also scheduled to meet with local community and religious figures.

Before departing for Aceh early Monday morning, Yudhoyono met with visiting former Finnish president and UN peace mediator Martti Ahtisaari at Halim Perdana Kusuma Airport in Jakarta, during which he asked the latter to continue helping observe the fragile peace process in Aceh.

Ahtisaari, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in October last year for peace negotiations he mediated, is on a four-day visit to Indonesia, during which he is scheduled to visit Aceh to see the progress of the peace process in the province.

Ahtisaari mediated the Aceh peace talks in Helsinki, which led to the historic end of three decades of conflict between the Indonesian government and GAM.

On Sunday, the renowned peacemaker met with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who was also actively involved in the Aceh peace negotiations. (naf)

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Agence France Presse

February 26, 2009

Cracks Appearing In Peace Pact

GUBERNATORIAL elections in 2006 brought former rebel leader Irwandi Yusuf to power, but April's vote will be the first time in decades that the people of Aceh will get to choose their local lawmakers.

The peace deal brought the former GAM rebels into power, allowed the establishment of provincial political parties and guaranteed the local government 70 per cent of revenues from Aceh's vast resources wealth.

But cracks are appearing in the pact, negotiated in the shocking aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami which killed 170,000 people in Aceh.

Many Acehnese feel Jakarta has failed to fully implement the terms of the deal and resource revenues are not flowing through to the people.

Thousands of demobilised rebels are without work or have been marshalled into various political camps, often with nothing much to do.

Significant slices of foreign aid have been appropriated to fund political activities, but that money is now running out as the aid agencies wind down their post-tsunami reconstruction projects, analysts said.

Ibrahim Syamsuddin, a spokesman for the Aceh Transitional Committee (KPA) charged with representing demobilised rebels, said former fighters were committed to peace but other, unknown parties wanted to provoke a new conflict.

'Don't try to provoke us to retaliate because we realise that our retaliation is what they have been waiting for,' he said, refusing to identify who might be behind the provocations.

He said many of the attacks had targeted the KPA and members of the Aceh Party, the ex-rebels' political vehicle.

Governor Yusuf and Ahtisaari agree that foreign monitors are needed to maintain peace during the polls, and Yudhoyono has promised to invite some.

'Voting is the right of every citizen... there can be no intimidation, coercion or use of force in elections,' the president said. -- AFP

 

 


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