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After Aceh peace deal: Learning from past mistakes
Opinion and Editorial - January 31, 2003
Kiki Syahnakri, Former Army Deputy Chief-of-staff, Jakarta
All the parties involved in the recent signing of the peace deal between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) deserve sincere appreciation, especially given the protracted conflict in Aceh and the vast loss of life and material damage there. The question of Aceh has eroded the nation's reputation and tarnished the image of its military (TNI) and police, the forces assigned to maintain security, law and order to ensure national integrity and act as the vanguard of the state's sovereignty.
Yet we must also criticize the policies and process toward the signing of the treaty. Prior to the signing of the peace deal preconditions that would suit the government's terms were needed, and there were principles in terms of security, politics and diplomacy that we had to continue to uphold.
We cannot leave the framework of the unitary state of the republic, which includes Aceh; and there must be assurances that GAM also has good intentions and agrees that the solution to the issue must be made within this framework.
Dozens of times AGAM, GAM's military wing, has violated the peace deal by intercepting members of our military/police or undertaking other forms of military action against them. Credible sources have revealed that GAM held a secret meeting between Jan. 3 and Jan. 5 in Nisam district, North Aceh.
Among the decisions reached were that GAM would lay down its arms only after the military had done likewise under the supervision of the United Nations; and that GAM would immediately set up a civilian government in Aceh to replace the Indonesian government at the village and district levels.
GAM also decided it would recruit young people from all parts of Aceh to reinforce its troops. It would also intensify tax collection and replace personnel considered to have not lived up to expectations. Then, GAM members who had surrendered and NGO members who were not in favor of GAM must be kidnapped. Finally, it was decided that GAM's administrative structure must be improved.
The meeting, also attended by a number of leading ulema, voiced the resolve that once the peace deal could remain in force, "the republic's personnel" would be wiped out from Aceh. If this information is fully or partly correct, authorities are right to say that the peace deal needs reviewing, and that Indonesia would even withdraw from the deal if necessary.
In East Timor, back in 1985, then independence leader Xanana Gusmao diverted the focus of his struggle from an armed front to political diplomacy -- he moved from jungle to city.
The independence movement Fretilin/CNRT adopted a clandestine method to develop resistance in the towns across East Timor and even beyond. Despite heavy pressure from the TNI and the police, this method worked well and Xanana -- regardless of the complexity of the problem as a result of Indonesia's failed approaches and policies and the presence of an international conspiracy -- successfully turned East Timor into a new state.
East Timor was able to gain independence through clandestine methods even under strong pressure from Indonesia, so how could GAM be given the golden opportunity to carry out its actions openly and freely right in front of us?
A senior Indonesian diplomat has proudly claimed that we have successfully made GAM shift from armed resistance to diplomacy. But this is exactly what GAM desires. It would be much easier for GAM to consolidate itself and mobilize support, establish communications and so forth in the present situation.
In this post-peace deal situation GAM will likely open up three fronts -- the armed front, the political front and the diplomatic front -- to increase support from the Acehnese and the world. By then, GAM will enjoy wider access to the Acehnese and the international community. The access enjoyed by the TNI and police would, on the other hand, be narrower.
Also, GAM would likely mobilize popular power through appeals and intimidation so that people would join rallies, instigate rioting in opposition to the government and drive out of Aceh the locally stationed and dispatched security apparatus of the TNI and police. Then the measures planned by the Joint Security Committee -- confidence building steps, the demilitarization of GAM, rehabilitation/economic assistance and so forth -- would never be realized and peace would not be achieved.
What is GAM and how must we cope with it? This is the same as questioning the problem of Aceh itself. The question of Aceh may be construed as an armed rebellion likely to reoccur. Aceh has become a national issue placing the state (the people and government, including TNI) in confrontation with GAM as an armed separatist group.
From the view of international humanitarian law, GAM is an armed grouped undertaking an armed rebellion. It is organized militarily and takes up arms to resist the authorities and terrorize the people. It may thus be categorized as a combatant.
The question of Aceh is the fruit of the government's failure to implement development in an integrated manner. Hence Aceh has not seen the fruits of welfare, justice and democracy. This has led to disobedience, insurgency and armed rebellion, with wide, primoridal-based support. In this process, foreign intervention cannot be avoided.
The only way an armed rebellion with a guerrilla pattern can be dealt with is by combining diplomacy and military operations, plus integrated rehabilitation measures to "win the hearts and minds of the people". An armed movement will fail or be weakened if the people take sides with authorities.
So, the combined results of cooperation and coordination between the regional and central government, the TNI and the police, non-governmental organizations and the local community is a must. Mere diplomatic negotiations will not last or will even be doomed to failure; meaning our interests cannot be accommodated if military activities or security operations are not employed to strengthen our bargaining position at the negotiating table.
Yet if we only adopt the security approach, we will never arrive at a final settlement and new problems will crop up.
Even if the plan drawn up by the JSC can be put into practice to achieve lasting peace in Aceh within the unitary republic, this does not mean an immediate end to the problem.
The aspiration nurtured by GAM for independence will gain strength again if the government fails to bring prosperity, justice and democracy to the region.
Let's learn from East Timor. Indonesia's funds were largely spent on building infrastructure, many of which locals did not need. Schools were built without prior survey so that in some places there are schools with very few or no students at all.
Given Aceh's potential, sectors directly linked with the improvement of the standard of living such as agriculture, plantations and cattle breeding, can be developed.
If the funds of over Rp 6 trillion allocated for Aceh in the 2002 budget year is used well, it would be very effective in supporting efforts to solve the problem. This budget would not fund military operations but regional development.
Another lesson from East Timor is that we must work to reduce and avoid issues that can be exploited and exposed by GAM and its sympathizers as violations of Acehnese human rights.
A truly professional military and police will thus be needed. They must master the law and be proficient in applying it. They must know exactly who they must shoot, arrest or kill.
Aceh's situation following the signing of the peace pact is a test for this country to see whether we can properly manage conflicts and retain our integrity -- or whether our conflict management will be a bad precedent that threatens the existence of our nation state.