Subject: Peace Prize For Death Penalty Executioner?

September, 14 2006 @ 09:08 am

Peace Prize For Death Penalty Executioner?

Online bookmakers from Australia, the UK and the US are tipping President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to win this year's <>Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace to Aceh province. But the president might have undermined his chances by defending his refusal to revoke the death penalty for three <>Christian militiamen facing execution over religious violence in Central Sulawesi province.

The five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee has received 191 nominations for this year's prize and will announce the winner in Oslo on October 13. Several online bookmakers have named Yudhoyono and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari as favorites.

Ahtisaari's <>Crisis Management Initiative brokered the August 2005 truce in Helsinki between the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government, aimed at ending almost three decades of war that had killed about 15,000 people, mostly civilians. So far the peace pact has been surprisingly successful, although an international mission has decided to extend its presence in the run-up to local elections due to be held on December 11.

Odds On

In addition to Yudhoyono and Ahtisaari, other strong contenders include Rebiya Kadeer, a women's rights activist/philanthropist from China's Muslim Uighur region; veteran world peace rockers Bob Geldof and Bono; Vietnamese rights activist Thich Quang Do; and Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Outside chances include figures ranging from talk show queen Oprah Winfrey to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, while the rank outsider is US President George W. Bush. Among the nominees are 23 organizations, including Oxfam, Save the Children, Amnesty International, Salvation Army, ICRC and SOS Children's Villages.

Following is a look at the odds being offered by several online bookmakers on the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

<>Centrebet (Australia)

YUDHOYONO, Susilo Bambang: 4-1 AHTISAARI, Martti/CRISIS MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE: 5-1 KADEER, Rebiya: 11-1 BONO: 21-1 GELDOF, Bob: 21-1 DO, Thich Quang: 34-1 CHAVEZ, Hugo: 101-1 WINFREY, Oprah: 201-1 BLAIR, Tony: 501-1 BUSH, George W. :501-1 HOWARD, John: 501-1

<>bet365 (UK)

Martti Ahtisaari: 4-1 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: 4-1 Jeff Halper: 8-1 Thich Quang Do: 9-1 Vaclav Havel:10-1 Rebiya Kadeer: 11-1 Sir Bob Geldof: 11-1 Bono: 17-1 Oxfam: 41-1

<>Sportingbet Australia

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: 4.5-1 Martti Ahtisaari: 4.5-1 Thich Quang Do: 7.5-1 Rebiya Kadeer: 9-1 Jeff Halper: 11-1 Bob Geldof: 15-1 Bono: 26-1 Oprah Winfrey: 61-1 Hugo Chavez: 61-1 George W Bush: 201-1

<>Paddy Power (Ireland) Martii Ahtisaari (CMI): 5-1 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: 6-1 Bob Geldof: 6-1 Bono: 9-1 Rebiya Kadeer: 10-1 Jeff Halper: 14-1 Thich Quang Do: 14-1 Oprah Winfrey: 66-1 George Bush: 250-1

<>Stan James (UK) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: 7-2 Martti Ahtisaari: 7-2 Thich Quang Do: 7-1 Rebiya Kadeer: 8-1 Jeff Halper: 10-1 Bob Geldof: 14-1 Bono: 25-1 Oprah Winfrey: 50-1 Hugo Chavez: 50-1

<> (US) Martti Ahtisaari: 2.5-1 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: 2.5-1 Jeff Halper: 5-1 Thich Quang Do: 8-1 Rebiya Kadeer: 9-1 Sir Bob Geldof: 8-1 Bono: 13-1 Oprah Winfrey: 80-1 George W Bush: 1000-1

The bookmakers are generally offering win only/singles only bets, which means that if Yudhoyono and Ahtisaari are joint winners, dead-heat rules would apply and the odds would be halved. Some punters are tipping Ahtisaari over Yudhoyono, as the former Finnish leader was not only involved in the Aceh peace process, but also in the decommissioning of IRA weapons in Northern Ireland, as well as peace work in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Stein Toennesson, head of Oslo's Peace Research Institute, told Reuters it might be impossible for the Nobel Committee to give the prize to Yudhoyono without also awarding GAM. But he said it would be hard for the committee to give the peace prize to GAM founder Hasan di Tiro, as he was the leader of an armed rebellion for decades. Tiro has been ill for many years and there has been speculation that if a GAM leader is to be honored, it may be Malik Mahmud, who signed the 2005 peace accord.

In Indonesia, analysts have pointed out that Vice President Jusuf Kalla played a much greater role than Yudhoyono in resolving the Aceh conflict. But Kalla is apparently not on the list of nominations.

Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad, who is also secretary of the Nobel Committee, is pleased the peace prize has become the subject of gambling. "I think it is wonderful that the world is so interested in the Nobel Peace Prize that they have started this process of betting," he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

'Death Penalty For Serious Crimes'

Yudhoyono, during a visit to the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Wednesday (13/9/06), defended his decision to refuse clemency to Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva, who authorities have said will be executed soon for the premeditated murder of Muslims and inciting deadly religious riots in Poso, Central Sulawesi, between May and June 2000. Rights groups have demanded the three be spared, arguing they were merely pawns in a political game and because authorities have failed to punish the masterminds of the Poso violence. Some Christian groups claim the planned executions are merely an effort to “balance” the impending death sentences for three Islamic militants involved in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

The Poso three were due to face the firing squad last month, but the executions were postponed at the last minute, with authorities claiming they did want to disturb the country's August 17 Independence Day celebrations. Independence Day has now passed but a new execution date is yet to be set. Could it be that Yudhoyono does not want to ruin his chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize? Unlikely, given that he was unafraid to discuss the issue in Oslo.

He said all parties, including the international community, should not link the death penalty to the religions of those on death row. "Do not associate any crime with the religious identity of the convict. The death penalty is imposed upon anyone committing a serious crime," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara. He was speaking at a joint press conference with <>Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Yudhoyono denied claims that no Muslims had been brought to justice over the Poso violence. "That is not true," he said, adding that many people have been tried in connection with various conflicts in Indonesia. He said he could not name them individually, but "trust us that we will always respect supremacy of the law and as a leader I must be fair and assure that anyone found guilty must be justly punished".

Commenting on violence in Poso and elsewhere in the country, Yudhoyono said the government had to deal with two issues: conclusion of the conflict and law enforcement. He said violence must be stopped by strengthening harmonious relations among community members through the development of tolerance and brotherhood. Meanwhile, he added, supremacy of the law must be upheld over any crime in the country.

Rights groups say that's far from reality. For example, they accuse the government and judiciary of giving special treatment to Jaffar Umar Thalib, leader of the now defunct militant Islamic organization Laskar Jihad, which slaughtered thousands of Christians in Central Sulawesi and the Maluku islands. Thalib was arrested in May 2002 on charges of inciting hatred and religious violence, and insulting the president. While in jail he was visited by then vice president Hamzah Haz, who referred to him as his "Muslim brother" in a gesture of Islamic solidarity. Thalib was soon released on bail and his trial was postponed in early August 2002 because the judge decided that he was unwell. The judge said: "I see that you're pale. We don't want to examine someone who is unhealthy - I hope you can get well soon". The trial resumed later in August. In January 2003 Thalib was found not guilty despite overwhelming evidence.

In contrast, rights groups say the 2001 trial of Tibo and his associates may not have been fair because there were reports of demonstrators armed with stones outside the courthouse, demanding the three be sentenced to death, and their legal representatives were subjected to intimidation, including death threats. There are also concerns that witness testimony provided as evidence by the defense might have been ignored by the court.

During Wednesday's press conference, Stoltenberg spoke of the need for all parties and countries to respect human rights. Yudhoyono later in the day spoke at Oslo's Nobel Institute, outlining his government's achievements in bringing peace to Aceh. "Old people and Acehnese children can now sleep soundly without feeling frightened. The Acehnese people are now re-engaging in farming, business and construction... Children have returned to schools. Teachers have resumed teaching without being afraid their schools will be burned down," he said.

'Humbled' Responding to his Nobel Peace Prize nomination, Yudhoyono said he felt "humbled" and pointed out that many sides had helped to bring peace to Aceh. "Many people, many sides have contributed to ending conflict in Aceh. I have to admit that, and I think credit must be given to all parties, to everybody who has been part of this peace process of ending conflict in Aceh - on both sides," he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"I am humbled to be nominated for the Nobel prize, but my focus, my task and my work is now ensuring that the ongoing peace process in Aceh is moving well and achieving the overall objective of peace in Aceh," he added.

Yudhoyono declined to speculate on whether a GAM executive might be a co-recipient of the peace prize. "I don't want to go into that arena," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The president will conclude his Norway visit on Thursday after meetings with Crown Prince Haakon, parliament speaker Thorbjorn Jagland and members of the parliament's foreign affairs committee. He will next visit Cuba before returning to Indonesia.

Wexler Yudhoyono was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in January 2006 by US Democratic congressman Robert Wexler, who called the former general a "campaigner for peace".

In his letter to the Nobel Committee, Wexler said that although the people of Indonesia had been forced to endure many hardships over the past year, such as the December 2004 tsunami disaster and the outbreak of bird flu, Yudhoyono and his government should be commended for remaining firmly committed to addressing the country's political, economic and humanitarian needs. "By focusing efforts on ending internal disputes, President Yudhoyono has enabled his government to focus its energies and capabilities on serving the people of Indonesia in times of crisis. President Yudhoyono's forward thinking and willingness to take risks for peace reflects the spirit of the Nobel Prize's history," said the letter.

"In working to resolve the dispute in Aceh, President Yudhoyono simultaneously worked towards many of the goals of the prize's selection committee. He helped resolve an armed conflict through a negotiated agreement that incorporates both arms control and disarmament. Furthermore, he has helped to restore to the citizens of the province of Aceh their human and political rights for representation in governance... Yudhoyono has shown himself to be a true reformer and campaigner for peace, and as such, it is my opinion that he is especially worthy of the Nobel Prize Committee's consideration," concluded Wexler.

East Timor, Papua, Poso & Munir Pebbles The Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded in 1901. There was considerable outrage in Indonesia in 1996 when it was jointly awarded to East Timorese independence activists <>Bishop Carlos Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta "for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor".

Under the rule of ex-dictator Suharto, Indonesia in 1975 invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor and began systematically oppressing the people. An estimated one-third of the territory's population lost their lives due to starvation, epidemics, war and terror. Following the fall of Suharto in 1998, Indonesia agreed to allow the United Nations to hold an independence referendum in East Timor in 1999. An overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted for freedom, but the plebiscite was marred by a series of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Indonesian military and its militia proxies. To avert calls for an international tribunal, Indonesia subsequently established a special human rights court that tried a handful of military, police, civilian and militia officials over the carnage. There were a few convictions, but the guilty security officials remained free pending appeal and later had their verdicts overturned. The only person to remain sentenced by the court is former militia leader Eurico Guterres.

Indonesia last year sought to defuse calls for justice by establishing a joint Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) with East Timor, which had achieved full independence in 2002. But there was a bump in relations earlier this year when East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao presented the UN with a report that said Indonesia was responsible for up to 180,000 deaths in East Timor during its 1975-1999 occupation.

Activists say that if Yudhoyono is to truly take on the mantle of peacemaker, he must find a lasting solution to conflict in resource-rich but underdeveloped Papua province, where there has been a sporadic rebellion since Indonesia took over the territory from the Dutch in the 1960s. The province has been under the spotlight this year, starting with 43 Papuan asylum seekers arriving in Australia and accusing the Indonesian military of using the same brutal tactics it employed during the occupation of East Timor. Also, US-based gold and copper mining giant Freeport has come under pressure over its payments of millions of dollars of protection money to Indonesian security forces tasked to guard the firm's vast Grasberg mine in Papua.

The government has also been criticized for failing to end sporadic communal violence and terror attacks in Central Sulawesi. Analysts have suggested that much of the unrest is linked to local political and military corruption. Yudhoyono has also been lambasted for his apparent reluctance to resolve the murder of human rights crusader Munir. Critics say these cases show the president is inconsistent in his commitment to upholding peace and justice.

Aceh's rebel movement in March <>urged the Nobel Committee to reject the nomination of Yudhoyono for the peace prize, saying that hundreds of human rights violations - including extortion, intimidation, abductions, rapes arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, deaths in custody, disappearances and extrajudicial executions – occurred when he was chief security minister in the Wahid and Megawati governments. The movement also said abuses continued unchecked over the first year of Yudhoyono's presidency.

Criticism aside, most analysts agree that Yudhoyono is the best thing to happen to Indonesia since the fall of Suharto. And there's no denying he defied all odds by bringing peace to Aceh.

By: Roy Tupai

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