Subject: SCMP: Monitors Warn Of War In Aceh

South China Morning Post

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Monitors warn of war in Aceh

Fabio Scarpello in Denpasar

A leading monitoring organisation has warned that violence is on the rise in Aceh and that a slackening in monitoring the peace could soon plunge the formerly war-torn Indonesian province back into conflict.

Asiah Uzia, co-ordinator for the NGO Aceh Kontras Worker Institution, said urgent action was needed if peace was to be preserved.

"The conflict is likely to start again if things are not improved," she said.

Aceh experienced an almost three-decade separatist war before a peace agreement was signed in August 2005. The conflict left about 30,000 dead and hindered the socioeconomic progress of the province, among the poorest in the country. In a recently released report, Kontras noted that murders, armed attacks, torture and arson more than doubled in the province in the past 12 months.

"We recorded 51 cases of violence last year, compared with 21 in 2006," Ms Asiah said.

The group suspected the police, military and members of the former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel group were behind most of the violence, in which 79 people were killed.

However, in a broader analysis, Ms Asiah pointed the finger at the Communication and Co-ordination Forum for Peace in Aceh (FKK) for failing to stop the deterioration in security.

The FKK was established to fill the void left by the European Union-led Aceh Monitoring Mission, which monitored the implementation of the peace agreement but moved out in December 2006.

Although the FKK successfully handled specific incidents, experts say its mandate and capacity are too limited to efficiently mediate on broader issues between the government and GAM.

"FKK's mandate is too vague and burdensome, and it has taken over tasks that really belong to the local government and to the police. This has weakened the local government and slowed the police's reaction to violence cases," Ms Asiah said.

She also argued the FKK had failed to make people more independent-minded. "This is important when it comes to recognising sources of violence, what triggers it and how to overcome it," she said.

Ms Asiah called on the forum to stick to its initial mandate, as well as on Jakarta to review the terms of the peace agreement and the reintegration policy for former combatants.

"The FKK should work with the local government, support reintegration with Indonesia and prevent violence," she said.

"As it stands, the current peace agreement is only going to increase the socioeconomic gap and trigger more violence."

Kontras also blamed worsening security on the lack of an early warning system to prevent conflict, an unfair and discriminatory law enforcement process, and on the role of security forces.

The group said police were weak and violent and the military kept interfering in socio-political matters.

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