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Jakarta's homework and maintaining trust in Aceh

Jakarta Post - February 27, 2012

Nani Afrida "Jakarta never keeps its promises," the Acehnese used to say. They would point to 1965, when founding father Sukarno promised them an autonomous province in return for their contribution to the fledgling republic; and 2001, when then president Megawati Soekarnoputri vowed that blood would no longer be spilled in Aceh.

Almost seven years after the 2005 peace deal, ending the war between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), Acehnese are still waiting for Jakarta's most prized promise: A 70 percent share of the revenues from their oil and gas reserves. The Acehnese have long blamed the central government's greed for their poverty, as most of the revenues from their rich resources went to state coffers.

Acehnese lawmaker Nasir Djamil said fulfilling all Jakarta's promises, as mandated in the Helsinki peace agreement, was urgent to maintaining the trust that the central government had finally gained from the Acehnese.

"Maintaining trust is part of the reconciliation between the central government and Aceh," said Nasir, the deputy chief of Commission III overseeing legal affairs and laws, human rights and security at the House of Representatives.

While the law on Aceh's governance was endorsed in 2006, "many regulations for the law's implementation have not been completed."

One of them was the joint management of revenue for Aceh's oil and gas. Nasir said the regulations must be completed soon to support Aceh's development, so that the Acehnese believed that the central government could be trusted.

The Aceh desk coordinator at the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amiruddin Usman, denied suggestions that the central government was not serious regarding Aceh. "We are in the process of deliberating those regulations. This is not easy because some of the necessary regulations collide with others." This adds to the country's legal mess.

He said a new regulation on Aceh's Sabang coastal regency alone involved 83 meetings with Acehnese authorities, experts and lawmakers. He said pending regulations were only the ones on oil and gas revenue management, and a few others.

Then there was the issue of reconciliation. In late 2006 the Constitutional Court annulled the 2004 law on the nationwide Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR), intended to address unresolved human rights violations, including those in relation to the 1960s witch-hunts of suspected communists.

The Court's ruling virtually blocked prospects for a provincial-level Commission in Aceh, while sensitivities over 1960s history, besides other chapters in Indonesia's past, has hampered discussions of a new law on reconciliation. "Aceh still needs the involvement of the government on the KKR mechanism," said Djuanda Jamal, the secretary-general of New Aceh, a civil society group.

The 2005 deal and Law No. 11/2006 on Aceh's governance state that the central government and the Aceh administration must address past rights abuses and establish a truth and reconciliation commission within a national-level commission.

Most conflict victims and former combatants have yet to receive compensation, while military officials implicated in human rights abuses during the war, military operations in 1989 and 1998 and the military emergency in 1999-2000, have not been brought to trial.

Amiruddin Usman acknowledged the set-up of the truth and reconciliation commission remained Jakarta's homework. However, he said the central government had fulfilled several points in the Helsinki agreement related to reconciliation.

"Reintegration, for instance, is part of reconciliation. We have released all GAM prisoners. We gave them amnesty and compensation," Amiruddin said, adding that Jakarta had spent Rp 2.4 trillion (US$266 million) for these purposes.

The government also established the Aceh Reintegration Agency (BRA) to help affected civilians rebuild new houses and schools that were burnt down.

Reconciliation between the central government and GAM leaders is still ongoing, Amiruddin said. "We meet once every three months" in Jakarta, Amiruddin said, without elaborating.

Zaini Abdullah, a prominent former GAM official, confirmed the regular meetings with the central government. "Mr Ahtisaari said that what happened in Aceh [with the peace agreement] was the beginning of peace and we had to maintain that," Zaini said. He was referring to Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari, who led the Helsinki peace talks.

Imam Suja, an Acehnese figure, said reconciliation was key to avoiding future conflicts. "Aceh has only finished part one of its reconciliation between GAM and the Indonesian military. But reconciliation is still needed between GAM and the Acehnese, between the military and human rights victims and so on," Imam said.

With the incomplete peace process, some have apparently invested in insurance: the suspected thousands of rifles remaining in private possession, just in case peace doesn't quite work out.

Pending points in MoU

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), signed on Aug. 15, 2005, has yet to be realized in full, owing to the slow deliberation of the necessary government regulations and legal contradictions following the endorsement of the Aceh governance law in September 2006. The following are selected pending issues of the MoU.


Article 1.3.4: "Aceh is entitled to retain 70 percent of the revenues from all current and future hydrocarbon deposits and other natural resources in the territory of Aceh as well as in the territorial sea surrounding Aceh".

Human rights

Article 2.2: "A Human Rights Court will be established for Aceh"

Article 2.3: "A Commission for Truth and Reconciliation will be established for Aceh by the Indonesian Commission of Truth and Reconciliation with the task of formulating and determining reconciliation measures".


Article 3.2.5: It states that all former combatants and all pardoned political prisoners "will receive an allocation of suitable farming land, employment, or, in the case of incapacity to work, adequate social security from the authorities of Aceh."

Note: At the peace talks GAM had stated there were 3,000 former combatants and later acknowledged there were thousands more, contributing to problems in distribution of funds and other resources.

Selected articles in Law No 11/2006 on the Government of Aceh which contradict or lack consistency with the MoU

Unfinished regulations to implement Law No 11/2006 See also:

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