The desire by the government of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to create an opportunity for a peace agreement and end the armed conflict with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) should be welcomed all elements of society. This positive signal should also be welcomed by GAM.
In a situation in Aceh post the tsunami disaster the offer made by the president it very timely although in truth late if compared with the offer made by the Sri Lankan government to the Tamil Tiger rebels. The offer does however provide a positive signal for improvements in the channeling of humanitarian aid as well as its efforts to rebuild Aceh.
In this regard we are of the view that neither the government or GAM should assert political preconditions on the peace agreement but instead focus on the facilitation of humanitarian aid, recovery and rebuilding Aceh. This is order that the agreement is not overshadowed beforehand by the political obsessions of the two parties – either GAM’s obsession with independence or the government’s obsession with special autonomy. With regard to aid, the two parties must therefore agree to a cease-fire for an unlimited period of time. A precondition for such a cease-fire to occur and to facilitate the flow of domestic and international aid is to halt all military operation in Aceh (regardless of its form and status).
Historically, peace agreements have invariably failed mid-way because there has been no involvement of other forces outside of the government and GAM. In a future agreement it is absolutely imperative that the government involve all existing political spectrums including students, political organisations, civil society, religious leaders and other public figures. As well as the involvement of these elements, international involvement is also needed in the form of the United Nations. The involvement of the UN is extremely beneficial and necessary in all peace negotiations, especially under the present conditions in Aceh. This can be seen from past negotiations which failed because there was no neutral foreign party which had the authority to act against the parties which violated the agreement. This is even more so in view of the post disaster situation in Aceh at the moment. Foreign involvement is absolutely necessary bearing in mind the rebuilding of Aceh which needs assistance from a number of parties, particularly international organisations. Thus the presence of the UN will be extremely important to monitor the rebuilding of Aceh as well as monitoring the development of the peace agreement.
The desire of both parties to discuss their political obsessions should be first put aside bearing in mind the psychological condition of the Acehnese people who are yet to recover from or are still experiencing the trauma of this horrific disaster. So trauma recovery, rebuilding infrastructure and the destroyed Acehnese people’s economy must be the first priority of this peace agreement.
In addition to this, in order to broaden the peace agreement with GAM as envisioned by the government, it must also first be preceded with a shift in the military operation in Aceh to a humanitarian operation by no longer carrying arms during operations, because carrying arms only adds to the trauma and fear of the Acehnese people. Military involvement in Aceh should be limited to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or a civil mission. Furthermore the government must also release all GAM political prisoners as a way to initiate the peace agreement.
The Acehnese Popular Democratic Resistance Front (FPDRA) therefore calls for the following:
1. We urge GAM to respond openly and welcome the offer for a peace agreement which has been made by the Indonesian government;
2. The peace agreement must be proceeded by a cease-fire by both parties and a shift in the function of the Indonesian armed forces in Aceh to one of humanitarian assistance or a civil mission;
3. We urge both parties to involve all political spectrums which exist in Aceh in negations including students, political organisations, religious leaders and other public figures;
3. We urge both parties to ensure foreign involvement in the negotiations, especially the UN, as a neutral party which has the authority to act against either party if they violate the peace agreement;
5. As referred to above, all elements which are involve in negotiations must have the authority, post negotiations, to rebuild Aceh together for an unlimited period of time both politically or in terms of rehabilitation.
In making this joint statement, our hope is for a single will to rebuild a just and democratic society in Aceh.
January 12, 2005
Central Organisational Committee of the Acehnese Popular Democratic Resistance Front (Front Perlawanan Demokratik Rakyat Aceh, FPDRA)
[Translated by James Balowski.]