Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

Jakarta Set to Submit Draft Laws on Aceh

by Salim Osman, Straits Times, December 16, 2005

[Any of this, especially the part about the division of a province to weaken a demand for self-government, sound familiar? -- Editor]

JAKARTA - THE Indonesian government is set to submit to parliament its draft of laws governing Aceh province next month in time for the peace deal deadline as groups of Acehnese clamour for the partition of the territory.

Under the terms of the Aug 15 peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the Indonesian government must enact a set of laws for Aceh by March 31. The laws will grant the territory the right to control its affairs and allow the former rebels to form their own political party.

The government's draft of the law has been debated by Aceh politicians, academics, clerics and even former GAM members. They have proposed at least five revisions, said Home Ministry official Sapnikmat.

But the draft does not include provisions for the partitioning of the territory as demanded last week by groups of Acehnese who wanted the creation of two provinces - the Aceh Leuser Antara and south-west Aceh.

'We are optimistic that the final draft will be ready by the end of the month for vetting by the State Secretary's Office. Once this is done, the draft will be submitted to parliament next month,' Mr Sapnikmat told The Straits Times.

The House of Representatives will have its recess until Jan 9. The government plans to submit the draft that week.

In the earlier drafts, GAM had proposed that Aceh be regarded as a region inside the unitary state of Indonesia but with special rights to be a member of the United Nations.

The proposed clause is in line with its demand for self-government in return for dropping the right to secede from Indonesia. But analysts say it is unlikely that Jakarta will agree to such a proposal.

It has also been proposed that Aceh be given freedom to include the shariah law in its legal system, the right to set up local political parties and to set its own bank interest rates. Mr Sapnikmat, of the ministry's regional development section, declined to say whether such proposals will still be in the final draft.

Meanwhile, proponents for the creation of Aceh Leuser Antara (ALA) and the South-west Aceh (ABS) provinces said they were going ahead with the demands even though the draft law on Aceh has made no reference to any partitioning of the territory. The two groups made a formal declaration in Jakarta last week to set up the two provinces on an area now occupied by 11 of Aceh's 21 regencies.

The two areas have large non-Acehnese population, mainly Gayo, Alas and Batak ethnic communities who feel they are treated as second class citizens by the Acehnese. Proponents of the partition claim the move is necessary to improve the welfare of people in those areas.

But scholars and former GAM leaders warned that such demands could undermine the peace accord. Nationalist elements in parliament, including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, led by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, are reportedly supporting the demands as it would weaken the position of the separatists.

The government is officially not giving any backing to the demands. 'We are currently focusing our efforts on fully implementing the peace deal,'said Information and Communication Minister Sofyan Djalil.