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Friday, May 19, 2006

About Aceh

What the new law on Aceh requires?
Opinion and Editorial - April 24, 2006 (the Jakarta Post)
Aguswandi, Banda Aceh
Aceh is currently still in a transition to peace. The province does not yet have a sustainable peace, and the new legislation being prepared for Aceh's political future, which is still being debated by lawmakers, will determine whether this transition will ensure a genuinely sustainable peace or mark the beginning of another conflict.

For the many Indonesians sensitive about foreign engagement in the Aceh conflict, peace is now in their hands. After all, the real peace process did not take place in Helsinki with the signing of the memorandum of understanding, but in Jakarta. The Helsinki agreement opened the door for peace. Now, it is up to Jakarta and the Indonesian people at large to decide how peace will prevail -- by approving or rejecting the draft law submitted by Aceh.
The March 31 deadline set in the Helsinki peace deal for the enactment of the law has already passed. There has been no public outcry to question or protest this. This is because the deadline itself is not that crucial and its passing could in fact have been expected. The problem is neither the delay nor the approval of the draft law itself, but whether it accommodates the aspirations of the majority of the Acehnese.
Indeed, the draft from Aceh reflects the aspirations of the majority. It is not just about the two parties -- the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the government of Indonesia -- anymore. After the two signed the MOU, the whole spectrum of communities and groups followed it up by transforming the peace deal into a draft law. The process may not have been ideal in terms of public engagement to produce and accommodate every possible aspiration, but it is the closest to the ideal of one voice and one aspiration by the Acehnese.
Through parliamentary drafts and various discussions that have taken place between key Acehnese figures, we can distinguish between the must-have points and the good-to-have points. These points must be considered by anybody interested in seeing what is essential and what is peripheral. This distinction will be at the heart of successfully addressing those core aspirations and ideas that have been at the heart of the province's conflict for many years.
Among the essential points is a demand for a greater authority for Aceh to run its own political and economic affairs. Acehnese must be allowed to run their local government without interference from Jakarta.
This is why Article 7, point 3, in the government-sponsored draft was deemed the most controversial point in this regard. This article states that in addition to certain government powers (in defense, foreign affairs, etc.), there are other government affairs which, by statutory regulations, are stipulated as the authority of the (central) government.
There is little clarity about what is meant by "other government affairs". The central government must make it clear that it is relinquishing authority in all matters except defense, foreign policy and monetary affairs (except as allowed in the MOU).
Politically, other must-have points should include further access to political participation by allowing the establishment of local political parties. Here, local political parties must follow the spirit of the MOU. This does not mean, as some have suggested, that it is necessary to have branch offices in other parts of Indonesia. Local means local. This is why independent candidates, including ex-GAM members, must be able to contest the elections so that local political issues can genuinely find a platform.
Of equal importance to politics are the provisions for economic autonomy. Aceh must be able to build up direct trade relationships with foreign groups/countries. This will allow the Acehnese to benefit from their strategic territorial position.
Aceh must have a full control over its natural resources, and ministers and bureaucrats in Jakarta must not hold the power to give away Aceh's resources, be they mineral, forestry or fishery. These powers, which include control over ports and airports, must be handed to Aceh.
What is being demanded in the draft law is in fact just a better version of the devolution of power that was supposed to be provided by the law on special autonomy. While the special autonomy law only gives limited power to Aceh, the draft law should provide greater room for Acehnese aspirations. The government has repeatedly told the Acehnese to "ask for anything, except independence" and now the draft law for Aceh asks just that.
For the many that have worked hard to achieve peace in Aceh, it is time to continue striving for the approval of a law that includes all the must-have points. We are almost able to touch the light at the end of tunnel. If we succeed, this could be the first conflict in Asia to be solved peacefully.
The writer is an Acehnese human rights advocate. He can be reached at agus_smur@hotmail.com.

Irwansyah Yahya Student of Economics Agra University, Agra - India

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Irwansyah Yahya. Student of Economic in Agra University, Agra - India