East Aceh – Although sporadic shootings continue to occur, Indonesian Communications and Information Minister Sofyan Djalil said on Oct 15 that the Aceh peace process, which began three months ago, is developing in a way that is beyond expectations.
"I am optimistic peace will be realised in Aceh," he told reporters on the sidelines of the second phase of the disarmament process in East Aceh.
"The surrender of weapons from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels to the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) team that has reached the second out of four scheduled stages has so far gone well. The planned withdrawal of non-organic forces from the region has also taken place smoothly," Mr Sofyan added.
Based on the peace deal signed in Helsinki in August, GAM is expected to hand over 840 weapons to the AMM by December. The AMM, led by the European Union and included members from several Asean countries, has been tasked with overseeing the implementation of the peace accord signed by GAM and the Indonesian government.
"So far almost 50 per cent of the weapons have been handed over for destruction," Mr Sofyan said.
In return for GAM's disarmament, the government has pledged to withdraw all its reinforcement troops in Aceh by the end of this year. Thus far, the Indonesian military (TNI) has already pulled out almost 6,000 troops and 2,000 police.
Mr Sofyan's optimism is shared by Mr Javier Solana, the European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
In a commentary in The Straits Times, Mr Solana wrote: "The first phase of decommissioning and demobilisation has gone smoother, and faster, than many expected. The second phase is taking place as we speak and two more phases are planned for next month and December.
"It is vital to keep up this good momentum and advance with the wider political process so that peace in Aceh can be entrenched."
Still, peace in Aceh remains fragile, as evidenced by several shooting incidents in recent days. On Oct 14, several Aceh separatists were shot as GAM began a second round of weapons decommissioning.
At least two separatists were wounded by government soldiers in Puedada district, some 12km from Idie in East Aceh, said a GAM spokesman. In a similar incident on Oct 12, police shot dead one alleged GAM member and wounded another in Jeuram district.
* Minister optimistic peace process in Aceh runs smoothly (Antara, Oct 16)
* Shootings mar Aceh disarmament (The Jakarta Post, Oct 15)
* How Aceh weathers the worst (The Straits Times, Oct 14)