Are the international monitors in Aceh too powerful?

Updated On: Sep 30, 2005

Jakarta – The implementation of the Aug 15 Aceh peace pact seems to be proceeding as well as anyone could hope for. The first phase of disarmament on the part of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and troop relocation on the part of the Indonesian military (TNI) was completed in just two weeks, twice as fast as expected. Encouraged by the progress, the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) has called for the disarmament and withdrawal process to be accelerated. 

     In a statement released in Brussels on Sept 27, the AMM said it hopes that the second phase could begin ahead of a scheduled date of Oct 15, reported the DPA news service. 
     It quoted Mr Peiter Feith, head of the 219-strong team of international observers, as saying that it is important to maintain the positive momentum in Aceh. According to the AMM, the Indonesian government has withdrawn 6,671 soldiers and 1,300 police from the province while GAM rebels have surrendered 243 weapons. 
     Under the peace agreement signed in Helsinki, the AMM – which comprised some 128 observers from the European Union, Norway and Switzerland, with Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Singapore completing the picture – is given wide powers to carry out its task.  
     Among other things, the AMM is authorised to monitor changes in legislation related to the peace agreement and to  launch investigations if such changes deviate from the principles of the agreement.
      In a commentary published in The Jakarta Post, university lecturer Aleksius Jemadu, said the head of the AMM is also authorised to rule on any dispute and that his ruling is binding on all sides.
     If the two parties cannot agree on the ruling by the AMM head, "the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Crisis Management Initiative will make a ruling which will be binding on the parties". 
     While GAM views the wide-ranging powers given to AMM as crucial in ensuring that the peace agreement doesn't end in grief like the previous pacts, "the Indonesian government is beginning to develop a different perception of the role of AMM", said Mr Jemadu.
      "When President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono briefed the military top brass recently on the substance of the peace agreement, he convinced them that they should not worry about the role of the AMM as the body was not authorised to rule on any dispute between the two sides.
     "He said that such authority belonged to the central government. This statement by the President appears to contradict the substance of the peace agreement," wrote Mr Jemadu, who is head of the Department of International Relations at Bandung'Parahyangan University
     He said the biggest test for the survival of the Aug 15 agreement "will arise when it is time to change the legislation and whether the Indonesian government will abide by the AMM rulings if there are legitimate complaints from GAM regarding incompatibility between the proposed new legislation and the principles contained in the peace agreement".
     "It is very likely that the Indonesian side will face difficulties in fulfilling its obligations in accordance with those principles," Mr Jemadu said. 

* Aceh observers say faster disarmament, troop withdrawal is possible (The Jakarta Post, Sept 27)

* AMM's role could be a contentious issue (The Jakarta Post, Sept 27)