Jakarta – If the events of the past few days are any indication, the peace process in Aceh seems to have gotten off to a good start, with both sides keeping to their end of the bargain. The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has thus far surrendered 279 weapons to the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM). On Sept 18, some 800 soldiers from the Indonesian military (TNI) left Aceh as part of the phased withdrawal of reinforcement troops from the province.
Major-General Supjadin, the military commander for the Iskandar Muda camp in Aceh, said about 6,000 troops from 11 battalions would be pulled out of the province in the coming week as part of the peace agreement signed in Helsinki, Finland, on Aug 18.
The withdrawal of the troops will take place in four stages that must be completed by Dec 31. For its part, GAM must surrender 840 weapons by then. Of the more than 200 weapons surrendered by GAM, 30 were rejected for failing to meet the agreed standards while 23 others were still being verified.
Still, AMM chief Pieter Feith said after witnessing the troop pullout: "This is a good start to the peace process."
Mr Feith's team, comprising monitors from the European Union and Asean, is overseeing the withdrawal of some 25,000 TNI soldiers and 5,000 police personnel from Aceh, the disarmament of GAM and further steps to create lasting peace in the province, where 15,000 people have died in three decades of armed conflict.
Although many fear that the peace accord could still collapse, TNI chief, General Endriartono Sutarto, expressed satisfaction with GAM for showing its commitment to the peace agreement.
"We thank GAM and feel surprised by their moves to comply with the peace accord," Gen Endriartono said on Sept 17.
But he warned GAM against displaying or possessing weapons after the disarmament process is completed at the end of the year.
"If that happens, the TNI will take the necessary legal measures against them," Gen Endriartono said.
* TNI starts Aceh pullout (The Jakarta Post, Sept 19)