Jakarta – Grenade launchers and Russian-made AK-47s were among 89 weapons handed over by separatist rebels in Aceh on Sept 15 – the first of a three-day arms decommissioning. The handover, part of the Aug 15 peace agreement, was witnessed by international monitors. About 60 rebels attended the ceremony, along with senior Indonesian government officials, military and police officers.
"I have mixed feelings because we have to let go of our heroes, the defenders of our dignity, our people and our land," said rebel spokesman Irwandi Yusuf. "But we have completed our mission of bringing the Acehnese people to this stage."
Under the peace deal, signed between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the rebels have to hand in a total of 840 weapons in four stages until the end of the year. Some 210 firearms are to be delivered to the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) during the next three days at separate locations.
For its part, the Indonesian government has already started to pull out of its troops from Aceh. On Sept 14, 1,300 members of the police's elite mobile brigade left Aceh. By December, only 14,700 military forces and 9,100 police officers are expected to remain in the province. There are now more than 30,000 troops in Aceh.
The fact that the peace timetable is proceeding as scheduled suggests that despite the lingering mutual suspicions and the occasional clashes on the ground, both the Indonesian government and GAM are eager to make sure that the peace agreement really works this time.
A senior GAM representative, Tengku Amni Ahmad Marzuki, told The Straits Times: "Although the ground situation is much better than before the signing, there are still attempts to intimidate GAM members who left the prisons or returned to their villages."
While GAM members have little trust in the Indonesian military (TNI), "we're committed to disarm". "Peace is a long process that involves a lot of trust-building," he said.
Chief of the TNI Aceh command, Major-General Supiadin, gave his assurance that former GAM members would be treated with dignity and honour. "They will be treated as brothers."
* Aceh rebels start handing over their weapons (The Jakarta Post, Sept 15)
* Aceh rebels to lay down arms today as troops pull out (The Straits Times, Sept 15)