Jakarta - Even as the Indonesian military (TNI) claimed that the security climate in Aceh was improving, a former member of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) was shot dead on Aug 21. It was the first reported case of violence since GAM and the Indonesian government signed a peace agreement to end 30 years of conflict in Aceh in Aug 15.
The dead man was Arifin, a 32-year-old rebel turned farmer. A GAM spokesman suggested that the shooting "could have been carried out by GAM members" who deemed Arifin a traitor.
In Jakarta, TNI Commander, General Endriartono Sutarto, said the security condition in Aceh had been "conducive" following the signing of the peace deal.
"The condition in Aceh is conducive. This is based on our observation in the field. I am not fabricating reports," he said after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
While there had been several incidents - attributed to the work of Aceh rebels - Gen Endriartono said it was not a reflection on GAM's stance. "They are but one or two disobedient GAM members. We understand that there are factions within GAM, and there are those who oppose the peace agreement," the general said.
Under the peace agreement, GAM gave up its long-standing demand for independence and agreed to disarm and demobilise its 3,000 fighters. For its part, the government agreed to withdraw its reinforcement troops by the end of the year, offer amnesty to GAM members and to allow for the establishment of local political parties in the province.
In a commentary published in The Jakarta Post, writer Desra Percaya, who is with the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations, noted that GAM is a loose separatist movement whose leaders live in Stockholm.
As such, the movement "lacks a strong grip and solid influence over its followers in the field, especially the armed elements", he said.
"The fact that its leadership was out of touch with reality in the field was a key factor in the group's failure to successfully implement previous agreements.
"It is therefore the responsibility of the leaders of the group to show greater commitment and involvement, and convince their followers in the field to fully implement the accord. Of particular interest here is the need for the leadership to ensure that the hardliners do not stray from the terms of the accord."
He added that one of GAM's biggest challenges now is to transform itself from an armed separatist group into a political party.
Mr Desra suggested that to further boost confidence among all sides that the peace pact signed on Aug 15 is for real, it is time for the top leaders from both sides - President Yudhoyono and GAM leader Hasan di Tiro - to meet.
* Violence mars Aceh peace-building (The Jakarta Post, Aug 25)
* Towards a lasting peace in rebellious Aceh (The Jakarta Post, Aug 24)