Jakarta – A peace agreement over Aceh may have been reached but it appears to be "business as usual" on the ground, with the rebels claiming that 10 people have been killed in two days of separate military attacks. The clashes prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to order the Indonesian military (TNI) to stop its offensive against Aceh rebels.
"The President has asked TNI chief Gen Endriartono Sutarto not to launch any more offensives against the separatists for the sake of the peace deal," Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi said after a Cabinet meeting on July 20.
Minister of Communications and Information Sofyan A. Djalil said: "The President made it very clear in the meeting that the TNI must take a defensive posture in case of attacks by GAM fighters. There is a possibility that they (soldiers) will remain in their barracks in the meantime."
Government negotiators and representatives from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) concluded their fifth round of talks on July 15 with a draft deal that could end decades of armed conflict in the province. The two sides are scheduled to formally sign a peace agreement in Helsinki, Finland, on Aug 15.
The peace deal stipulates, among others, the withdrawal of reinforcement troops from Aceh and the surrender of GAM weapons. The government is also considering allowing GAM to form its own political party that would be able to contest local elections in 2009.
In a commentary published in The Jakarta Post, Mr Haris Azhar said the way the situation develops in the run-up to Aug 15 will indicate whether the agreement will really bring lasting peace to Aceh.
"It will also be a good time to practise implementing the new peace plan for the area. A learning period would make the Acehnese more relaxed after the Aug 15 deal. Members of the TNI, National Police and GAM must all make use of this time," said Mr Haris, the head of studies and documentation with the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence.
He said all parties that could create violence in Aceh have an obligation to ensure that the weeks to Aug 15 pass peacefully. "Peace in Aceh is not a dream; it is a must."
* Susilo orders troops in Aceh to back off (The Jakarta Post, July 21)
* Details to be ironed out for Aceh peace agreement (The Jakarta Post, July 21)