Jakarta - After five rounds of talks, the Indonesian government and Aceh rebels finally reached an agreement on July 17 to end 30 years of separatist fighting in the staunchly Muslim province. There were fears earlier that differences over the issue of political participation would scuttle the deal, which will be formally signed inHelsinki, Finland, on Aug 15.
"It is a historic moment. We finally reach a peaceful settlement that has been longed for so many years by the people of Aceh and the people of Indonesia," said Indonesian Information Minister Sofyan Djalil.
The two sides said that a compromise on the thorny issue of whether the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) would be able to form a political party without intervention from the central government had been achieved.
Details of the agreement were not made public but government delegation chief Hamid Awaluddin said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that would be signed on Aug 15 would cover the governing of Aceh, including political participation, as well as the questions of human rights, an amnesty for GAM members and their reintegration into society, security arrangements, and disputes settlement body.
It also calls for the establishment of an Aceh monitoring mission consisting of observers from Asean and European Union.
GAM negotiating team member Mohammed Nur Djuli said the draft agreement allowed the secessionist group to create a local political party. He said several legal arrangements would be made to accommodate the demand and "we (GAM) leave the matter to the Indonesian government and the Parliament".
In Jakarta, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla indicated his support for allowing GAM to set up its own localised party, saying the House of Representatives would have to agree to change the law to accommodate GAM's key demands.
The current law forbids the establishment of local political parties and stipulates that all parties must be headquartered in Jakarta and have representation in half of the country's provinces, something that GAM is unlikely to achieve.
* RI, GAM clinch peace deal (The Jakarta Post, July 18)
* Jakarta and Aceh rebels agree on new deal to end violence (The Straits Times, July 18)