Helsinki – The issue of political participation by former Aceh rebels following a peace settlement has emerged as a key sticking point in the fifth round of peace talks in Helsinki, Finland. Both sides had earlier expressed cautious optimism that the talks, which began on July 12, could end with a preliminary document for a peace agreement.
The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has demanded the right to create local political parties that are not controlled in Jakarta and to allow the province to largely rule itself - a demand flatly rejected by the Indonesian government.
According to the AFP, delegates from both sides could not reach an agreement on the issue after wrapping up their talks for the day on July 13. "That issue is a long way from decided," GAM political adviser Damien Kingsbury told the news agency.
In Jakarta, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo AS made it clear that the government would continue to refuse the separatists' political participation demands.
"The stance of the government is quite clear... demands for local political parties cannot be accommodated as there are regulations on political parties already in place nationwide," he told reporters.
Under the 1945 Constitution, all political parties in Indonesia must be organised on a nationwide basis. The government says it is willing to allow former GAM rebels to run in local elections for the positions of mayors, regents and vice-governors if they join existing, mostly Jakarta-based parties.
In a commentary published in The Jakarta Post on June 14, Mr Kingsbury, who is also the director of International and Community Development at Australia's Deakin University, said the government delegation in Helsinki must "make an offer that is comparable in its compromise to GAM's not bringing its claim for independence the talks".
"Such a compromise will require changing the existing legislation on both Aceh's 'special autonomy' and on the electoral laws. But it will also bring lasting peace, foreign investment and a new hope for the Indonesian nation…The alternative to this is that, having brought nothing new to the talks, the (Indonesian government) retreats to the status quo and guarantees a future filled with more death and destruction," said Mr Kingsbury.
* Aceh peace talks grapple with thorny political issue (The Jakarta Post, July 14)
* The best choice for Aceh and Indonesia (The Jakarta Post, July14)
* Govt rejects GAM’s demand to form local party in Aceh (Antara, July 13)