NECF Malaysia "For Your Intercession" No. 3 - July 1, 2003
Crisis in ACEH
A BRIEF REPORT:
Aceh, a province of 4.3 million people on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, is one of the most staunch Muslim regions of Indonesia and its people favor the imposition of Islamic code, Sharia.
When Indonesia declared independence in 1945, Aceh was included without any uproar. "The rebellion started only in 1953 when the central government introduced a new policy, abolishing the autonomous province of Aceh, stopping free trade between Aceh and its neighbours, and dissolving the Acehnese-dominated division of the military. The rebellion was crushed…" (Straits Times Interactive, 12 Dec. 2002).
Nevertheless, the current war began in 1976, when the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, or GAM) was founded on 4th December by Hasan di Tiro - a descendant of the last sultan of Aceh. GAM has always contended that Aceh was never belonged to the Dutch and therefore should not be incorporated into the Republic of Indonesia in 1949. The struggle was further stimulated by the perceived inequity in distribution of revenues, the reported brutality by the Indonesian military and the corruption of Indonesian government.
It has been reported that the current war is one of the longest-running in the world and has claimed an estimated 12,000 lives by the end of year 2002, many of them civilian (LA Times, 10 Dec. 2002)
On December 9th 2002, the Indonesian government and GAM leaders signed a landmark peace treaty, known as the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, in Geneva (after 26 years of warfare), hoping to bring an end to the Aceh conflict. The agreement called for the disarmament of the rebels and a reduction of government forces. Earlier the government granted Aceh special autonomy status that permitted the province to implement Sharia, and as much as 70% of the revenue from oil and gas production.
The truce has allowed the general Acehnese to enjoy normal and peaceful life. However, fear and uncertainty is once again gripping Aceh province as tension rises between the government and GAM over the implementation of the peace accord. Mistrust and failure to honor commitments on both sides contributed to the collapse of the peace treaty. The later meeting in Tokyo was unsuccessful because Indonesia was already committed to military campaign.
On May 19 2003, the Indonesian government declared martial law in Aceh and gave the military sweeping powers that would last for 6 months with extension allowable.
Malaysia has been pressing for an immediate end to the conflict that might destabilize the entire region. "There are also fears that GAM separatists may cross over to Malaysia in their flight from the war zone in a bid to reconstitute themselves as an opposing force in exile" (IslamOnline, 21 May 2003). Meanwhile, GAM is known to have a political wing in Malaysia, represented by exiled members who broke away in the early 1980s.
Nevertheless, at the close of the 36th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Phnom Penh (ended on 17 June), ASEAN held to its principle of non-interference in the internal problems of member countries. It was reported that the Foreign Ministers reasserted their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Indonesia and recognized the efforts made by the Indonesian Government to restore peace and order in Aceh (http://www.suaram.org/update/urgent_appeal_20030618.htm)
Jakarta Post reported that schools and teachers have been the targets of violence; 507 school buildings were burnt down since May 19th, resulting in 70,000 students with no school to attend (24 June 2003).
The Indonesian government has announced that those suspected of supporting the freedom movement will be charged with treason. Asia-AFP reports that Indonesian military launches air strikes against suspected rebel positions in the province forcing about 10,000 residents to flee their home (July 1, 2003). The international community is still silent on the issue of Aceh.
SUGGESTED PRAYER POINTS:
- God's favor and mercies be upon Aceh. Healing and reconciliation between Indonesian government and Aceh.
- Divine intervention for cease-fire. Indonesian government to withdraw the declaration of war and martial law in Aceh
- Greater transparency, willingness to listen
- To stop all military operations in Aceh promptly and withdraw their armies to reduce tension in Aceh;
- To return to the negotiation table and seek solutions to stop conflict in Aceh through peaceful means;
- To allow international peace observers to monitor human rights and development programs without fear and harassment
- To allow for freedom of speech and assembly for the people in Aceh to express their political aspirations.
- The displaced Acehnese civilian:
- Indonesians may have compassion for them and willing to care for them to prevent the influx of refugees to neighboring countries that may cause unnecessary trouble
- The unrest situation may not be used by certain groups to cause "terror"
- Protection for non-combatants, e.g. women, children and the elderly.
- Other governments in the region
- Wisdom and cooperation to pressure Indonesian government for a ceasefire
- Be on alert for potential terrorists in respective countries as a result of war.