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Government extends martial law in Aceh BANDA ACEH - The government has decided to extend martial law in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, admitting that the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) had remained strong six months into the military offensive in the troubled province. Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a press conference here on Monday that President Megawati Soekarnoputri had accepted a proposal from Cabinet members and Acehnese leaders to extend the martial law and the joint operation against GAM rebels.
"In terms of personnel and weaponry, GAM rebels remain strong and they have changed their tactics to full guerrilla warfare," Susilo said after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Megawati. Vice President Hamzah Haz attended the meeting. According to Susilo, President Megawati would decide on the duration of the extension during a plenary Cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said after the meeting that the extension would likely be another six months. Megawati issued a decree in May imposing martial law in Aceh for a period of six months in a bid to crack down on GAM rebels who have been fighting for independence for the resource-rich province since 1976. Over 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since then.
According to the Indonesian Military (TNI), some 40,000 troops and police personnel had managed to capture or kill more than half of GAM's slightly over 5,000 members but confiscated only 459 of the rebels' estimated 2,000 weapons. The government had allocated Rp 1.3 trillion (US$153million) funds for the joint operation. In her speech during the 58th anniversary of TNI on Oct. 5, Megawati pledged to settle the Aceh problem once and for all.
Susilo said the extension was needed to maintain security in the province ahead of the general elections in 2004. Susilo disclosed that the extension would also provide terms to open access for both international and local humanitarian organizations to enter Aceh. The government also decided to provide amnesty for GAM members who voluntarily surrender and agree to pledge loyalty to Indonesia, to be implemented within the next four to six months.
"We will discuss with the House of Representatives the process to grant amnesty for GAM members that agree to stay loyal to the country," the minister added. Commenting on the House request to consult legislators about the decision, Susilo said the President had full authority to extend martial law. "We will consult the House, but not look for approval as it is the right of the President to extend the imposition of martial law," he said.
Deputy House Speaker Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno, who chairs the Aceh monitoring team, hinted that the House understood the decision. "We see the outcome of the martial law in Aceh is positive. I agree with the extension of martial law," Soetardjo told the press at his office here on Monday. Soetardjo emphasized that martial law in Aceh had been implemented transparently, enabling the people to monitor the daily operations in Aceh.
Chairman of the House commission for defense and security Ibrahim Ambong, meanwhile, said his commission would soon hear an explanation from the government to extend martial law. Meanwhile, in Aceh, GAM leaders asserted that the decision would not scare them away. "We have been fighting since 1873, the extension will not change anything," GAM spokesman for Pidie regency Anwar Husen said.
Another GAM leader, Teungku Jamaika, said that GAM remains as strong as it was before the imposition of the martial law in the province.



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 04 November 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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