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Govt downgrades martial law in Aceh to a state of emergency JAKARTA - Indonesia has downgraded its martial law in Aceh province to a state of civilian emergency. The change returns control over the province to a civilian governor. This comes a year after Jakarta declared martial law in the region and launched an offensive against Free Aceh Movement or GAM separatist rebels. However, the change of status will have little effect in the field. Troop levels in the province will remain at about 50 thousand and civilian agencies can still impose curfews, detain suspects indefinitely and censor the press.
For more on this, Bharati Jagdish (BJ) spoke to political analyst, Andi Malaranggeng (AM) from the Institute of Government Studies in Jakarta.
AM: "The difference now will be that the governor will be in-charge because this has been now downgraded to a civilian emergency. As I understand, the troop levels will still be the same. It's just that there may be some procedural differences with regard to the police and the military. In a civil emergency situation, the police will be in the forefront and the military can only act if the police ask for their assistance under serious or threatening circumstances."

BJ: The same controls remain - restrictions on the media, troop levels, and curfews - but now civilian agencies enforce these controls instead of the military. Would you say then that, essentially, things on the ground are actually the same as they were under martial law and the only difference really is that other bodies will supposedly be in-charge?
AM: "Well, we can't really see any manifest change right now, but, yes, it seems like the only thing that's really changed is who's in-charge, but conditions on the ground will remain the same."
BJ: What progress, really, have Indonesian troops made in terms of quelling the rebellion?
AM: "Well, they say they have eliminated at least two-thirds of the rebel strength, but as I understand, probably only one-third of the weaponry has been seized. The rebels have been able to hide their weaponry very well. Because of this, a lot of military targets still remain. That's why the military is staying on and is combat-ready."

BJ: Did the government lift martial law for merely political reasons in an election year and not because the situation in Aceh has really improved?
AM: "Well, you're right, it is an election year and I think Megawati needs to show that there is progress in Aceh and she has done this by downgrading the situation to a civil emergency. Martial law had been extended once and extending it further during election time would not get her the votes. She has to make it seem like things are getting better. But this downgrade will still pose many problems. Now, the province is under the governor's control and this governor, Abdullah Puteh, is known to be a corrupt official and he is under investigation on corruption charges."

BJ: So if these allegations turn out to be true, Aceh will continue to be under-developed in spite of the fact that it is resource-rich, and separatist sentiment could continue to flourish?
AM: "Exactly. We need a more comprehensive solution for Aceh. It's not wise to just flit between martial law and civil emergency. The political leaders are talking as if the situation is really getting better in Aceh, but this may not be true. But since this is election year, all we can expect is for the politicians to play political games without any really meaningful consequences."

BJ: Have we reached a stage where peaceful resolution is completely out of the question?
AM: "We can't expect any chance at a peaceful resolution until the election is over and there's a change in government."

BJ: So you think a new government may take a different approach, even at this stage?
AM: "Yes, I would say there is potential. The new government can get a five-year mandate, without the pressure of elections and therefore may be able to device a comprehensive solution."

BJ: The Indonesian military says it has eroded at least two-thirds of the rebels' strength. Would you say that the military solution has actually worked to some extent?
AM: "Yes, to some extent perhaps. But only in terms of eliminating the GAM rebels. Elections have been conducted in Aceh and it seems more people voted this year than in the previous election, so that is a good sign. But what we need in Aceh is more than just eliminating the rebels and conducting elections. We need to make sure that corruption is also eliminated. We must make sure that the civil government functions properly in terms of delivering services to the people and that the revenue from the rich resources of the province actually reaches the people." Andi Malaranggeng (AM) from the Institute of Government Studies in Jakarta, speaking to Bharati Jagdish (BJ).



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 20 May 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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