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GAM wants Aceh governance law revised to meet peace deal

Jakarta Post - August 3, 2006

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has demanded the immediate revision of a number of articles of the Aceh Governance Law that are not in compliance with the Helsinki peace deal.

After five months of deliberations, the House of Representatives passed the Aceh governance bill into law in July to a cold reception, although legislators said the law would bring greater autonomy and peace to the conflict-torn province. The law was drafted following the signing of a peace deal in Helsinki, Finland, in August last year.

"There are several articles that are not in compliance with the peace deal. We want those articles to be revised just as stipulated by the peace deal," GAM's senior representative Irwandi Yusuf said in a press conference in Banda Aceh on Wednesday.

The event was attended by Muhammad Nazar from the Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA), GAM's spokesman Munawarliza Zain and Bahtiar Abdullah.

Irwandi said GAM had studied the law as well as discussed it with legal experts in Malaysia and found articles that were not in accordance with the peace deal. For instance, the peace deal states that all policies made by the central government that are related to Aceh must be approved by the Aceh government and legislative council, whereas the law says it need only be consultation. "These changes are critical," Irwandi said.

Moreover, GAM found more articles in the law that curtail the Aceh government's authority. For instance, Article 11 of the law allows the central government to directly intervene in Aceh, whereas the peace deal divides authority between the central government and Aceh. "That single article could block other articles, which is dangerous," Irwandi said.

GAM also questioned the articles on the role of the Indonesian Military (TNI) in Aceh and on a human rights court that will only try violations after the bill was made into law. "According to the peace deal, there should be only 14,500 TNI personnel in Aceh for defense purpose. But the law did not say that. In fact, the TNI has another role, involvement in the reconstruction process (following the December 2004 tsunami)," Irwandi said.

The law, he said, had also failed to touch on several issues disclosed in the peace deal, such as Aceh's access to the international community and a civil court for the military.

He said GAM would ask the government to amend the articles it objected to. GAM will also bring the case to the Aceh Monitoring Mission, which will raise the matter with the government. "For articles that are OK, please go ahead and implement them. But for those that need revision, revise them first," Irwandi said.