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Aceh wants violators punished

Agence France Presse - January 8, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta – A 40-strong delegation of representatives from the Indonesian province of Aceh Friday called on President B.J. Habibie to swiftly punish human rights violators in the troubled province.

The delegation also demanded greater autonomy and a more equitable share of the wealth the nation earned from the province. "The people of Aceh ... urge the central government to immediately and comprehensively probe, according to the law, violators of human rights," in Aceh, a statement handed to the president read.

The delegation also sought a general amnesty and rehabilitation for all Acehnese political detainees. The government should accord wide autonomy to Aceh and a larger share, up to 80 percent, of the region's wealth to the local government, the delegation said.

The staunchly Moslem stronghold of Aceh holds a "special territory status" accorded by Jakarta to honor the major contribution of the Acehnese people in the forming of the Indonesian republic in the 1940s. However, the special territory status does not entail any elements of autonomy.

President Habibie "will seriously consider what was expressed by the people of Aceh," State Secretary Akbar Tanjung told journalists after the meeting. He said Habibie told his visitors his government was also working on a law that would govern the division of revenues between the central government and the provinces.

Aceh Governor Syamsudin Machmud, who led the delegation, said he was told by Habibie that the president has instructed a newly-set up security council, the military and officials to "discusss the problem and settle any violation of the laws, by civilians or by the military.

The delegation included several leading Acehnese legislators, Moslem scholars, academics, students and youths, journalists and NGO activists.