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'Economic prosperity' key to a better Aceh

Jakarta Post - November 30, 2007

Jakarta – Economic and political authority needs to be shared equally in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam to ensure the brighter future envisioned at the signing of the 2005 Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), experts on Aceh say.

"The root cause of the Aceh conflict was strongly related to the matter of unfair distribution of political power and economic welfare. Those two factors accumulated to create a regional conflict," Justice and Human Rights Minister Andi Matalatta told a seminar Thursday.

Andi said that despite some shortcomings, the MOU between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement signed on Aug. 15, 2005, in Helsinki, Finland, has provided a strong foundation to develop the equal distribution of economic and political authority in Aceh.

"For the implementation of the MOU, the Indonesian government has established Law No. 11/2006 on Aceh's Government," he said.

An economist from Syah Kuala University, Nazamuddin Basyah Said, said that for him, the law is the real peace agreement, because it is more comprehensive and regulates all aspects related to the management of Aceh, from economic to governmental matters.

However, the head of law and public relations of Aceh provincial administration, Hamid Zein, said there were some MOU mandates that still have not been implemented, even though they were stated in the 2006 law. He cited the establishment of the Human Rights Tribunal and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Aceh as examples.

A social and political expert from the University of Indonesia Makmur Keliat said the MOU had been crucial to efforts toward establishing peace in Aceh.

"The MOU has succeeded in eliminating vertical conflicts between the state and a group of people who wanted to separate themselves," said Makmur.

"The reason I see the MOU as successful is because it contains three components. The first is the peace making component that aims to stop the occurrence of violent conflict, reduce the level of hostility and carry out military disengagement in the forms of troop withdrawal. Second, the peacekeeping monitoring, as we can see in the establishment of the Aceh Monitoring Mission. Third, the peace building component that functions as a peace maintenance instrument," he said.

"A report from the International Crisis Group in October 2007 said that almost no conflict has occurred between the Indonesian Military and the separatist movement since the signing of the MOU," he said.

However, he said that the government still needed to prepare for the ending of the Aceh Monitoring Mission's mandate in 2009.

"The government already established the Aceh Desk within the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs. The problem is, are we sure whether the desk possesses the same capacity as the Aceh Monitoring Mission?" he asked. (uwi)