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Aceh activists shun meeting with peace architect

Jakarta Globe - December 11, 2009

Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – Activists in Aceh on Friday criticized the lack of civil involvement in the autonomous region when they met with Martti Ahtisaari, the diplomat who brokered the 2005 peace agreement between the Free Aceh Movement and the central government.

"Since GAM [the Free Aceh Movement] got stronger in Aceh, after the reform era in Indonesia, civilians' roles have been swept aside, even now," civil rights activist Wratmadinata told the 2008 Nobel Peace Laureate and former Finnish President.

Ahtisaari, on a two-day visit to Aceh, met behind closed doors with local activists and academics to try to gain an insight into the latest developments in the province.

"I also told Ahtisaari, that due to the lack of civil involvement, the truce agreement seems like a mere political product, and does not provide justice for the victims of the conflict," said Wiratmadinata, one of the three civil rights activists attending the meeting

"And now, it seems like it is only the GAM and its elements who benefit from the truce. It is surely dangerous for the long-term future of Aceh," he added.

The poor attendance was because most of those invited saw little merit in the meeting, he said, emphasizing that civilians have been ignored from the start.

Hendra Budian, the executive director of the Aceh Judicial Monitoring Institute (AJMI), who shunned the meeting, said that local NGOs had played only a supporting role, providing information to international groups.

Hendra said that Ahtisaari should push both the government and the former GAM to realize what had been agreed in Helsinki, citing the establishment of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR) and a human rights court as the most urgent issues.

Ahtisaari was on his fourth visit to Aceh since the memorandum of understanding ended almost three decades of separatist conflict that claimed the lives of 25,000 people, mostly civilians. Ahtisaari declined to comment after the meeting.

On Thursday night, Ahtisaari met with Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf and said afterward that his visit was to see "whether the points in the Helsinki memorandum have been realized."

He also said that economic development in Aceh should be prioritized equally alongside improvement in security.

"I'm sure everyone agrees that the most important thing right now is to restore the economic condition of the Aceh people, so that they can feel that there is a betterment, not just peace-making, but also better welfare," he said.

Ahtisaari said that he would continue to visit Indonesia next year but that after that he expected to end his role in Aceh.