Novianti Setuningsih, Jakarta – Jakarta is set to relinquish some of its authority over the autonomous province of Aceh, a top Jakarta official said, on condition that the local government there back down from adopting a flag, which greatly resembles that of the now-disbanded separatist Free Aceh Movement.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said Aceh's demand to adopt the flag was out of the question.
"There are several powers currently in the hands of the central government, which will soon be given to the province [of Aceh]. In exchange, they will have to change their flag, both the design and color," the minister said.
Tedjo said Jakarta was planning to provide Aceh mining concession rights to iron sand located along the coastlines of several islands in the province. "But we want the flag [changes] to be fulfilled," he said.
The minister refused to elaborate on when the central government is planning to meet officials in Aceh.
The remarks came after Tedjo met with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who in 2005 brokered a peace deal between the central government and the separatist movement, ending decades of bloody conflict in the resource rich province. Jakarta has criticized Aceh's adoption of the red crescent star flag as its provincial symbol ever since it was proposed in March last year.
The central government argued that it violated the 2005 peace agreement, but Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah argued that the agreement does not include the specifics of Aceh's flag.
Officials in Aceh said the red crescent star flag predates the separatist movement, known as GAM, claiming that it was the symbol of the region's ancient kingdom.
But Jakarta insists, saying the symbol is one of those outlawed, a list which also includes South Maluku Republic's Benang Raja flag and the Free Papua Organization's Morning Star flag.
In defiance, thousands of people in Aceh have been raising the red crescent star flag, prompting forceful seizures and tensions between civilians and members of security forces.