Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh – After three years on the run, 30 active members of the Din Minimi-led armed civilian group in Aceh have surrendered to the government after being promised an amnesty.
"This [promise] encouraged me to surrender. We will not be considered criminals and we will all get amnesty from the government," explained Din, who had led the hundreds of ex Free Aceh Movement (GAM) members, over the phone on Tuesday.
He said that he decided to surrender because President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had guaranteed that the government would listen to what he had been demanding. "I demand that the government thoroughly implement reintegration and handle the problems of both the orphans and widows of ex-combatants according to the Helsinki MoU," he said.
Signed in 2005, the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Indonesian government and the GAM, ended the three-decades-long bloody conflict that is thought to have resulted in the death of between 20,000 to 30,000 Acehnese civilians, thousands of combatants on both sides and caused an unquantifiable amount of damage to public infrastructure and private property.
The process of the group's surrender began almost two weeks ago and was initiated through communication between Din and Juha Christensen, a former member of the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) involved in the Aceh peace agreement in Helsinki. After intensive communication both agreed to convey the problem to the President.
"I was connected to Pak Sutiyoso who later helped me to speak directly with the President three days ago," Din said, referring to head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).
Din said that it was during the direct communication with the President that he conveyed his demands. He also said that with a direct guarantee from the President, Sutiyoso had visited him in Aceh to discuss further actions following his surrender.
Christensen expressed his gratitude for the Din Minimi-led movement's peaceful surrender. "This makes us proud, that such an armed issue has been settled through dialog," Juha said.
He said he had tried to contact Din for some time and had approached him to settle the problem through dialog. "He finally agreed to surrender," he said.
Juha said that, to facilitate the surrender, he used a special line to encourage the various parties to talk. One of his lines included Vice President Jusuf Kalla, whom had been a figure behind the initial peace agreement in Aceh.
"I saw that what Din Minimi was struggling for was positive. Unfortunately, the Aceh administration did not want to listen or talk to Din and thus his demands were never heard," Juha said.
He added that Din was not a separatist, nor a robber. He just wanted justice from the government for the neglected orphans, widows and former combatants. He also made sure that Din's surrender would be followed by amnesty for all 100 members of his group.
"During the conflict era we gave amnesty to over 10,000 members of GAM, why can we not give the same to a few hundred of people?" Juha said.
Din's group has often been linked to armed violence in Aceh. On March 24, this year, two military officers were found dead in Alue Mbang village, Nisam Antara subdistrict, North Aceh. The two officers, Indra and Hendri, were abducted while gathering intelligence on the Din Minimi-led armed group. Din, wanted by police for kidnapping and robbery, is said to have hid in the jungles of East Aceh. He has denied involvement.