Indonesia Seeks Broader Dialogue in Rebellious Provinces

Published December 21st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Indonesia is seeking all-inclusive talks to defuse separatist movements in the violence-torn provinces of Irian Jaya and Aceh, the country's top security minister said Thursday. 

"The government is developing a comprehensive formula of dialogue to solve the problems peacefully and fairly," Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, coordinating minister for security and socio-political affairs, told journalists after a cabinet meeting.  

Jakarta, still smarting from the loss of East Timor last year and determined to keep the country from breaking up, has flatly ruled out independence for the two provinces, pledging broad autonomy instead. 

Peace talks in Aceh, on the western tip of Indonesia, would involve all elements of the population, including Free Aceh Movement (GAM) guerrillas and the student-based pro-independence group SIRA, he said.  

Thousands were killed in Aceh during a decade of harsh military crackdowns, which ended in 1998. 

Despite a shaky truce between Jakarta and GAM in place since June, the violence has continued. More than 850 people have been killed this year. 

Defense Minister Mohammad Mahfud on Wednesday said formal talks between Jakarta and GAM would end when the truce expired on January 15, saying the region's secessionist movement represented only a fraction of its population. 

He said a new forum for dialogue, which will involve Acehnese community leaders other than GAM, was being sought.  

Yudhoyono said President Abdurrahman Wahid is due to visit the eastermost Irian Jaya province on Christmas to hold talks with Christian and pro-independence leaders there. 

"One of the aims of the visit is to rebuild dialogue with all sections of the community in Irian Jaya," Yudhoyono said.  

Separatists in Irian Jaya, known locally as West Papua, maintain they were robbed of their independence, declared on December 1 1961, when Indonesian troops arrived in 1962. 

Indonesian sovereignty was formalised in 1969 through a UN-held vote, which separatists dispute as flawed and unrepresentative. 

The new approach appeared to spell an end to Wahid's earlier efforts to seek a solution in the two provinces by engaging the separatists directly. 

In the past two months the government has poured troops into the two provinces, and on December 1 slapped a ban on flying the flag of independence in Irian Jaya in addition to jailing five top moderate pro-independence leaders -- JAKARTA (AFP) 

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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