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Aceh Rebel Leader Warns Long-Term Peace Still Uncertain


A former negotiator for rebels in Indonesia's Aceh province has warned that violence could break out again within a decade if a dispute over the implementation of a historic peace deal is not resolved. His remarks came as the country marks the first anniversary of the signing of the agreement between the government and the rebels. Trish Anderton reports for VOA from Jakarta.

The rebel negotiator, M. Nur Djuli, says that many Acehnese are angry about a law recently passed by the Indonesian parliament on governing the province.

The negotiator for the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, says the law does not give the province the degree of autonomy it was promised in Helsinki, where last year's peace agreement with the government was reached. He says there is further dissatisfaction over the sharing of oil and gas revenues.

Djuli says GAM is committed to peace but there is no guarantee of lasting peace unless the concerns of the Acehnese are dealt with. "GAM has firmly stated several times that it is not going back to armed struggle. That is finished. But the injustices… if the injustices are not addressed, I fear in five or 10 years other GAMs might be born," he said.

Djuli made the comments at a meeting Thursday of experts and journalists to assess progress in bringing peace to Aceh, a year after the agreement was signed.

The Indonesian minister of communications, Sofyan Djalil, played down the risk of new conflict, saying he does not believe a new rebel movement will emerge. He also reiterated that the Indonesian government is willing to revise the controversial Aceh law to make it work.

Sandra Hamid, who directs the Aceh program of the U.S.-based Asia Foundation, also was more upbeat, saying she is optimistic about the province's future.

She pointed out that Aceh has passed some major tests since the signing of the Helsinki accord, including the disarmament of GAM and the peaceful return of rebels to their villages.

Hamid says people appear to be setting aside resentments over violence committed by both sides. "The prospect of peace looks promising for many reasons but the most mundane, yet I think most important one, is people really want it. They are tired of conflict. And no politicians and parties would be willing to be seen as spoiling the peace for the Acehnese when their memory of how they suffered from the deadly tsunami is still very fresh in our mind," he said.

Aceh was torn apart by 30 years of secessionist violence until the 2004 tsunami, which killed 131-thousand people in the region, brought the two sides together in an effort to rebuild the devastated province.

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