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Indonesia Delays Aceh Decision - 2002-08-19


The Indonesian government again has delayed making a decision about whether to impose a state of civil emergency in the separatist northern Aceh Province. The government has been debating the move as a means of crushing rebels from the Free Aceh Movement.

Indonesia's political and security affairs minister says the rebels from the "Free Aceh Movement" have until the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in December to return to the negotiating table. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also says the government wants the rebels to accept an autonomy deal and cease the quest for independence.

/// YUDHOYONO ACT in Indonesian -- FADE /// He says it is hoped that by the end of Ramadan, the Free Aceh Movement will take steps to engage in dialogue with the agenda of considering special autonomy and ending the fighting.

Last year, the Indonesian Parliament passed autonomy legislation to allow Aceh greater control over its own affairs and resources but it was rejected by the rebels.

No decision has yet been made on a government plan to send an additional 8,000 troops to Aceh, to join the 21,000 already there. Local military officials estimate that the Free Aceh Movement has about three-thousand members.

It is the second time in recent weeks that Jakarta has delayed its decision on whether to impose a state of civil emergency in Aceh or send in extra troops.

A civil emergency decree would provide government soldiers a broader mandate to detain suspected rebels and search private homes. But unlike the imposition of martial law, ultimate control would continue to rest with civilian authorities. In recent months, representatives from the government and the rebel movement met for talks in Aceh's provincial capital, and at times in Geneva, Switzrland. But those negotiations have now stalled. The proposal to impose a state of civil emergency and the extra troop deployment has come under fire by government officials in Aceh and human rights groups who say it would only worsen the conflict. The "Free Aceh Movement" declared Aceh Province to be independent of Indonesia in 1976. Some 10,000 civilians are believed to have died in the conflict that has ensued. Much of the conflict in Aceh is motivated by natural resources. In addition to the rebels, many Acehnese believe the government in Jakarta has taken unfair advantage of the province's gas and oil reserves and has provided the province with little in return.

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