Monday, October 31, 2005

Indonesia: The Aceh Peace Accord

Aceh occupies the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It adjoins the strategic straits of Malacca and was devastated by the tsunami in December last year. The region was in the throes of revolt since 1975 until the Finns mediated a cease-fire agreement this year. The Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement signed a far reaching peace accord on August 15, 2005. While Indonesia will not be a de-jure federal state, Aceh will have de-facto autonomy under the terms of the agreement.

The autonomy provisions for Aceh are remarkable. Everything, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and religion, would be delegated to a regional authority under the proposed new statute for Aceh to be enacted by March 31, 2006. Under the terms of the envisioned law, Indonesia would consult the Acehnese regional legislature before it signs any international agreement or passes any national legislation that could impact on Aceh. Indonesia will hold elections for the regional Acehnese administration by April, 2006 and the regional Acehnese legislature by 2009. Aceh would then have the authority to enact a region-specific legal code. It would have its own flag, anthem and human rights court. The regional administration would administer Aceh's marine resources, 70% of its hydrocarbon reserves, its seaports and airports. The administration would have the authority to leverage international capital bypassing Jakarta. It would be entitled to levy its own taxes and set its own interest rates.

The demilitarization of Aceh, the decommissioning of rebel groups and the jurisdiction of the civil judiciary in Aceh over the Indonesian military are remarkable achievements. Indonesia would have completed the withdrawal of its troops by December 31, 2005 except for a residual presence of 14,700 troops that will remain. Acehnese rebels would have demobilized their 3,000 armed personnel by then as well. Indonesia has released all political prisoners and has granted a general amnesty to pro-independence activists. The European Union and ASEAN will provide personnel for the Aceh Monitoring Mission to rule on any violations of the peace accord. The clauses for dispute resolution vis-a-vis the cease-fire agreement and the innovative built-in appeals process are unparalleled.

The subject of religion is not delegated to the province. It remains under the purview of the center. Indonesia's constitution keeps state and religion strictly separate, and accords no special status to any religion. The Acehnese are devout Muslims and I interpret this clause as an effort to ensure that the separation of state and religion remains intact at the local level throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Indonesia is keen to avoid a denominationalization of the regional administration given the fear of a precedent. The unique experiment in Aceh is likely to influence rebels in Mindanao, North East Sri Lanka and Pattani in southern Thailand. The vibrant political process is poised to replace a prolonged insurrection.

1 comment:

Badri said...

I somehow don't believe this would happen in Sri Lanka. Far from it. The Indonesian Government seized the opportunity presented by the earth quake and tsunami and move ahead with the peace process. The details you have presented shows a phenomenal amount of federalism.

On the other hand, the SLFP candidate Mahinda Rajapakse has committed to the unitary form of government with two fringe parties - the leftist JVP and the rightist Buddhist JHU.

This is going to be disastrous for Sri Lanka. An unstable neighbour is not good for India either.

The Indonesia-Aceh solution, though, would be ideal for Sri Lanka. One hopes our neighbours seriously consider this model.


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