Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Implementation of MoU Helsinki

By Perry Pada

The implementation of the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding between Government of Indonesia and Aceh Free Movement (GAM), which previously raised a national debate over its contents, has taken place successfully. However, the successful implementation is amidst the ongoing doubt particularly for the security apparatus as to whether GAM will has abandoned its basic goal of freeing Aceh from the unitary state of Indonesia, which is of course a different question. Although, the characterization of “success” is a preliminary observation which needs to be further proven along with the ongoing process, there are, however, some clear positive indicators to that observation.

The atmosphere all over Aceh province during the implementation has demonstrated a favorable environment that allows people to undertake their daily activities without the insecurity of becoming victims of violence. It can be observed that public places in the city such as markets, shops, side walk cafes are currently returning to normal. Of course we cannot deny that there are some incidents which occur during the process but those are not sufficiently significant to be considered as hurdles to the ongoing process but acts of ordinary criminals which can be handled properly by the Indonesian police on the ground.

The above afore mentioned picture has barely been evident in Aceh before the peace agreement which was signed five months ago. Obviously, all parties involved had been showing their positive commitment to fully comply with what they had agreed upon in Helsinki on 15 August 2005. A numbers of arguments have been forthcoming to what comprises this successful compliance; among others, the clear assumptions are: (1) for Indonesia side, the internationalization of the Aceh case cannot be solved by Indonesia alone, notwithstanding the fact that the unity of the state is above all considerations; (2) accepted the GAM as a part of the unitary state is a sufficient for the nation; (3) eliminating International pressures particularly on the Human rights issue in Aceh is an important step for the nation.

Therefore, the very logical option is to embrace the movement within the national borders with any conflict occurring in the near future considered as an internal matter. On the other hand, for the movement itself, (1) this is considered as a protracted armed conflict that can never be end by a total victory owing to insufficient foreign support for maintaining the struggle; (2) the idea of having international support of the movement for the creation of an independent state is likely not a realistic option under the present circumstances. Therefore, the alternative strategy is a mutant one, which is a self government by consolidating its political movement within the unitary state of Indonesia with a hope that the movement would subsequently be able to win the local election. For both sides, this is likely a win-win solution since no one is loosing its face before the international community, however, presumably for the long haul, the hidden agendas remain intact. Both sides fully realize that any actions that violate the MoU process can endanger their future options and strategies as elaborated above. To this end, for both sides, currently maintaining a peaceful condition in a careful manner by complying with the MoU is clearly a strategy to gain international support and recognition. In other words consolidate their present gains as the pre-condition for moving to the next stage.

The positive conditions in Aceh during the implementation of the Helsinki agreement is also due to the great responsibility and efforts put forward by the international community involved within the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) which consist of almost more or less 223 personnel dominated by civilian professional workers representing the European Union (121) and some ASEAN countries (102) in assisting and monitoring the peace process. AMM’s role to the process is important to supervise the peace process while pressuring both sides to keep their commitment in fulfilling their obligation as stipulated in the MoU. Their existence and influence has a great role in contributing to the successful accomplishment of the Helsinki MoU, particularly for making GAM meet its obligations in conformity with the MoU. The AMM has helped create a positive atmosphere and has monitored the peace process in the spirit of the MoU.

The steady progress of the implementation likely can be successfully maintained and carried forward to the next stage. At this point, it is important to note that the EU contribution is significant in making the Helsinki peace process proceed smoothly not only for their participation to AMM but also EU financial contribution to the “capacity building and re-integration process” in Aceh. According to the EU web-site, EC already contributed around 24 million Euros during the implementation of the Helsinki MoU which together with others support the implementation and assist the re-integration process including the amnesty package and the empowerment of local people’s economy affected by the conflict.

To date the process has peacefully transpired, with all parties full cooperation according to the phases set to measure the progress of implementing the MoU. There are four priorities among many clauses stipulated in the MoU, namely; first the decommissioning of 840 GAM weapons; second the relocation of Indonesian armed forces/police; third the re-integration of GAM members whilst the demobilization of 3.000 GAM active members, the so called, the Aceh National Army (TNA), and the provision of financial facilities to ex GAM as well.

Up to the end of December 2005, as reported by the AMM and echoed by local and national news papers the main four phases of the agreed plan namely the decommissioning of GAM Weapons, the re-location/re-deployment the non organic armed forces and police, have been successfully completed. GAM already handed over a total of 1023 weapons accepted and demobilized its 3000 thousand troops, therefore the decommissioning and demobilization process has already been completed by GAM at the fourth phase ended by 31 December 2005, whilst by 20 December 2005, the Government of Indonesia has been relocated / withdrawn 31.731 armed forces and police to end the fourth phase. The government of Indonesia, inconformity with the MoU, has granted amnesty and remission for a total of 1735 to ex GAM to be free from detention while also distributed financial facilities for the 3.000 GAM’s active member as a part of the re-integration process. While the process of drafting a new law on the governing of Aceh is positively under way, It has been reported that The Government expert team has handed over the draft to the Legislature for further review and approval. The implementation of the Helsinki MoU has so far been a positive achievement.

What happens next is largely dependent on the goodwill of the central government to make use of the peaceful conditions by letting Acehnes exercise their own self government process within the framework of a Unitary State of Indonesia through fair and transparent local elections next April 2006.

Writer is alumni of McGill University – Montreal

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