གཟའ་པ་སངས། ༢༠༢༤/༠༥/༣༡

Indonesian Government, Aceh Rebels Sign Peace Deal

The Indonesian government and rebels from the Free Aceh Movement signed a historic peace deal in the Finnish capital Helsinki Monday to officially end a nearly three-decade old conflict. Attention will turn now to how the deal is implemented.

Both the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, say they are optimistic this peace agreement will hold. But during the signing ceremony, the self-styled GAM prime minister in exile and chief negotiator, Malik Mahmud, expressed some concerns.

Mr. Malik says GAM cannot rely on the government to disarm militias allegedly funded by the military, because it denies their existence. "The Free Aceh Movement expresses its deep concern over the continuing presence of TNI proxy militias in Aceh, despite the signing of the Aceh peace agreement," he said. "The government has since denied that any militias exist in Aceh, hence the logic follows, there is no need for their disarmament."

Earlier truces between the two warring factions ended in renewed conflict. But the December tsunami that ravaged Indonesia's Aceh province also brought the two sides back to the negotiating table.

With much of the oil- and gas-rich province destroyed and more than 160,000 people killed in the tsunami, both sides now say they want to concentrate on helping in the reconstruction of Aceh.

GAM spokesman Bahtiar Abdulah says he believes the agreement will hold with international help.

"I think we had quite a substantial achievement in this peace agreement which we believe is workable if both parties work hard toward this goal and also with the help of the international community, and the international monitoring team," said Mr. Bahtiar. "I'm optimistic that it will work."

The first of some 200 monitors from the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations began arriving in Aceh on Sunday to monitor the peace deal.

Under the agreement, which was worked out over five rounds of talks in Helsinki with a Finnish mediator, GAM will disarm and the Indonesian security forces will withdraw. The government also agreed to allow GAM to form its own political party, and for partial autonomy in the province.

In addition, the agreement allows Aceh to retain 70 percent of all revenues from oil, gas, and other resources.

A human rights court is also to be be established in Aceh, along with a commission for truth and reconciliation.

Indonesian government spokesman Andi Mallerangeng says the government hopes this agreement will lead to lasting peace. "We are hoping with this signing of the MOU is the beginning of a long and lasting peace in Aceh, of a comprehensive peace that we can now focus on rebuilding and reconstructing Aceh," he said.

More than 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died in the conflict.