Exiled GAM Leaders To Return Home

Leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) are set to return home from exile abroad this week, watched closely by Indonesians who suspect they will never give up dreams of independence despite having signed a peace accord.

Exiled GAM Leaders To Return Home

Leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) are set to return home from exile abroad this week, watched closely by Indonesians who suspect they will never give up dreams of independence despite having signed a peace accord. GAM spokesman Bakhtiar Abdullah revealed Sunday that Malik Mahmood, one of the leaders returning here, would transfer authority to create a political party from the newly established Free Aceh Movement Council, also known as Majelis GAM. Several candidates have been named to become its chairman, but Bakhtiar refused to go into complete details.

The visit beginning April 19 will be the first for many of the leaders -- including Malik, who was earlier the designated prime minister for an independent Aceh -- after more than 30 years in self-imposed exile abroad. "It is about time GAM leaders met the people of Aceh after years of living in exile," Bakhtiar told The Jakarta Post from his base in Stockholm. "The visit will also show our strong commitment to the Acehnese people and to the peace process."

Plans to break away from Indonesia were formally dropped with the August signing of the peace accord in Helsinki, in exchange for GAM being allowed to establish local political parties to contest direct elections in the province. It has become one of the contentious issues in the deliberation of the Aceh governance bill, with opponents saying political parties will lay the groundwork for independence. Based on the Memorandum of Understanding, Acehnese should be able to begin to set up local political parties within 18 months of the signing, or this December, allowing sufficient time for necessary revision of the law that states political parties are only recognized on a national level.

Jakarta issued a decree last August stating that all GAM members who had gained amnesty, who were stateless or held foreign citizenship must reapply for Indonesian citizenship within six months. Malik has held Singaporean citizenship since the 1970s.  In response to the government's decree, GAM leaders decided to set up the council shortly after the Helsinki signing. In charge of the council's law-making body is Usman Lampoh Aweeh, a former designated Aceh finance minister. Muzakkir Manaf, a former commander of GAM's military wing, chairs the council's local executive board, and deals with domestic political issues. Another GAM leader, Mohammed Nur Djuli, said the planned political party would not affect the existence of GAM "as a group tasked with monitoring the implementation of the MOU." "One thing is for sure: GAM is no longer fighting for independence. The issue of independence, as well as the issue of promoting autonomy according to the Indonesian government's concept, is no longer on the table," Nur Djuli said.

The MOU refers to "self government", another controversial issue in the deliberation on the Aceh governance bill. The council consists of several deputy chairmen, who oversee such areas as politics, security and education. Other GAM leaders who will visit Aceh are Bakhtiar himself, who also visited Indonesia last year; Zaini Abdullah, earlier the designated health minister for an independent Aceh and Syarif Usman -- all residents of Sweden. Others are T. Hadi, who lives in Germany, Nur Djuli, who resides in Malaysia and who was a member of the GAM negotiating team during the Helsinki talks, and Baddarudin, who lives in Norway.

They also will meet with victims of both the tsunami and the decades of armed conflict, and visit historic sites in their homeland. Security arrangements have involved the Aceh Monitoring Mission and officials from the Crisis Management Initiative, the Helsinki-based co-sponsor of the historic peace talks.

 The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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