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Tuesday July 18, 2006

The House of Representatives passed the Bill on Governance of the province of Aceh into Law, on Tuesday (11/7/07) allowing elections in ’s westernmost province to take place in October, according to a senior legislator involved in framing the legislation.



The Bill is aimed at cementing a peace deal signed in Helsinki last August between the National Government in Jakarta and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to end three decades of guerrilla conflict in the northern-most province on the island of Sumatra , during which conflict more than 15,000 people had died.



The government and GAM signed the peace deal after months of negotiations, spurred by the December 2004 tsunami that left around 170,000 Acehnese dead or missing.



The Helsinki truce came about after GAM dropped its insistence on an independent Aceh state and the National Government promised to issue legislation allowing local political parties, including any group set up by GAM members, to vie for government seats in the province and giving Acehnese control of most of their affairs.



The bill will have articles allowing independent nominees to run before local parties, including GAM's political vehicle, are set up next year.


President Yudhoyono Upbeat on Aceh Law



President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Friday (14/7/06) that the new Aceh governance law, passed by Parliament on Tuesday, would help speed up the recovery of the province from the December 2004 tsunami.


He said the law should be accepted for its goals to realize a secure future for the people of the province.



"What we must do now is, with peace in our hearts, develop Aceh sincerely and faithfully in order to allow prosperity and security to develop soon," the President said in Bireuen, Aceh, as reported by Antara.



Dr. Yudhoyono said the passing of the law was not the final aim of the government, but rather the ultimate aim was the complete rehabilitation of the province. However, the President underlined that the province of Aceh must remain an integral and inseparable part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia .



On its side, the Aceh Monitoring Mission remarked that the Law was sufficiently close to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the government and the Free Aceh Movement in Helsinki in August last year.



At a meeting between representatives of the AMM, the Government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the AMM’s head of mission, Pieter Feith, commented that it was not necessary for the law to be a "word by word reflection of the MoU". Rather, he said, it should "be based on the set of principles as were agreed upon in Helsinki ."



"Most of these have been accommodated even though interpretations might differ. In conclusion, AMM considers the (law) to broadly cover the principles in the MoU," a statement from the AMM released after Wednesday's meeting said.



Feith added that the AMM would not get involved in the debate on the law. "What we must stress is that this is not an incident, but the work of a parliament. And all parliaments in democratic countries work independently and there must be no interference."



Feith described the law as comprehensive and fairly accommodated the elements of the agreement between the government and the GAM.



Previously, Home Affairs Minister Muhammad Ma'ruf said plans to hold elections in Aceh in September. "After the Aceh governance bill is passed, we will start disseminating the information to the people, including to ex-rebels, on the planned elections," Ma'ruf said on Monday, before the passage of the legislation. "We expect to hold local elections in September."



For decades rebel groups calling themselves Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) have fought to secede from the Unitary State of .


The tsunami that struck Aceh in 2004 melted this resolve, and in the Helsinki truce talks, GAM finally agreed to an autonomous province remaining in the Republic of Indonesia, however, based on special concessions most of which are stipulated in the recently enacted Law.



( Trade and Investment News, Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs)