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DATE=11/9/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDONESIA - ACEH (L ONLY NUMBER=2-255958 BYLINE=GARY THOMAS DATELINE=BANGKOK CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Indonesia's President has cut short his whirlwind tour in Southeast Asia as calls for independence grow in the restive province of Aceh. A massive rally was held in Aceh Monday to demand a referendum on independence for the province. As VOA Southeast Asia Correspondent Gary Thomas reports, the new president's stand on Aceh is bringing him into direct conflict with the Indonesian Armed Forces. TEXT: Indonesian officials said President Abdurrahman Wahid Tuesday abruptly broke off his eight-nation Southeast Asia tour to return to Jakarta, in part because of the developing situation in Aceh. Hundreds of thousands of Acehnese rallied in the provincial capital Monday to demand the right to vote on independence. Many Acehnese feel the Indonesian government has exploited the province's rich resources without sharing the wealth. Mr. Wahid, who assumed office last month, fanned Acehnese nationalist sentiment when he said Aceh might be entitled to such a referendum, just as voters of East Timor had. East Timor voted overwhelmingly in August to break away from Indonesia. But Mr. Wahid's policy on Aceh faces open opposition from the powerful armed forces. In a telephone interview, the armed forces spokesman, Major General Sudrajat, called for a dialogue with the Acehnese on redressing past wrongs. But he adamantly dismissed as unrealistic any idea of either a referendum or independence for Aceh. // Sudrajat act // So then the Indonesians - especially the Indonesian Armed Forces - who have the duty to maintain the sovereignty of the nation have to take a stand that the independence is not possible for Aceh. And the referendum is not the way to solve the problem, because the problem is unjustness. So the problem of this unjust policy has to be discussed by the leadership mechanism. // end act // General Sudrajat said Aceh is different from either East Timor - which he referred to by a shortened name, Tim-Tim - or another restive province, Irian Jaya. He said President Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur, should realize that. // Sudrajat act // But Aceh is a different case, and Irian Jaya is a different case. It is totally different. So I'm sorry that President Gus Dur states that if Tim-Tim (East Timor) can be done, why not Aceh? So I am sorry to say, sir, that President Gus Dur should carefully read Tim-Tim to be completely different than Aceh. // end act // The military spokesman added that the armed forces are also not comfortable with the civilian government's order of a troop withdrawal from Aceh. He said the withdrawal invites increasing attacks by separatist rebels. General Sudrajat said the government should take all views into account, including that of the military. // Sudrajat Act // So this indicates that the less military presence or security apparatus presence there, the more casualties or the more victims are going to happen. So that's what we fear that we are not comfortable with, withdrawing the troops. But again, Mr. President has ordered this, and we have to follow. But again we are going to see what happens. But we would like to consider that the Aceh issues and problems have to be comprehensively taken in by so many factors and considerations. And we have to be very seriously handling Aceh. It is not only decided by one person, especially the president. // end act // Acehnese activists have accused the Indonesian armed forces of human rights abuses in Aceh in a nine-year- long campaign by the previous government to crush the separatist movement. (Signed) NEB/GPT/FC/PLM 09-Nov-1999 05:49 AM EDT (09-Nov-1999 1049 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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