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DATE=11/10/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDONESIA ACEH (L) NUMBER=2-256008 BYLINE=PATRICIA NUNAN DATELINE=BANDA,ACEH INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid is facing growing opposition within the government for the idea of holding an independence referendum in the troubled northern Aceh province. As Patricia Nunan reports from the provincial capitol Banda Aceh, Wahid also faces skepticism by the Achenese, who say he is inconsistent with his policies towards the province. TEXT: The speaker of Indonesia's national assembly Amien Rais, says the government should not underestimate the demands of the Achenese people to hold an independence referendum. But Mr. Rais says a ballot should not be held because if Aceh votes for independence, Indonesia risks breaking apart. Mr. Rais sentiment was echoed by both the Speaker of Parliament Akbar Tanjung and General Wiranto, the coordinating minister for political affairs and security. General Wiranto said the key to solving the problems of Aceh would come from the commitment by the Achenese to work with the rest of Indonesia. The rhetorical backlash follows reports President Wahid said he would consider allowing an independence referendum to be held in Aceh. The statement contradicts the president's remarks last week in which he said it was too soon to hold a ballot. The push to separate from Indonesia has intensified in the past month since the government granted independence to East Timor, after the U-N supervised referendum. At least half-a-million people demonstrated in Ache's provincial capital Monday to demand the ballot be held. Separatists from the free Aceh movement have been campaigning for independence since the 1970's. But analysts say support for the group has risen in the past 10-years, because at least two-thousand people have died or disappeared at the hands of Indonesian troops sent to Aceh to crush the separatist group. Despite Mr. Wahid's hints he may allow a referendum, a top human rights official in Aceh says they are not ready to believe the president just yet. Abdul Gani Nurdin is with the Aceh people's rights group. /// NURDIN ACT .FADE OUT /// Before Abdurrahman Wahid was president he supported a referendum, General Nurdin says. Now that he is president we can not believe him because he is not consistent and that is dangerous. The president is sending the state minister for human rights to Aceh to meet with local leaders Saturday about ways to give Aceh greater economy while remaining part of Indonesia. Analysts say part of the resentment by the Achenese towards the government is due to the fact the province sees little of the revenue derived from its oil and natural gas reserve. (SIGNED) NEB/PN/LTD/RAE 10-Nov-1999 10:28 AM EDT (10-Nov-1999 1528 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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