TITLE=INDONESIA ACEH (L)
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
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
At least half-a-million people demonstrated in Ache's
provincial capital Monday to demand the ballot be
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
/// 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)
10-Nov-1999 10:28 AM EDT (10-Nov-1999 1528 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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