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DATE=12/4/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDONESIA - ACEH (L-ONLY)(CQ) NUMBER=2-256841 BYLINE=PATRICIA NUNAN DATELINE=BANDA, ACEH CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: At least two people were wounded in the Indonesian province of Aceh when government soldiers opened fire on a group of people celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the rebel separatist movement. As Patricia Nunan reports from the provincial capital of Banda, Aceh, the clash comes after weeks of increasing tension leading up to the separatist anniversary. TEXT: Witnesses to the incident in the town of Sigli, 60 kilometers east of the provincial capital, say dozens of demonstrators were trying to drive past the military barracks waving flags of the guerilla "Free Aceh" movement. However Indonesian soldiers blocked the convoy of trucks and motorcycles. Witnesses say the soldiers first fired into the air to warn the demonstrators, then shot directly at them. The demonstration comes on the 23rd anniversary of the founding of the separatist "Free Aceh" movement. The separatist army declared Aceh an independent Islamic state in 1976 and has been fighting a guerilla campaign against Indonesian authority in the province ever since. In a special ceremony the separatists raised their movement's flag at a rebel base near Sigli to mark the anniversary. The guerillas also read a statement from the leader of the "Free Aceh" movement, Hasan di Tiro, calling on the United Nations to help resolve the situation in Aceh peacefully. But Mr. di Tiro also warned that all Acehnese should be ready to face attack by their enemies, adding that the "Free Aceh" movement was prepared to make every inch of Aceh a field of war if their demands for independence are not answered. Mr. di Tiro remains in Sweden where he has lived in exile since 1979. Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid says the government has the ability to crush Aceh's rebel movement but that is not the approach he wants to take. //Begin Wahid act.// If we want to stamp out those people that's the easy answer, but it is not the right answer. We have to find the right answer by trying to make reconciliations. By trying to establish dialogue more ourselves. That is why sometimes it looks very slow. //End Wahid act.// Calls for independence in Aceh have been fueled by the decision by the Indonesian government to grant East Timor independence after the people there voted to separate from Indonesia in a special referendum. Many Acehnese are now demanding the same rights of self- determination. Human rights groups say the Acehnese are resentful of the central government because at least two-thousand people have died at the hands of Indonesian soldiers sent to Aceh to crush the separatist movement. Also the human rights groups say the province sees little of the revenue derived from its natural gas and oil deposits. President Wahid has said in the past that a referendum could be held in Aceh but not one based on the question of independence. Instead Indonesian authorities want to hold a vote on whether Aceh would accept a special autonomy plan for the province, giving the people more of a say in their own affairs versus maintaining the status quo. (Signed) NEB/PN/PLM 04-Dec-1999 10:02 AM EDT (04-Dec-1999 1502 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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