Indonesian govt to grant amnesty to Aceh rebels

Indonesian govt to grant amnesty to Aceh rebels
Mr Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (centre, in white).
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/ANN

The government will respond to a proposal for amnesty requested by former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) combatant Nurdin bin Ismail, popularly known as Din Minimi, following his recent surrender.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Thursday that the government applauded the surrender of Din and other members of his group.

"We will grant it, but there is a process to follow," Jokowi said as quoted on the Cabinet Secretariat website, setkab.go.id, on Thursday.

Jokowi said the government had long urged members of the group hiding in the forests of Aceh to lay down their weapons and join government efforts to develop the province.

When asked whether Din and his 120 followers would undergo a legal process or automatically be granted an amnesty, Jokowi said he would find the best solution.

"The group has long wanted to surrender," Jokowi said on the sidelines of his visit to Papua.

Din had been a major target of security operations before he and his group surrendered to the government during a ceremony presided over by National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso on Tuesday.

The group agreed to surrender after being promised an amnesty for any crimes committed by its 120 members who have left their hiding places and for 30 members apprehended by Aceh Police.

During the ceremony, the group handed over dozens of guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Din's group was blamed for several attacks over the past three years, including the killing of two soldiers and several kidnappings in the country's westernmost province.

The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict's (IPAC) latest report titled "Din Minimi: The Strange Story of an Armed Group in Aceh" contends that Din had been falsely portrayed by various parties opposed to the current Aceh government, which is led by former GAM members, as a Robin Hood "who abducts corruptors and drug dealers and uses the ransom money to assist orphans and widows neglected by the GAM leaders now in power".

The report further says Din had drawn the attention of parties who would like to see Aceh Party, the political party led by former GAM members, discredited. These parties, according to the report, include political rivals, intelligence personnel and extremists.

"Din Minimi is a criminal, whose activities only underscore how much violence lurks below the surface in Aceh after the 2005 peace agreement," IPAC director Sidney Jones said. "No matter how poorly [the Aceh Party] has governed, there is no excuse for turning an armed thug into a hero."

Sutiyoso said one of Din's demands was that the government improve the lives of widows and fatherless children as well as former GAM combatants.

Sutiyoso said only local administrations in Aceh could respond to the demand.

Meanwhile, the central government would follow up on Din's request for an amnesty for his men.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said on Friday that the government would follow up on the request as soon as possible.

"Yes, just like Pak Sutiyoso said, we will consider all of these. [The request] will be responded to immediately," he said.

Responding to Din's demand to improve the lives of former GAM members and affiliates, Kalla said the government had been doing that job ever since it facilitated the reconciliation process in Aceh in 2009.

"There are already a lot [of programs], [amounting to] trillions [of rupiah]. Maybe there's a lack of information on that," said Kalla.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Effendi Simbolon slammed the government's plan to grant an amnesty to Din's group, saying it was wrong for the government to make a deal with insurgents.

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