Sunday, July 17, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Indonesia agrees Aceh peace deal

Indonesia was once described to me as an incoherent geographical expression. All it was (now that Timor Leste is independent) was all the former Dutch colonial possessions coming into the hands of the Jakarta one. As is, it is a mish mash of various nationalities coming under the banner of 'Indonesia', a highly centralised system that has had a tendancy of ignoring the outer lying areas.

Stuff flows into the centre and may not flow back. This was a point of contention in Timor Leste as well as Aceh in that mineral rights and royalties were felt to be not equitable for the outer lying provinces. Of course religion had a role to play in it. Timor Leste is mostly Christian (not sure if its Roman Catholic or one of the protestant sects) while Aceh seeks to impose a more 'Islamic' version of Sharia (Islamic Law) instead of the highly indigenous version practiced by the Indonesian courts. It has been claimed that the Sharia courts are basically a divorce courts for women seeing as 70% of the cases are for divorce and 70% of those initiated by women.

Aside: I had a visiting Australian Professor who works very closely with the Indonesian government and the Acehnese who was heaping praise on the Sharia system for basically taking the best practices from elsewhere. I don't know the intricacies of it but I'm somewhat inclined to believe him till it changes. He also felt that GAM, the Free Aceh Movement was basically a bunch of bandits who had not much support on the ground.

Anyway, Kudos to the Finish for brokering the deal and hopefully the Norwagians will be able to do similarly for Kashmir. GAM gave in on independence while the Indonesians gave in on letting it form a political party. I'm not entire sure this is necessary an improvement from Status Quo seeing as there's already a lot of autonomy given to Aceh to the point of the Sharia being implement (although still subject to the Jakarta Supreme Court but no one has contested their jurisdiction and constitutionality yet I think). Things have really cooled down since the simmering tensions a couple of years back.

But hey, if both sides can live with the deal and it leads to more stability in the region, it's always better for ASEAN and Singapore.



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