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12.9.2006 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesian tasavallan presidentti: How to Succeed in Making Peace: The Aceh Experience

How to Succeed in Making Peace: The Aceh Experience
Lecture by Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Before the Paasikivi Society
Helsinki, Finland -12 September 2006 17:00-18:00

Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies,
My Friends,

This is a humbling moment for me as I stand amidst some of the most prominent and most distinguished citizens of Finland-a country that has done much for Indonesia recently.

For organizing this event, I thank every one of you in the Paasikivi Society, the organizers of this event, especially your Chairman, Mr. Mikko Vitasalo.

We have been here for three days, and I must tell you how deeply impressed we are with Finland: with your breathtaking landscape, clean air, dynamic people, and quality of life. I know that Finns are very proud of their country and their achievements, and you have every reason to be.

My Friends,

It is the conventional wisdom in the world today that the problems of our time boil down to three fundamental challenges: the challenge of peace, the challenge of poverty and the challenge of democracy.

A democratic system cannot long survive if it does not deliver on its promise of development-meaning a better life for the people. In turn, development is not likely to take place in a situation of armed conflict. For the long-term survival of the human race, all three must be present and must be nurtured: peace, the basic amenities of life, and a system of freedom that allows the full development of the individual human potential.

That is why I worry that the world is in short supply of peace. There is so much armed conflict in too many places.

In the Middle East, there is now a pause from the fighting, but it remains one big battleground. A civil war is raging in Iraq while NATO is engaged in ferocious combat in Afghanistan. In Sudan, ethnic violence continues to tear the country apart. And there are places where there is no actual fighting but still lacking peace because of so much tension: in Iran, for instance and on the Korean peninsula. We live in a dangerous world. That is a lot of bad news. But there is one bit of good news that I can tell you: on the other side of the globe, in a corner of my country, three decades of armed conflict have come to a close and peace has just gained a firm foothold.

I refer, of course, to Aceh. It has been just over a year since a contract of peace for Aceh was signed here in this beautiful capital of yours. My Justice Minister, Hamid Awaludin, put his signature alongside that of Mr. Malik Mahmud of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) while President Matti Ahtisaari witnessed.

Via teleconference I, too, witnessed the historic moment and felt a surge of joy. So did a huge crowd in Banda Aceh, who had gathered before a big screen at the Grand Mosque of Baiturrachman. Many wept as they offered prayerful thanks to Allah Almighty. Generations of their folks had longed for that moment. They were tired of war, the fear and the anxiety, the killings and the sorrow that attended the conflict. And now peace was a reality.

Soon enough they would directly experience that refreshing reality. Sixty-seven year old Siti Khadija was finally reunited with a younger brother who had joined the GAM 28 years ago. A man named Hamid, no relation to my Justice Minister, finally got to see his seven year old daughter when he was released from jail as a result of the amnesty programme stipulated by the agreement; his wife was pregnant with her when he was arrested.

Today in the villages, children walk to school without fear of sudden gunfire. Where stores used to close down at four in the afternoon, they are now open for business until near midnight. Farmers bring their harvest to market without fear that their goods will be confiscated at some checkpoint.

Peace is a new experience to the people of Aceh-but a precious one. It did not come easy. Now that they have gotten a taste of it, they want more and more of it.

My Friends,

Let me now tell you a few things about the people of Aceh. They are a courageous, deeply spiritual people with a glorious past.
Active in the Indonesian nationalist movement before the Second World War, they naturally cast their lot with the Republic of Indonesia when we waged a revolutionary war for independence. I doubt if our fledgling Republic could have survived if Aceh had not been an integral part of it from the very beginning. The Acehnese spent their wealth and shed their blood to help ensure that the Republic would live and prevail.

But over the years they were disillusioned with the central government. An Islamist uprising broke out in 1953, which ended when the central government promised broad autonomy and status as a special region or Aceh. But that promise was largely unfulfilled. So in December 1976 another rebellion flared up, this time the secessionist rebellion led by the Free Aceh Movement or GAM, which lasted for about three decades.

In the course of that rebellion some 15,000 lives were lost. It also produced thousands of orphans and widows, tore families apart and divided the Acehnese people. There is no way to quantify the human suffering that the Acehnese had to bear.

In the spirit of democratic reform, the central government in 1999 reached out to the rebels and engaged them in dialogue. That effort produced a humanitarian pause in May 2000 but almost immediately it broke down.

In 2002, when I was serving as Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security in the previous Government, I strove hard to find a solution to the conflict. And I thought I found it when we signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) in Geneva on 9 December of that year.

But in a few months that Agreement unraveled. Desperately we tried to save it in a Conference held in Tokyo in April 2003, but to no avail. We braced ourselves for a prolonged conflict.

I learned a valuable lesson from that experience. I realized that a peace process can only be successful if it is backed with focused, sustained and creative efforts at the highest level of leadership. At the same time, negotiators must have clear mandates, political support, and close and constant guidance. Otherwise, the peace process is doomed.

At that time, I wondered if the chance would ever come for me to apply what I learned from that humbling experience. But I did not lose hope. I waged the presidential election campaign of 2004 on a platform with peace in Aceh as one of its main planks.

When I was elected President, I immediately travelled to Aceh in December 2004 and announced to all who would listen a sincere offer to resume peace talks-but I got no results. Then a window of opportunity opened to me-in the form that I least expected, the tragedy inflicted by the tsunami of 26 December 2004.

Aceh was totally devastated. Over 200,000 people died, and half a million people left their homes.

I could clearly see that without genuine peace there was no way we could rebuild and rehabilitate the province. Peace became a political, economic and social necessity. It was also a moral imperative.

I brought the issue of peace directly to the people. Talking with them in such places as Lhokseumawe, Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, I called for resumption of peace talks. The people were supportive. We informally communicated with GAM field commanders. They were receptive. But they would not move until they had the go-signal of their political leaders residing abroad. So I reached discreetly to their leaders and this time they, too, responded positively.

And so it happened that with the help of the Helsinki-based Crisis Management Initiatives (CMI) led by President Martti Ahtisaari, negotiators of the Indonesian Government and the GAM held their first informal talks in this city in January 2005.

And immediately I took a great deal of criticism. The usual skeptics said the Acehnese could not be trusted. Others said this move was a betrayal of those who gave their lives to the government cause in the course of the conflict. Still others found fault that I sent three cabinet members to the negotiating table when senior officials could have done the job as they did in previous talks.

I took the criticisms in stride, convinced that I was right.
The Acehnese, I insisted, could be trusted if you could earn their trust.

Those who gave their lives in the defence of the government would approve of every measure that reduced casualties. They died for peace; they should be honoured with peace.

And the presence of three cabinet members on the government side was the clearest signal to the GAM that I meant business, that agreements would be faithfully honoured, and that my negotiators had the support of the highest leadership.

Vice President Yusuf Kalla and I lost a great deal of sleep as we stayed in touch with our negotiators, giving them clear guidance on every critical issue on the table.

I was also in constant communication with domestic players: members of Parliament, the leaders of our military establishment, veterans, political parties and other opinion leaders. We were very discreet but everyone who should know was apprised of what was going on.

After just five rounds, in the short span of seven months, the talks yielded a peace agreement. To their credit, the negotiators not only produced a peace deal in record time, they also invested it with political maturity, statesmanship and, most important, common sense. Events would indeed prove that it is a workable agreement.

It helped a lot that a great statesman was involved in the process. President Martti Ahtisaari's dedication and capacity for hard work simply amaze me. So do his wisdom and common sense. When I first met him in Jakarta in mid-2005 to take up ways of advancing the negotiation, I knew at once that we had the right man working with us.

It also mattered a great deal that there was an effective Aceh Monitoring Mission provided by the EU and five ASEAN countries. They helped ensure the success of the laying down and destruction of the rebel arms and the withdrawal of non-organic military and police personnel from the province.

In view of the exemplary performance of the Monitoring Mission, my Government has extended its mandate so that it can monitor provincial elections this coming 11 December. Some 200 candidates, including former GAM fighters, will be running for the positions of Governor, Vice Governor and 19 regents and mayors. The holding of the elections is based on a new Law on the Governance of Aceh recently passed by Parliament.

Another positive side-effect is that, with peace holding and consolidating in Aceh, the myth of the inevitable Balkanization of Indonesia has been laid to rest.

In the past, after each of our failed attempts to make peace, we scratched our heads and asked ourselves: What went wrong?

This time, we ask ourselves with wonder and humility: What did we do right?
In the first place, both the Government and the GAM made a leap of faith. Both sides summoned the will to negotiate. Sometimes that is the hardest thing to do-to summon the will. In fact, the first lesson of every peace process is that nobody can be bombed into making a sincere negotiation.

Another important lesson is that no conflict is beyond solution. All conflicts are man-made. What is made by man can be unmade by man. There may be no guarantee of success in peacemaking. But there is no guarantee either that a sincere effort to make peace will fail.

In the Helsinki negotiations, we knew that it was essential to strive for a win-win solution-and that is what we did. Negotiations may seem adversarial to the casual observer but it is, in fact, essentially a collaborative undertaking, and can only succeed as such. The moment one side of a negotiation steps from the table with a feeling that it has suffered a loss, the goal of peace has also been lost.

And this we must not forget: peacemaking involves risks. Risk of failure, of formidable resistance, of unfair criticism. Therefore peacemaking entails moral courage. Peacemakers must trust their God-given lights and listen to the voice of their conscience instead of withering from the sneers of skeptics.

Finally, peace is not a trophy that can be won with a one-off burst of energy. It is a state of affairs that must be earned day after day by all stakeholders.

It must be consolidated through democracy-that is why the elections in Aceh are so important. It must be reinforced with socioeconomic development-that is why it is so important that the reconstruction and rehabilitation programme is carried out to completion.

In the ultimate analysis, peace is indivisible from development and democracy.

And that, in sum, is the story of Aceh. It is a story worth telling. It is worth remembering whenever we gaze at what human conflict has inflicted on Palestine and Lebanon, on Iraq and Afghanistan, on the Sudan and Nepal.

If you ever wonder when the guns will be silent in the battlefields of the world, I bid you to remember Aceh. If you are ever tormented by the thought of man's inhumanity to man, I say: remember Aceh. And if you ever despair that peace is taking so long in coming to some disputed barricade, do remember Aceh.

If peace can come to Aceh, it can come to any place on earth where it is welcomed, served and nurtured.

I thank you.