South Asia tsunami information   |   Information on Aceh

UNA urges Aussie peace role in Aceh

9 January 2005

The Australian government should be more vocal about calling an end to hostilities in Aceh, the United Nations Association said.

Thousands of Acehnese have died in three decades of fighting against Indonesian troops over independence for the region, which is now coming to grips with the loss of more than 100,000 people in the Boxing Day tsunami.

The Indonesian military have admitted to continuing some elements of their operations against the Acehnese separatists despite the disaster.

There have also been some reports of rebels firing on Indonesian soldiers protecting those involved in the aid effort.

UN Association national president and former Labor senator Margaret Reynolds said the federal government had a duty to ensure Australia's $1 billion aid package to Indonesia was used properly.

"It's an extremely strong response and therefore has to be recognised as such," Ms Reynolds told AAP.

"But equally we have to, as a country, be absolutely vigilant as to how this aid package is used in Indonesia because of the situation in Aceh.

"And it seems quite extraordinary to me that fighting is continuing in the province where there's been such devastation.

"And I think that while recognising Australia's very positive and timely response ... the Australian government should be much more vocal about calling (for) a halt to military incursions against the Acehnese."

Ms Reynolds said Australia was now well placed to call for talks to ensure Aceh's long-term peace and prosperity, given the generous aid package and the world's focus on the region.

"Since East Timor, Australia and the UN and probably a number of other administrations like the US and even the Europeans has backed off over Aceh and West Papua (which is also seeking independence)," she said.

"I think Australia, having given so promptly, is now in a very strong position to call for peace talks and lead peace talks in this devastated region."

"Because there's been a natural disaster, the man-made disaster of conflict could be resolved as part of the rehabilitation and rebuilding process.

"It's no use rebuilding Aceh just to see it in conflict."

But she said the priority should be immediate relief.


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