Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Commemorating the 11th year of peace in Indonesias westernmost province of Aceh on August 15, 2016, Governor Zaini Abdullah urged the local people to maintain harmony for sustainable development of the province.
On August 15, 2005, the conflict, which lasted for about 30 years in the resource-rich province of Aceh, ended after the signing of a memorandum of understanding sealing the peace between the government of Indonesia and the separatist Free Aceh Movement, in Helsinki, Finland.
The peace agreement, which was reached with difficulty, ended the almost three decades of armed conflict that killed more than 12 thousand people.
Now, the situation in Aceh has improved, and Governor Abdullah remarked that to shore up the peace, a lot of things must be done to develop the province and improve the livelihoods of its citizens.
The peace must hold and efforts to improve the public welfare should materialize.
Since the signing of the Helsinki agreement, the peace process in Aceh has been going on for 11 years, and therefore, Governor Abdullah invited all citizens of the province to ensure that lasts forever.
“Let us together back the peace process with our hard work to develop Aceh into a prosperous province,” the governor remarked on the sidelines of the commemoration of the 11th year of peace in the province.
He also invited the people to continue to pray that Aceh remains far from any disaster or distress.
During the 11 years of peace in Aceh, the situation in the province continues to be conducive, and public activities are taking place in various sectors with many investors wanting to invest in the province.
Additionally, the government of Aceh province continues to spur development in various sectors, since smooth development is the key to everlasting peace.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla has also acknowledged that the peace agreement, which ended the three-decade old armed conflict in Aceh, has improved the lot of the people.
With strong support from the then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Kalla at the time played a personal role in the negotiation process and was committed to making the agreement stick.
The meaning of peace, according to Kalla, is reflected in the poverty statistics.
Before the conflict erupted, Aceh had the fourth lowest rate of poverty in Indonesia but now the province has made much progress.
In 1990, Aceh had a poverty rate of 11.5 percent, far lower than the national poverty rate of 19.6 percent. Three years before the signing of the peace agreement in August 2005, the poverty rate in Aceh was recorded at 29.8 percent, the highest for any province.
However, the poverty rate in Aceh steadily declined, reaching 17 percent in September 2014, while its human development index rose to 73.1 in 2013 from 69.1 in 2005, according to statistical data.
“We should thank God that all the achievements that the people of Aceh have felt and enjoyed are the result of peaceful and conducive conditions in Aceh,” the vice president stressed.
Even President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) dubbed the province of Aceh as the “gateway to peace” and the “center of Islamic civilization in Indonesia.”
From 1985 to 1987, Jokowi worked and lived in Districts of Central Aceh, North Aceh and Lhokseumawe city. During his stay, he frequently visited Banda Aceh, the city he called the “center of Islamic civilization in Indonesia.”
Since 1976, Aceh has been torn by a separatist conflict waged by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) against the Jakarta government over control of resources, and over certain cultural and religious issues.
Many previous attempts to broker peace, including the latest one in 2003, failed as hostilities flared between Jakarta, which was determined to hold on to the resource-rich Aceh, and the rebels.
Decades of violence left over thousands of people dead and thousands more displaced.
But after the December 26, 2004 underground earthquake and tsunami devastated the Aceh province, killing some 170,000 residents, leaving 500,000 homeless and causing $4.5 billion worth of damage, both sides in the conflict returned to the negotiating table with new resolve to end the longstanding dispute.
Aceh was the point of land closest to the epicenter of the massive 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which triggered a tsunami that devastated much of Acehs western coast, including part of the capital city of Banda Aceh.
The government of Indonesias positive response to this disaster contributed to a peace agreement with GAM, signed on August 15, 2005 in Helsinki.
(T.O001/INE/KR-BSR/B003/Otniel Tamindael/Antara News)