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An Evening of Diplomacy in Kuala Lumpur

ALL roads lead to Rome: and one of them runs through Malaysia. That is the best that could be said of Coordinating Minister of Welfare Jusuf Kalla's efforts to find a peaceful resolution for Aceh.

While the Coordinating Minister of Politics & Security, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, talked with GAM in Geneva last December, Jusuf surreptitiously opened a second diplomatic channel. With several Aceh notables, he trailblazed a path towards negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Initially, the secret talks with GAM were intended to create a resolution formula by means of economic compensation for the people. However, this proposal failed due to poor coordination.

The peace strategy began on May 20 of last year. Separately, at the Kuala Tripa Hotel in Banda Aceh, the former chairman of the Independent Commission to Investigate Violence in Aceh, Amran Zamzami, met with local GAM officials. Among them were Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba, Tengku M. Usman, and Tengku Kamaruzzaman. Their purpose was to discuss the results of Geneva talks that both attended 10 days earlier.

In the meeting, the opposing sides were surprisingly accommodating to each other. "I believe if the RI - GAM talks were held carefully, 70 percent of the problems Aceh faced would be over," said Amran. Two months later when Amran was back in Jakarta, Sofyan got in touch again. During the phone conversation, both parties indicated that the talks should be expanded, and that GAM and RI representatives should meet outside the formal channel of the Geneva talks. "This meeting was devised as a parallel track to achieve peace in Aceh," said Amran.

Amran then discussed the possibilities of such a meeting with some pro-Jakarta Aceh leaders. They were former journalist Nasrudin Hars, former RI ambassador to Mexico Usman Hasan, and ambassador to Egypt, Bachtiar Aly. With their support, Amran then contacted Jusuf Kalla. Minister Jusuf agreed to a meeting, which was quietly arranged. The agreed meeting place was Kuala Lumpur on March 6. As mediators, Amran and Nasrudin arrived earlier. Jusuf, along with a colleague, arrived moments before the planned meeting.

However, just as the meeting was planned to begin, Nasrudin again called Sofyan. He again wanted to confirm the authority of the GAM entourage at the meeting. Oddly, Sofyan Tiba claimed that he came to Malaysia only in a personal capacity. "A couple of days ago he had promised that he would be granted with negotiation authority, as we have expected," said Nasrudin.

Disappointed, Amran and Nasrudin got in touch with Jusuf Kalla, who was in his hotel. "Regretfully, we inform you that your meeting is cancelled, as the said GAM representative has no authority," they told Jusuf. Jusuf took the news in calmly. "Okay then, if that's the case. We have tried, so gentlemen, you don't need to be disappointed," he said.

Sofyan admitted to TEMPO that he never did bring a mandate to the meeting. "The meeting was not supposed to be between GAM and the Indonesian Government, but it was supposed to be between me and Jusuf Kalla as members of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Kadin)," he said. Sofyan is an officer of the Aceh chapter of Kadin, above being a member of GAM.

Sofyan added that he was not comfortable with the meeting as Jusuf was not coming alone. Minister Jusuf planned to bring the Indonesian ambassador to Kuala Lumpur, Hadi A. Wayarabi Alhadar. GAM's spokesman in Sweden, Zaini Abdullah, confirmed Sofyan's account. "We received the report on the planned meeting. As far as we know, Jusuf Kalla intended to meet one of our members, Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba," said Zaini.

Jusuf Kalla has dismissed suggestions the Indonesian Government's negotiations have been tarnished. "The meeting was only to explore possibilities of talks with GAM. If it was carried out, we may have discussed economic and political concessions," he said.

Earlier, there were reports that Coordinating Minister for Political & Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was upset over the incident. Susilo is the government official responsible for negotiations with GAM. But Minister Susilo denied this. "What Pak Jusuf Kalla did was part of the government's negotiation strategy to resolve the Aceh problem," he said.

But the Kuala Lumpur meeting did not deliver the Indonesian Government any closer to a negotiation strategy. "Just consider it our experience as a night in Kuala Lumpur," said Amran Zamzami.

AZ, Abdul Manan, Amal Ihsan (TEMPO News Room)

TEMPO, APRIL 28, 2003-033/P. 16 Heading National

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