Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have agreed to a demand by the Indonesian government that the tsunami-hit province should remain a part of Indonesia, but they spelled out conditions that the Acehnese must be allowed to govern the territory under a system of self-government.
""Self-government is a political system, which provides genuine democracy for all of the Acehnese as we put aside our demand of being independent.
""And the establishment of local political parties that enable the Acehnese to participate in direct local elections as the key point of the system,"" GAM spokesman Bakhtiar Abdullah said on Monday.
Such conditions were crystallized during a two-day consultation meeting involving dozens of representatives of Acehnese civil society, including activists from the Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA), and GAM's leadership in Sweden, over the weekend.
During the meetings, which were facilitated by the Sweden-based Olof Palme International Center, most attendees agreed that ""the only way to a comprehensive and sustainable peace in Aceh was through a negotiated agreement that gives to the people of Aceh the right and capacity to determine their own affairs within the context of the Republic of Indonesia.""
""The Acehnese must feel free to talk about politics without being interfered with by the central government (in Jakarta),"" Bakhtiar told The Jakarta Post from Sweden.
The Indonesian government and GAM leaders will meet in Helsinki for a final round of informal peace talks to end the three decades of bloody conflict in Aceh, the hardest hit region in the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster.
Chief facilitator of Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), Martti Ahtisaari said the round would last for six days, beginning from July 12.
The government of Indonesia has insisted that any peace talks should be held within the context that Aceh remains a part of Indonesia.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said the government could accept demands that former GAM rebels be allowed to run in local elections for the positions of mayors, regents and vice governor.
But the government seems to be against the possibility of the establishment of local political parties, as the law stipulates that all political parties in Indonesia must be organized on a nationwide basis. This means that former GAM members must join existing, mostly Jakarta-based, parties if they wished to run for mayors, regents or vice governor in local elections.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla met last week with some leaders of political parties, calling on them to allow GAM members to participate in local elections through their respective parties.
The peace talks in Helsinki had been strongly criticized by some lawmakers, who claim that the Aceh issue is solely a domestic problem. They also criticized the proposed involvement of foreign monitoring team in Aceh.
Kalla responded on Monday to the criticism by saying that a ""peaceful solution will be the only way to stop the bloodshed in the conflict-torn province,"" where over 15,000 people have been killed since the GAM began its independence bid in 1976.