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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Megawati meets Aceh leaders
Street in Aceh province
Full independence for Aceh is not on the cards
By Richard Galpin in Jakarta

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has met senior political, religious and social leaders from Aceh to discuss the implementation of a new law giving much greater autonomy to the troubled northern province.

Megawati Sukarnoputri
Megawati is taking a tough line on Aceh
The law, which came into effect last month, is part of the government's strategy to end the separatist rebellion in the province.

The conflict has already claimed more than 1,000 lives this year alone.

And there is little optimism that the autonomy law will have much effect, at least in the short term.

President Megawati met a group of more than 20 Acehnese leaders at the palace in Jakarta. The talks came just two days after it was announced she would specifically oversee the government's attempts to end the separatist rebellions in Aceh and in the province of Irian Jaya.

Local power

The new law is a vital part of the strategy to win over the population so it stops supporting calls for independence. It does address some of the most serious grievances.

Under the law 70% of the revenue from Aceh's oil and gas fields will be kept by the province instead of being taken by the central government in Jakarta. Sharia law will also be implemented for Muslims and local people will directly elect the governor.

But despite all these positive moves the Indonesian security forces are continuing their latest crackdown on the separatist guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement who have rejected the autonomy deal outright.

The number of people killed in the violence continues to increase every day, the majority of them civilians.

And tension is now rising even more as the country prepares to celebrate its national day later this week. The government says it expects the people of Aceh to raise the Indonesian flag and celebrate appropriately.

See also:

10 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Civilians shot dead in Aceh
08 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati seeks to reassure markets
23 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesian military holds key to power
18 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Violence spirals in troubled Aceh
30 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Murder and rape in Aceh
10 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
New Aceh peace deal
14 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aceh calls for 'Timor-style' vote
13 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's fragile archipelago
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