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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Megawati sorry for rights abuses
Megawati addresses parliament
Megawati: Sorry for abuses, but No to independence
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has apologised to the rebellious provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya for human rights abuses committed by past governments.

But she said she would never allow them to break away from the Indonesian state, as East Timor did in 1999.

Thousands of people have died in continuing fighting between Indonesian security forces and separatist rebels in both provinces.

Free Aceh Movement rebels
Aceh separatists have been fighting since the mid-1970s
In a speech on the eve of Indonesia's independence day, President Megawati urged the provinces to accept new autonomy packages which will give them a greater say in their own affairs.

In her first major address since being sworn in last month, Megawati said: " We apologise to our brothers who have long suffered as a result of inappropriate national policies."

"We need to pay more attention to human rights," President Megawati said.

"We need a security force which is effective, highly disciplined and under the control of the government."

She said she hoped the people of Aceh and Irian Jaya would accept special autonomy packages, urging separatists to abandon their struggle and "help build a new Indonesia".

Click here for a map of Indonesia's trouble spots

But President Megawati made it clear that independence was not an option and urged the armed forces to maintain the territorial integrity of the nation.

The situation in Aceh and Irian Jaya was completely different from East Timor, she said, adding that rebels should be aware that they did not have any support from foreign countries.

Exploited

Both Aceh and Irian Jaya, at the two ends of the Indonesian archipelago, have been exploited for decades by the central government for their natural resources: oil and gas in Aceh and mineral wealth in Irian Jaya.

But they have received very little in return, helping to fuel separatist movements which the security forces have tried to crush, often brutally.

Megawati, daughter of Indonesia's revered founding president, Sukarno, made her speech to parliament the eve of the 56th anniversary of indepence from Dutch colonial rule.

Boy looks at school burned down by rebels in Aceh
Violence: Part of everyday life in Aceh
Megawati, appointed by parliament last month to replace sacked leader Abdurrahman Wahid, also spoke of the need for unity in tackling Indonesia's many problems.

"Our multitude of crises certainly cannot be overcome all at once... Only by (working together) can we gradually emerge from this time which has been very painful for us all," she said.

One of her biggest challenges is to revive the economy, which collapsed four years ago, forcing millions of Indonesians into poverty.

Megawati, who promised to tackle Indonesia's endemic corruption, outlined few specific proposals to encourage back investors.

Six-point plan

But she did remind parliament of her cabinet's six-point plan and called on all Indonesians to support it.

The plan included:

  • maintaining the unity and integrity of the nation

  • continuing the reform process and increasing democratisation while maintaining respect for human rights

  • normalising economic and social activities

  • upholding law and order, restoring peace to public life, and fighting corruption, collusion and nepotism

  • regaining international trust, including from multilateral donors and investors

  • preparing peaceful and fair general elections for 2004.



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The BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Jakarta
"Within weeks of taking office President Megawati has spelt out a clear agenda"
See also:

16 Aug 01 | Business
Megawati says 'no' to kickbacks
15 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati meets Aceh leaders
13 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's fragile archipelago
23 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesian military holds key to power
14 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aceh calls for 'Timor-style' vote
17 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Action urged over Irian Jaya abuses
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