Indonesian presidential front-runner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on yesterday called for a peaceful end to Indonesia's bloodiest internal conflict, the 28-year separatist war in Aceh province. \nThe former general and security chief in President Megawati Sukarnoputri's administration negotiated a short-lived peace deal with the Free Aceh Movement last year. The deal collapsed when Megawati sided with hardline generals who launched an offensive in May last year that has left at least 2,200 people dead, but has done little to end the insurgency. \nYudhoyono has publicly rejected any possibility of allowing the oil and gas-rich province to secede from the sprawling archipelago nation. \nBut yesterday, he told a group of teachers visiting his home on the outskirts of Jakarta that he would work to settle the conflict by peaceful means. \n"Let us not just go ahead with the military operation," Yudhoyono said. "Our country must remain united and on that there is no compromise. But [the conflict] must be resolved in a fair manner and as peacefully as possibly." \nWith 93 million of the estimated 125 million votes counted yesterday, Yudhoyono was leading with 61 percent while Megawati had 39 percent, according to the General Election Commission. Final results are expected in the next few days. \nYudhoyono has declined so far to claim victory and Megawati has not conceded. The official tally is expected to be announced on Oct. 5 and the new president is to be sworn in Oct. 20 for a five-year term. \nAfter meeting with the president, Vice President Hamzah Haz said Megawati wouldn't comment on the election until official results are released. \n"As long as things are not over, there could be a miracle," Haz said with a laugh. "Something could happen. But if the final results remain as they appear now and if there are no irregularities ... then of course we will accept the result." \nThe former general's likely overwhelming win has raised hopes he would use his popularity to push through parliament much-needed legal reforms, crack down on rampant graft, intensify the anti-terrorism fight in the world's largest Muslim nation and end the bloodshed in Aceh. \nYudhoyono, who has studied in the US, would be the fourth head of state since nationwide protests forced former dictator Suharto to resign in 1998 after 32 years in power. \nThe 55-year-old was expected to announce his Cabinet lineup within the next 10 days and begin setting his policy agenda, aides said. \nOn Tuesday, leaders of the Free Aceh Movement said they expected the war to continue regardless of who wins the Indonesian elections. \n"Whatever happens in Jakarta is irrelevant to the people of Aceh because they are still getting killed, tortured and oppressed every day," rebel spokesman Bakhtiar Abdullah said. \nNevertheless, international mediators who participated in the stalled process say they expect the talks to resume under Yudhoyono's administration. They said that negotiations could be back on track as early as next January. \nThe war in the province of 4 million people has been going on intermittently since 1870, when Dutch colonial troops occupied the independent sultanate. \nThe latest round of fighting began in 1976, and the rebels are now demanding a UN-supervised independence referendum akin to the one that ended Indonesian rule in East Timor in 1999. \nThe Indonesian military recently vowed to step up anti-guerrilla operations, and has promised that rebel strength would be reduced by 75 percent by the end of this year.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications