The armed forces came a step closer toward re-establishing a controversial military command in separatist-inclined Aceh yesterday when two cabinet ministers said presidential approval of the idea was likely. 'President Megawati [Sukarnoputri] has responded positively to the planned re-establishment of the regional military command in Aceh. The proposal will be discussed further in cabinet meetings and security co-ordination meetings', Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno said after meeting Ms Megawati. Co-ordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Thursday Ms Megawati would decide on the military command soon. The armed forces (TNI) used to have the Iskandar Muda Regional Military Command in what is now formally called Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province. Along with Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Aceh gained special autonomy status at the start of this year. But in 1985, the TNI's commands were merged under North Sumatra's Bukit Barisan command. A few years ago, former military chief General Wiranto had argued for the re-establishment of the specific Aceh command but his institution was then on the run from the reformist civilians in post-Suharto Indonesia and permission was refused. Legal reform is underway to roll back the TNI's so-called territorial structure, whereby it maintained close daily supervision over the population through its regional commands. But now Ms Megawati is in power, thanks partly to the backing and timely defections of the military high command. Her priorities are national calm and national unity, both of which require the armed forces' acquiescence. This does not mean she gives in to every idea of the armed forces. Her Government next week will oversee the first home-grown effort to prosecute senior generals accused of organising the violence around East Timor's vote for independence in 1999. But it does mean she is more likely to consider the TNI's Aceh command proposal. Minister Hari Sabarno said the return of the military command would allow local authorities to handle security problems in the country's western-most province, with minimal involvement by the central Government. Peace talks with the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) would be a prerogative of the local government. Some Achenese residents say they would welcome the return of the armed forces as the police had been less professional. But that minority view is not shared by rights activists in Aceh. For them, a return to a special military command spells only more carnage and injustice, with greater impunity for erring officers.