Showing posts tagged as "Aceh"

Showing posts tagged Aceh

7 May
Indonesia: Tensions over Aceh’s Flag
Jakarta/Brussels  |   7 May 2013
A dispute over a flag in Aceh is testing the limits of autonomy, irritating Indonesia’s central government, heightening ethnic tensions, reviving a campaign for the division of the province and raising fears of violence as the 2014 national elections approach.
Indonesia: Tensions over Aceh’s Flag, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the political fallout from the Aceh provincial legislature’s adoption of a regulation on 25 March making the banner of the former rebel Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) the province’s official flag. The central government says the regulation violates a law banning separatist symbols and must be changed. Partai Aceh, the political party set up by the former rebels, says the flag cannot be separatist since GAM leaders signed a 2005 peace agreement with the Indonesian government in Helsinki in which it acknowledged Indonesian sovereignty.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
Partai Aceh sees no need to compromise because its leaders believe Jakarta will capitulate, as it has in the past. It also wants to use the enormous emotive power of the flag to mobilise voters in 2014.
Either way, Partai Aceh wins. If Jakarta rejects the flag, the party can score points with its supporters, because defying the central government is a vote-getter. If it accepts the flag, Partai Aceh will be convinced that obstinacy pays, and its leaders are likely to press for more authority.
Partai Aceh is systematically entrenching its control over political institutions in the province, making it less likely that any democratic challenge to its control will succeed. It already controls the executive and legislative branches in the provincial government, as well as most of the most populous districts. It is exerting influence over the civil service and local election commission. It is also in control of a new bureaucracy set up to safeguard Acehnese culture and values, known as the WaliNanggroe (Guardian of the State).
“This dispute is about much more than whether the flag constitutes a separatist symbol. It is about where Aceh is headed and what its relations with Jakarta will be”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group’s Senior Asia Adviser. “It is also about what the implications are for other areas, such as Papua, where raising a pro-independence flag has been the iconic act of political resistance”.
“Aceh looks increasingly like a one-party state”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “The question is whether Partai Aceh uses its power to improve the welfare of its poorest constituents or to entrench another elite”.
FULL BRIEFING

Indonesia: Tensions over Aceh’s Flag

Jakarta/Brussels  |   7 May 2013

A dispute over a flag in Aceh is testing the limits of autonomy, irritating Indonesia’s central government, heightening ethnic tensions, reviving a campaign for the division of the province and raising fears of violence as the 2014 national elections approach.

Indonesia: Tensions over Aceh’s Flag, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the political fallout from the Aceh provincial legislature’s adoption of a regulation on 25 March making the banner of the former rebel Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) the province’s official flag. The central government says the regulation violates a law banning separatist symbols and must be changed. Partai Aceh, the political party set up by the former rebels, says the flag cannot be separatist since GAM leaders signed a 2005 peace agreement with the Indonesian government in Helsinki in which it acknowledged Indonesian sovereignty.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • Partai Aceh sees no need to compromise because its leaders believe Jakarta will capitulate, as it has in the past. It also wants to use the enormous emotive power of the flag to mobilise voters in 2014.
  • Either way, Partai Aceh wins. If Jakarta rejects the flag, the party can score points with its supporters, because defying the central government is a vote-getter. If it accepts the flag, Partai Aceh will be convinced that obstinacy pays, and its leaders are likely to press for more authority.
  • Partai Aceh is systematically entrenching its control over political institutions in the province, making it less likely that any democratic challenge to its control will succeed. It already controls the executive and legislative branches in the provincial government, as well as most of the most populous districts. It is exerting influence over the civil service and local election commission. It is also in control of a new bureaucracy set up to safeguard Acehnese culture and values, known as the WaliNanggroe (Guardian of the State).

“This dispute is about much more than whether the flag constitutes a separatist symbol. It is about where Aceh is headed and what its relations with Jakarta will be”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group’s Senior Asia Adviser. “It is also about what the implications are for other areas, such as Papua, where raising a pro-independence flag has been the iconic act of political resistance”.

“Aceh looks increasingly like a one-party state”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “The question is whether Partai Aceh uses its power to improve the welfare of its poorest constituents or to entrench another elite”.

FULL BRIEFING

16 Jul

Prisons may be the area where the government needs to do the most work. Relative to the number of arrests, the official recidivism rate for convicted terrorists remains fairly low – under 10 per cent – but evidence from the post-Aceh cases suggests that the number of released prisoners willing to play supporting roles behind the scenes in extremist circles is much higher.

—from How Indonesian Extremists Regroup, the latest Crisis Group report on Indonesia.

Prisons may be the area where the government needs to do the most work. Relative to the number of arrests, the official recidivism rate for convicted terrorists remains fairly low – under 10 per cent – but evidence from the post-Aceh cases suggests that the number of released prisoners willing to play supporting roles behind the scenes in extremist circles is much higher.

—from How Indonesian Extremists Regroup, the latest Crisis Group report on Indonesia.

4 May
The Christian Science Monitor | Indonesia’s Aceh struggles to integrate former rebels fairly
As Indonesia’s Aceh Province works to rebuild from decades of bloody battle - and a devastating tsunami - many analysts say feelings of injustice could wedge a new community divide.
The misty terrain of this long-troubled Indonesian province is dense and arresting and laced with contrasts. Eight years ago gunfire riddled lush paddy fields. But today small mansions stand out among clapboard villages.
Home to a decades-long separatist insurgency, Acehhas been mostly peaceful for the past seven years. Last month former rebel Zaini Abdullah was elected governor of the province in largely non-violent polls that international observers called a successful test of the peace process.
With his win, Gov. Zaini Abdullah, the former foreign minister of the separatist Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, gained control of the resource-rich land for which he and his group of rag-tag supporters fought for more than 30 years. 
His entrance into politics, however, belies another fracture that has grown deeper recently, say analysts. Since the signing of a 2005 peace agreement in Helsinki that ended the fighting – in part by getting former combatants from GAM to lay down their arms and enter politics – the government has struggled to reintegrate ex-GAM members into society.
As this fragile province works to rebuild from decades of bloody battle – and a devastating tsunami in December 2004 – many analysts say feelings of injustice could deepen community divisions and spark violence from disgruntled ex-GAM who see the spoils of their struggle fall victim to nepotism and political corruption.
FULL ARTICLE (The Christian Science Monitor)

The Christian Science Monitor | Indonesia’s Aceh struggles to integrate former rebels fairly

As Indonesia’s Aceh Province works to rebuild from decades of bloody battle - and a devastating tsunami - many analysts say feelings of injustice could wedge a new community divide.

The misty terrain of this long-troubled Indonesian province is dense and arresting and laced with contrasts. Eight years ago gunfire riddled lush paddy fields. But today small mansions stand out among clapboard villages.

Home to a decades-long separatist insurgency, Acehhas been mostly peaceful for the past seven years. Last month former rebel Zaini Abdullah was elected governor of the province in largely non-violent polls that international observers called a successful test of the peace process.

With his win, Gov. Zaini Abdullah, the former foreign minister of the separatist Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, gained control of the resource-rich land for which he and his group of rag-tag supporters fought for more than 30 years. 

His entrance into politics, however, belies another fracture that has grown deeper recently, say analysts. Since the signing of a 2005 peace agreement in Helsinki that ended the fighting – in part by getting former combatants from GAM to lay down their arms and enter politics – the government has struggled to reintegrate ex-GAM members into society.

As this fragile province works to rebuild from decades of bloody battle – and a devastating tsunami in December 2004 – many analysts say feelings of injustice could deepen community divisions and spark violence from disgruntled ex-GAM who see the spoils of their struggle fall victim to nepotism and political corruption.

FULL ARTICLE (The Christian Science Monitor)

19 Apr
How Will Partai Aceh Govern?
Sidney Jones, Tempo  |   19 Apr 2012
The extraordinary victory of Partai Aceh (Aceh Party) raises questions about how Aceh will develop in the next five years. Will it grow into an authoritarian one-party enclave in the middle of democratic Indonesia or become a model for the transformation of a guerrilla movement into a responsible political force?
It is worth looking at why Partai Aceh won by such huge margins: close to 55 per cent overall and more than 70 per cent in the populous districts along the east coast. Intimidation, while significant, cannot explain these numbers.
Acehnese told us repeatedly last week that the election was about peace and security – avoiding any return to conflict and ensuring a sense of personal safety. Partai Aceh leaders successfully portrayed themselves as both the leaders of the guerrilla struggle and the architects of the 2005 peace. They also suggested vaguely, however, that if they weren’t elected, there could be trouble.
Some gave other reasons for choosing the party. Several young intellectuals argued that GAM’s transition from guerrilla group to party was incomplete, and it needed more time to finish the process. If the former rebels lost this time, they might opt out of the political process in a way that would have long-term negative implications for Aceh. 
The most important factor in the vote, however, was almost certainly the party’s ability to mobilise the populace through the Komite Peralihan Aceh or KPA, the post-conflict name for the old guerrilla structure — and here is where some of the problems lie.  The KPA is led down to the village level by former commanders, and in many areas it is indistinguishable from the party. 
The KPA has no legal status, but its senior members are often powerful local warlords, grown rich through securing construction contracts and other concessions. As former combatants, they are used to obeying orders from above and securing obedience from below. When a political party is superimposed on this structure, the result has been an often autocratic organisation with little tolerance for dissent.  
In Langsa, we were sitting with a group of NGO leaders discussing the election, when suddenly one lowered his voice and whispered, “Careful, it’s not sterile here.” In the Soeharto days, that used to be the reaction when a suspected military or intelligence agent appeared. This time, it was a local Partai Aceh man who had entered, and our friends were afraid of being overheard; the party is widely believed to have its own network of informers. Several local offices of the election oversight body, Panwas, said it was difficult to follow up reports of Partai Aceh violations because witnesses were afraid to come forward.
If the party is to lead Aceh in a positive direction it needs to disassociate itself from and/or dissolve the KPA, gradually rid itself of military attributes (the party’s paramilitary task force or satgas wears red berets and camouflage uniforms) and recruit new blood on college campuses.  A younger, better educated faction of the party says it is trying to open the party up and make it less exclusive, but it won’t happen overnight.
This raises the question of what Partai Aceh’s political agenda will be going forward, now that it controls both the executive and legislative branches of the provincial government.  While the campaign was devoid of specifics, the party has a detailed platform for preserving the peace, improving government, reducing poverty, and strengthening Achenese culture and values. If the party uses it as a guideline for policies, it could win over some sceptics, although the track record of the party’s legislators is poor.
One party worker said the top legislative priority was the draft regulation on the Wali Nanggroe, an institution agreed on in Helsinki as a ceremonial position for the late Hasan di Tiro. Malek Mahmud, GAM’s former “prime minister” and Partai Aceh’s founder, has since assumed the title and role that some in the party’s old guard see as a kind of constitutional monarch. How the final version of this regulation emerges will send important signals about the party’s willingness to let go of some of its feudal tendencies. 

Aceh’s development will also depend on Jakarta and the willingness of national institutions to confront the party if it challenges the constitution or acts outside the law. Local police have shown a distinct reluctance to move against the KPA. When several members were implicated in the killings of Javanese workers in December and January, it took the elite Detachment 88 from Jakarta to make the arrests, and many Acehnese doubt that there is much interest in probing the case further. 
Likewise when the party last year refused to accept a Constitutional Court ruling, Home Affairs seemed to take its side, on the grounds that the largest party in Aceh had to be “accommodated” – and it was. The lesson may be that defiance of national institutions carries no costs, particularly as 2014 draws closer.
Many Acehnese we met assume that if its elected officials don’t deliver, they will be thrown out in five years. But with an absence of checks and balances, combined with an ability to direct significant resources to members, the party may be difficult to dislodge.
Whatever happens, Aceh’s experiment in post-conflict governance will be closely watched.
Sidney Jones is senior adviser to the Asia Program of International Crisis Group
Crisis Group
Photo: CpILL/ Flickr

How Will Partai Aceh Govern?

Sidney Jones, Tempo  |   19 Apr 2012

The extraordinary victory of Partai Aceh (Aceh Party) raises questions about how Aceh will develop in the next five years. Will it grow into an authoritarian one-party enclave in the middle of democratic Indonesia or become a model for the transformation of a guerrilla movement into a responsible political force?

It is worth looking at why Partai Aceh won by such huge margins: close to 55 per cent overall and more than 70 per cent in the populous districts along the east coast. Intimidation, while significant, cannot explain these numbers.

Acehnese told us repeatedly last week that the election was about peace and security – avoiding any return to conflict and ensuring a sense of personal safety. Partai Aceh leaders successfully portrayed themselves as both the leaders of the guerrilla struggle and the architects of the 2005 peace. They also suggested vaguely, however, that if they weren’t elected, there could be trouble.

Some gave other reasons for choosing the party. Several young intellectuals argued that GAM’s transition from guerrilla group to party was incomplete, and it needed more time to finish the process. If the former rebels lost this time, they might opt out of the political process in a way that would have long-term negative implications for Aceh. 

The most important factor in the vote, however, was almost certainly the party’s ability to mobilise the populace through the Komite Peralihan Aceh or KPA, the post-conflict name for the old guerrilla structure — and here is where some of the problems lie.  The KPA is led down to the village level by former commanders, and in many areas it is indistinguishable from the party. 

The KPA has no legal status, but its senior members are often powerful local warlords, grown rich through securing construction contracts and other concessions. As former combatants, they are used to obeying orders from above and securing obedience from below. When a political party is superimposed on this structure, the result has been an often autocratic organisation with little tolerance for dissent.  

In Langsa, we were sitting with a group of NGO leaders discussing the election, when suddenly one lowered his voice and whispered, “Careful, it’s not sterile here.” In the Soeharto days, that used to be the reaction when a suspected military or intelligence agent appeared. This time, it was a local Partai Aceh man who had entered, and our friends were afraid of being overheard; the party is widely believed to have its own network of informers. Several local offices of the election oversight body, Panwas, said it was difficult to follow up reports of Partai Aceh violations because witnesses were afraid to come forward.

If the party is to lead Aceh in a positive direction it needs to disassociate itself from and/or dissolve the KPA, gradually rid itself of military attributes (the party’s paramilitary task force or satgas wears red berets and camouflage uniforms) and recruit new blood on college campuses.  A younger, better educated faction of the party says it is trying to open the party up and make it less exclusive, but it won’t happen overnight.

This raises the question of what Partai Aceh’s political agenda will be going forward, now that it controls both the executive and legislative branches of the provincial government.  While the campaign was devoid of specifics, the party has a detailed platform for preserving the peace, improving government, reducing poverty, and strengthening Achenese culture and values. If the party uses it as a guideline for policies, it could win over some sceptics, although the track record of the party’s legislators is poor.

One party worker said the top legislative priority was the draft regulation on the Wali Nanggroe, an institution agreed on in Helsinki as a ceremonial position for the late Hasan di Tiro. Malek Mahmud, GAM’s former “prime minister” and Partai Aceh’s founder, has since assumed the title and role that some in the party’s old guard see as a kind of constitutional monarch. How the final version of this regulation emerges will send important signals about the party’s willingness to let go of some of its feudal tendencies. 

Aceh’s development will also depend on Jakarta and the willingness of national institutions to confront the party if it challenges the constitution or acts outside the law. Local police have shown a distinct reluctance to move against the KPA. When several members were implicated in the killings of Javanese workers in December and January, it took the elite Detachment 88 from Jakarta to make the arrests, and many Acehnese doubt that there is much interest in probing the case further. 

Likewise when the party last year refused to accept a Constitutional Court ruling, Home Affairs seemed to take its side, on the grounds that the largest party in Aceh had to be “accommodated” – and it was. The lesson may be that defiance of national institutions carries no costs, particularly as 2014 draws closer.

Many Acehnese we met assume that if its elected officials don’t deliver, they will be thrown out in five years. But with an absence of checks and balances, combined with an ability to direct significant resources to members, the party may be difficult to dislodge.

Whatever happens, Aceh’s experiment in post-conflict governance will be closely watched.

Sidney Jones is senior adviser to the Asia Program of International Crisis Group

Crisis Group

Photo: CpILL/ Flickr


The Jakarta Post | Elections in Aceh and Timor Leste: After the struggle
Years after two very different peace settlements in Aceh and Timor Leste, the theme of the unfi nished struggle continues to shape election politics. In either place there is no question of a return to confl ict with Jakarta as the power struggles are now internal. But the challenge for both is to transform “struggle” from an end in itself toward the kind of political competition that will deliver results for voters.Last week, voters chose a governor   and other local offi cials in Aceh, the Indonesian province where Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels ended a 30-year fi ght for independence in exchange for greater autonomy under the 2005 Helsinki agreement. On Monday, residents of Timor Leste elected their third president since Indonesia’s 1999 withdrawal ended 24 years of armed resistance there.The Aceh governor’s election was chiefl y a contest between two former GAM members. The incumbent Irwandi Yusuf, the former GAM propaganda chief, had hoped to win on the basis of popular welfare programs he had introduced during his fi ve-year tenure, such as free medical care and scholarships for study outside Aceh.He ran again as an independent, hoping to attract the support of the ruling Partai Aceh (PA), founded by rival GAM stalwarts in 2007, or failing that, avoid alienating their supporters. The strategy failed: He lost to the PA ticket (Zaini Abdullah and Muzakir Manaf ) by 56 percent to 29 percent.As we travelled through the province in the days before the polls, we were told three things were at stake: peace, security and prosperity. But when asked what was the key factor behind how people were voting, the answer from all of those who foretold Partai Aceh’s win was far simpler: “the struggle”. A strong resistance brooks little dissent; those who might have voted otherwise feared being labeled “traitors”.Partai Aceh helped promote this thinking in part through direct intimidation of voters. But this alone cannot explain its wide margin of victory. It also capitalized on the politics of struggle in three important ways. It built a campaign around the need for fuller implementation of the Helsinki agreement.While there was almost no discussion of what this means, it sent a powerful message that the fi ght was not yet over. PA also built on the strong support for Muzakir Manaf, former GAM military commander, who while running for deputy governor was by far the larger draw.Loyalty to Muzakir among former GAM fi ghters, particularly among the lower ranks, was key. Finally, it drew on the symbols of the struggle, most notably through its fl ag, heavily reminiscent of that used by GAM and which was omnipresent in many parts of Aceh throughout the campaign.In Timor Leste, the rallying cry of the “unfi nished struggle” is also important, even if the real power struggles are internal. On Monday, former guerrilla commander and armed forces chief Taur Matan Ruak (Jose Maria de Vasconcelos) defeated his opponent Lu Olo (Francisco Gutierrez), Fretilin party president and former political commissar in the resistance.Since independence, Fretilin has sought the role of standard bearer, marshalling the Fretilin fl ag and drawing on the history of the resistance in its rhetoric. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão has challenged that legacy by setting up his own party (CNRT) and bringing some key veterans to his side.Throughout the presidential campaign, the question of who contributed most to Timorese independence has been paramount. Gusmão became the most prominent supporter of his former deputy, Matan Ruak, explaining they must work together to further the struggle for the people’s welfare rather than simply independence.The strength of the Timorese resistance movement lay in its dispersed nature, with leaders in the Diaspora and a vast network of clandestine cells across Timor, Bali and Java supporting the armed front in the mountains.But after independence, a country of just over one million people no longer offers quite so many leadership posts. This has promoted new fractures among the political elite, as well as brought back the specter of earlier splits.The bitter wounds left after Gusmão split the Falintil army from Fretilin control in 1987 were among the leading grievances in the violent confrontations of Timor Leste’s 2006 crisis. This fracturing of the resistance had a negative impact on short-term stability, but is a key contributor to the country’s long-term democratic health.Aceh’s post-settlement history has been shorter and while there have been deep splits within GAM, particularly between those who lived in exile and those who remained fi ghting at home, they have not yet been refl ected in the growth of other strong local parties, allowed in Aceh since the Helsinki settlement.Partai Aceh says it wants to invite in younger experts and academics to help advise those in its ranks who have little experience governing. But as it now controls both the provincial legislative and the executive (the current parliamentary speaker is the elected governor’s brother), the only real check on its performance will need to be achieved through the rise of credible alternatives.More decisive fracturing within the ranks of former GAM may be the path to longer-term stability. Parliaments in Aceh and Timor Leste have proven weak: the former in producing the kind of provincial regulations that will give teeth to the 2006 Law on Governing Aceh while remaining consistent with national laws; the latter in providing anything but a rubber-stamp to government legislation.Both will also need to guard against the capture of the legacy of the resistance by any one party. Timor Leste has been far more successful at avoiding this, but efforts to formalize the role of veterans as guardians of the State through a consultative council and gain more control over government contracts (as in Aceh) could jeopardize this success.Viewed together, Aceh and Timor Leste show the challenges of making a smooth transition from resistance struggle to multiparty competition. While the “unfi nished struggle” proves a captivating campaign theme, it must not be allowed to hold captive broader democratic competition. The struggle to reduce poverty, maintain security and improve welfare requires very different tactics.Cillian Nolan is a Southeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group.
READ ARTICLE (The Jakarta Post)
Photo: Martine Perret/ Wikimedia Commons

The Jakarta Post | Elections in Aceh and Timor Leste: After the struggle

Years after two very different peace settlements in Aceh and Timor Leste, the theme of the unfi nished struggle continues to shape election politics. In either place there is no question of a return to confl ict with Jakarta as the power struggles are now internal. But the challenge for both is to transform “struggle” from an end in itself toward the kind of political competition that will deliver results for voters.

Last week, voters chose a governor   and other local offi cials in Aceh, the Indonesian province where Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels ended a 30-year fi ght for independence in exchange for greater autonomy under the 2005 Helsinki agreement. On Monday, residents of Timor Leste elected their third president since Indonesia’s 1999 withdrawal ended 24 years of armed resistance there.

The Aceh governor’s election was chiefl y a contest between two former GAM members. The incumbent Irwandi Yusuf, the former GAM propaganda chief, had hoped to win on the basis of popular welfare programs he had introduced during his fi ve-year tenure, such as free medical care and scholarships for study outside Aceh.

He ran again as an independent, hoping to attract the support of the ruling Partai Aceh (PA), founded by rival GAM stalwarts in 2007, or failing that, avoid alienating their supporters. The strategy failed: He lost to the PA ticket (Zaini Abdullah and Muzakir Manaf ) by 56 percent to 29 percent.

As we travelled through the province in the days before the polls, we were told three things were at stake: peace, security and prosperity. But when asked what was the key factor behind how people were voting, the answer from all of those who foretold Partai Aceh’s win was far simpler: “the struggle”. A strong resistance brooks little dissent; those who might have voted otherwise feared being labeled “traitors”.

Partai Aceh helped promote this thinking in part through direct intimidation of voters. But this alone cannot explain its wide margin of victory. It also capitalized on the politics of struggle in three important ways. It built a campaign around the need for fuller implementation of the Helsinki agreement.

While there was almost no discussion of what this means, it sent a powerful message that the fi ght was not yet over. PA also built on the strong support for Muzakir Manaf, former GAM military commander, who while running for deputy governor was by far the larger draw.

Loyalty to Muzakir among former GAM fi ghters, particularly among the lower ranks, was key. Finally, it drew on the symbols of the struggle, most notably through its fl ag, heavily reminiscent of that used by GAM and which was omnipresent in many parts of Aceh throughout the campaign.

In Timor Leste, the rallying cry of the “unfi nished struggle” is also important, even if the real power struggles are internal. On Monday, former guerrilla commander and armed forces chief Taur Matan Ruak (Jose Maria de Vasconcelos) defeated his opponent Lu Olo (Francisco Gutierrez), Fretilin party president and former political commissar in the resistance.

Since independence, Fretilin has sought the role of standard bearer, marshalling the Fretilin fl ag and drawing on the history of the resistance in its rhetoric. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão has challenged that legacy by setting up his own party (CNRT) and bringing some key veterans to his side.

Throughout the presidential campaign, the question of who contributed most to Timorese independence has been paramount. Gusmão became the most prominent supporter of his former deputy, Matan Ruak, explaining they must work together to further the struggle for the people’s welfare rather than simply independence.

The strength of the Timorese resistance movement lay in its dispersed nature, with leaders in the Diaspora and a vast network of clandestine cells across Timor, Bali and Java supporting the armed front in the mountains.

But after independence, a country of just over one million people no longer offers quite so many leadership posts. This has promoted new fractures among the political elite, as well as brought back the specter of earlier splits.

The bitter wounds left after Gusmão split the Falintil army from Fretilin control in 1987 were among the leading grievances in the violent confrontations of Timor Leste’s 2006 crisis. This fracturing of the resistance had a negative impact on short-term stability, but is a key contributor to the country’s long-term democratic health.

Aceh’s post-settlement history has been shorter and while there have been deep splits within GAM, particularly between those who lived in exile and those who remained fi ghting at home, they have not yet been refl ected in the growth of other strong local parties, allowed in Aceh since the Helsinki settlement.

Partai Aceh says it wants to invite in younger experts and academics to help advise those in its ranks who have little experience governing. But as it now controls both the provincial legislative and the executive (the current parliamentary speaker is the elected governor’s brother), the only real check on its performance will need to be achieved through the rise of credible alternatives.

More decisive fracturing within the ranks of former GAM may be the path to longer-term stability. Parliaments in Aceh and Timor Leste have proven weak: the former in producing the kind of provincial regulations that will give teeth to the 2006 Law on Governing Aceh while remaining consistent with national laws; the latter in providing anything but a rubber-stamp to government legislation.

Both will also need to guard against the capture of the legacy of the resistance by any one party. Timor Leste has been far more successful at avoiding this, but efforts to formalize the role of veterans as guardians of the State through a consultative council and gain more control over government contracts (as in Aceh) could jeopardize this success.

Viewed together, Aceh and Timor Leste show the challenges of making a smooth transition from resistance struggle to multiparty competition. While the “unfi nished struggle” proves a captivating campaign theme, it must not be allowed to hold captive broader democratic competition. The struggle to reduce poverty, maintain security and improve welfare requires very different tactics.

Cillian Nolan is a Southeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group.

READ ARTICLE (The Jakarta Post)

Photo: Martine Perret/ Wikimedia Commons

18 Apr
Global Post | Aceh elections: pure shariah? Or pure politics?
In Aceh, arguably the most devoutly Islamic corner of Southeast Asia, voters have elected an ex-rebel governor vowing to embolden a more “pure” strain of Quranic shariah law.
Perhaps he will. 
But while it’s tempting to view all things Aceh through the shariah lens — it’s the only Indonesian province where boozing and out-of-wedlock romance is punishable by public caning — this election isn’t all about shariah.
It’s all about power and settling vendettas.
Any politician hoping to win in Aceh has to pay lip service to upholding the piety of Quranic law. These appeals to Islamic purity have much in common with American senators’ appeals to “family values.” They’re vague. They please the base.
The real significance of the election is that the core hirearchy of former Free Aceh Movement separatists, which waged a three-decade guerrilla war to establish Aceh as a sovereign country, has finally consolidated its power.
Post-election headlines highlight the fact that Aceh has just elected an “ex-rebel” governor. But both the unseated incumbent, Irwandi Yusuf, and the new governor, Zaini Abdullah, can boast of rebel bonafides. 
The outgoing leader actually has a more compelling backstory. He was locked behind bars as a “war prisoner” in 2004 and survived Aceh’s devastating tsunami by escaping through a crack in the roof of his jail. 

FULL ARTICLE (Global Post)

Global Post | Aceh elections: pure shariah? Or pure politics?

In Aceh, arguably the most devoutly Islamic corner of Southeast Asia, voters have elected an ex-rebel governor vowing to embolden a more “pure” strain of Quranic shariah law.

Perhaps he will. 

But while it’s tempting to view all things Aceh through the shariah lens — it’s the only Indonesian province where boozing and out-of-wedlock romance is punishable by public caning — this election isn’t all about shariah.

It’s all about power and settling vendettas.

Any politician hoping to win in Aceh has to pay lip service to upholding the piety of Quranic law. These appeals to Islamic purity have much in common with American senators’ appeals to “family values.” They’re vague. They please the base.

The real significance of the election is that the core hirearchy of former Free Aceh Movement separatists, which waged a three-decade guerrilla war to establish Aceh as a sovereign country, has finally consolidated its power.

Post-election headlines highlight the fact that Aceh has just elected an “ex-rebel” governor. But both the unseated incumbent, Irwandi Yusuf, and the new governor, Zaini Abdullah, can boast of rebel bonafides. 

The outgoing leader actually has a more compelling backstory. He was locked behind bars as a “war prisoner” in 2004 and survived Aceh’s devastating tsunami by escaping through a crack in the roof of his jail. 

FULL ARTICLE (Global Post)

19 Mar
Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) — Five suspected terrorists were killed Sunday in a shootout with police on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, a spokesman for Indonesia’s National Police said Monday.
The suspects were planning to rob several jewelry stores to help fund their alleged terror plots, and planned on making at least two thefts Sunday night, said Senior Commander Boy Rafli Amar of the National Police.
Indonesia’s counter-terrorism police, who had been following the suspects for a month, conducted two raids on hotels in the Denpasar area of Bali on Sunday night. Gunfire was exchanged before the suspected terrorists were killed, Amar said. Two guns and ammunition were recovered from the two sites, he said.
The suspects were believed to be part of a group behind the armed heist of a bank in Medan, North Sumatra, in 2010, Amar said. That group was later determined to be part of a terror cell that helped fund and set up a military-style training camp in the province of Aceh, also in North Sumatra.
…
According to recent reports by the International Crisis Group, the terrorist threat in the country remains but has shifted to attacks on Indonesian authorities, with smaller groups or radicalized individuals targeting the police.
FULL ARTICLE (CNN)

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) — Five suspected terrorists were killed Sunday in a shootout with police on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, a spokesman for Indonesia’s National Police said Monday.

The suspects were planning to rob several jewelry stores to help fund their alleged terror plots, and planned on making at least two thefts Sunday night, said Senior Commander Boy Rafli Amar of the National Police.

Indonesia’s counter-terrorism police, who had been following the suspects for a month, conducted two raids on hotels in the Denpasar area of Bali on Sunday night. Gunfire was exchanged before the suspected terrorists were killed, Amar said. Two guns and ammunition were recovered from the two sites, he said.

The suspects were believed to be part of a group behind the armed heist of a bank in Medan, North Sumatra, in 2010, Amar said. That group was later determined to be part of a terror cell that helped fund and set up a military-style training camp in the province of Aceh, also in North Sumatra.

According to recent reports by the International Crisis Group, the terrorist threat in the country remains but has shifted to attacks on Indonesian authorities, with smaller groups or radicalized individuals targeting the police.

FULL ARTICLE (CNN)


29 Feb
Indonesia: Averting Election Violence in Aceh
Election monitors should begin deployment to Aceh long before the 9 April election to deter intimidation.
Indonesia : Averting Election Violence in Aceh , the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, says the potential for isolated acts of violence between now and voting day is high and may be higher after the results are announced if it is a close election.
“Whether violence materialises will depend on several factors, including the speed with which local election monitors can take up position in some of the most contested districts, like Bireuen and Aceh Timur”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group Senior Adviser. “It is also important that the police move quickly to pursue those responsible for a series of killings in December and January so that rumours of political motivation can either be laid to rest or conclusively proven”.
The briefing examines the political and legal manoeuvres used by Partai Aceh, the political party created by the leadership of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), the former rebel group, to delay the elections so that its main rival for the governorship, the incumbent Irwandi Yusuf, also a GAM member, could be forced from office after the expiration of his five-year term on 8 February 2012. If the election were to take place after that date, the government would have to appoint a caretaker, and Irwandi would be denied the opportunity to use the perks of office to campaign. The elections were originally scheduled for October 2011, but they were delayed first to 14 November, then to 24 December, then to 16 February and finally to 9 April.
When it seemed as though the postponement until 16 February would be the last, a series of killings targeting Javanese workers took place, beginning in early December. Most of these crimes remain unsolved, but they seemed to some to be aimed at showing that security conditions were such as to prevent the elections from going forward. There may be no connection, but once officials in Jakarta agreed to push for a further delay, the murders stopped, although other forms of violence continued. The briefing looks at these attacks and notes that the burden is now on the police to pursue investigations vigorously so that the perpetrators can be identified and punished.
The election could be close. Partai Aceh has the advantage of a strong political machine but has fielded a weak candidate for governor in Zaini Abdullah, GAM’s former “foreign minister”. Former Governor Irwandi, now replaced by a caretaker, is personally popular, especially because of a universal health insurance program he championed and commands the loyalty of many former guerrilla commanders, but he is standing as an independent and lacks any party organisational structure. Partai Aceh has shown a willingness to use fear tactics in a way that could persuade some voters that it is dangerous not to choose it.
“Getting election monitors to Aceh quickly should be seen as an investment in peace”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “This election is critical to Aceh’s future”.
FULL REPORT (International Crisis Group)

Indonesia: Averting Election Violence in Aceh

Election monitors should begin deployment to Aceh long before the 9 April election to deter intimidation.

Indonesia : Averting Election Violence in Aceh , the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, says the potential for isolated acts of violence between now and voting day is high and may be higher after the results are announced if it is a close election.

“Whether violence materialises will depend on several factors, including the speed with which local election monitors can take up position in some of the most contested districts, like Bireuen and Aceh Timur”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group Senior Adviser. “It is also important that the police move quickly to pursue those responsible for a series of killings in December and January so that rumours of political motivation can either be laid to rest or conclusively proven”.

The briefing examines the political and legal manoeuvres used by Partai Aceh, the political party created by the leadership of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), the former rebel group, to delay the elections so that its main rival for the governorship, the incumbent Irwandi Yusuf, also a GAM member, could be forced from office after the expiration of his five-year term on 8 February 2012. If the election were to take place after that date, the government would have to appoint a caretaker, and Irwandi would be denied the opportunity to use the perks of office to campaign. The elections were originally scheduled for October 2011, but they were delayed first to 14 November, then to 24 December, then to 16 February and finally to 9 April.

When it seemed as though the postponement until 16 February would be the last, a series of killings targeting Javanese workers took place, beginning in early December. Most of these crimes remain unsolved, but they seemed to some to be aimed at showing that security conditions were such as to prevent the elections from going forward. There may be no connection, but once officials in Jakarta agreed to push for a further delay, the murders stopped, although other forms of violence continued. The briefing looks at these attacks and notes that the burden is now on the police to pursue investigations vigorously so that the perpetrators can be identified and punished.

The election could be close. Partai Aceh has the advantage of a strong political machine but has fielded a weak candidate for governor in Zaini Abdullah, GAM’s former “foreign minister”. Former Governor Irwandi, now replaced by a caretaker, is personally popular, especially because of a universal health insurance program he championed and commands the loyalty of many former guerrilla commanders, but he is standing as an independent and lacks any party organisational structure. Partai Aceh has shown a willingness to use fear tactics in a way that could persuade some voters that it is dangerous not to choose it.

“Getting election monitors to Aceh quickly should be seen as an investment in peace”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “This election is critical to Aceh’s future”.

FULL REPORT (International Crisis Group)