Seeking out Aceh’s agents of terror
Rows of luxury cars were parked in front of the Helmes Palace Hotel in Banda Aceh last Thursday night. Guests in neat clothes came to attend the Aceh gubernatorial debate, which was broadcast live.
The event on April 5 was the last day of the campaign period before voting day on Monday; and all five pairs of governor candidates and their running mates were making the best of the remaining hours.
The debate was fired up by a single question from contender and former governor Irwandi Yusuf to his competitor, the prominent Free Aceh Movement (GAM) figure, Zaini Abdullah. He questioned the incidents of terror and intimidation that had started months before the election.
“The special Detachment 88 [National Police counterterrorism unit] found that the culprits were Aceh Party cadres. Does Dr. Zaini know about this?” asked Irwandi, a former GAM intelligence chief. He added he had lost a friend in a shooting incident, one of several that had killed a number of Javanese migrant workers in different areas.
Zaini Abdullah refused the accusations. “These are provocative efforts aimed to stain the name of the Aceh Party,” Zaini said of the political party that nominated him.
According to Zaini, the police will investigate the cases. He added that his rivals should not resort to blaming the Aceh Party for the incidents for their own political benefit.
Zaini has answered similar questions from journalists on numerous occasions. He believes there are unidentified actors who want to ruin the peace process in Aceh, and who are using the election as momentum.
Fachrul Razi, the Aceh Party spokesperson, has denied any suggestion of the involvement of the Aceh Party and its members in incidents of terror and intimidation.
“Let’s wait for the legal process,” he said, adding that any member known to be involved would have their membership revoked.
Violence has increased in Aceh since October, as dozens were killed and several more injured in mysterious shootings. Casualties included supporters of contenders for the local elections, but also workers originating from Java, who were in the dark as to why they had been targeted.
During the election campaign, the election supervisory committee listed 57 cases of intimidation and election violations, with most perpetrators being supporters of candidates. Five cases were classified as crimes and handed over to the police.
Some incidents were involving weapons, proving that illegal weapons still existed in Aceh even though they had been decommissioned after the peace agreement, which ended decades of war between GAM and the Indonesian government.
So far, the police have arrested eight men allegedly involved in incidents of terror ahead of the elections. Police say six of them were caught with five pipe bombs intended to hurt other candidates. It was reported that several suspects were former GAM members.
Aceh police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Gustav Leo told reporters that these men were suspected of being involved in killing plantation workers last year, and on New Year’s Eve.
The suspects were caught by Detachment 88, but police have been tight lipped as to whether the men were linked to a terrorist network, only saying they would divulge information after the election was completed.
Human rights workers have criticized the deployment of the above unit in Aceh, saying other groups trying to sabotage the peace process, rather than suspected terrorists, would be more likely to be involved in election related violence.
“These unidentified men work quite systematically and skillfully,” said one activist, requiring anonymity.
“We should know that there are many players in Aceh now who want to foster conflict for their own benefit,” he added.
The hunt for the perpetrators
March 10, 2012
Six men are arrested in Lhoong, Greater Aceh and North Aceh. The police confiscate five pipe bombs from the suspects. From information provided by suspects, the police are hunting six other men in North Aceh, Banda Aceh and Greater Aceh.
Detachment 88 shoots two suspects in Limpok village, Banda Aceh, based on information from the six men. One suspect, Maimun, 44, dies, while the other is placed under intensive medical treatment at the Aceh Police hospital. Two others are arrested.
Detachment 88 raids a house at Meunasah Papeun village, Banda Aceh, to find other suspects.
Two men are arrested during a raid at a house in Babah Ie village, Aceh Jaya. Detachment 88 confiscates weapons including rifles and ammunition.
Aceh readies itself for new leaders
A slew of violent incidents ahead of Monday’s local election in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam has served as a test of the province’s dual success stories of ending more than 30 years of separatist conflict and dealing with massive post-tsunami reconstruction efforts financed mostly by international donors. The Jakarta Post’s Nani Afrida explores how the election will unfold:
Zahara is ready to cast her ballot paper to appoint Aceh’s new governor on April 9.
“I’ve made up my mind. I believe my choice will be the winner in the election,” said Zahara, 45, who lives in Lamteuba village, a stronghold of the former Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
Zahara said that her uncle, father, sister and brother would select the same candidate as they were sure their choice would be best for Aceh’s future.
“This is probably what we call family instinct,” she laughed.
Even though many people like Zahara are ready to participate as voters in the election, other citizens like Maliki say they are still confused who to vote for on Monday.
Maliki, a meatball seller in North Aceh, is afraid a wrong choice could be bad for him and his family.
“We have many rumors here that may lead us to select certain candidates,” Maliki said, refusing to give further information due to security concerns.
Aceh will hold direct local elections on April 9 to appoint the governor, deputy and 17 pairs of local mayors.
This is the second direct election for Aceh since the Helsinki peace agreement in 2005. The province held its first election to appoint a governor and 19 local leaders in 2006.
The number of candidates in 2006 reached 240 pairs, higher than the 137 candidates pairs participating in the 2012 race.
Although the number of candidates joining the election is smaller than five years ago, threats of intimidation are feared to be higher, as members of GAM have been divided into two groups, with their respective leaders joining the election.
The biggest local party in Aceh, the Aceh Party, has nominated GAM leader Zaini Abdullah and former GAM commander Muzakir Manaf as Aceh governor and deputy governor respectively.
The party, which occupies 60 percent of seats in the regional legislature, claimed that the previous governor Irwandi Yusuf had failed to bring prosperity to Aceh.
Meanwhile, the other GAM group, which comprises former field combatants, supports Irwandi, who was a GAM negotiator in the Helsinki peace talks, to run for the election as an independent candidate. Irwandi has appointed the former head of Aceh’s public works agency as his running mate.
The frictions between GAM members have created many problems in Aceh.
The Aceh Election Independent Commission (KIP) had to postpone the election four times because of the dispute involving the Aceh Party, which split into supporters of Irwandi, the independent candidate, and Zaini, the party’s candidate.
The legal battle over whether Irwandi could run on an independent ticket violated the Aceh Governance Law, which said independent candidates were only accepted for the first election since the Helsinki agreement, ended in a Supreme Court ruling that favored Irwandi.
As both sides waited for the legal battle to end, each group of supporters resorted to destroying each others’ candidate banners, torturing rival campaign team members or intimidating residents suspected of supporting their rivals.
Apart from Zaini and Irwandi, the three other candidates for governor are prominent Aceh ulema Abu Lampisang, state Aceh University Syiah Kuala rector Darni Daud and Irwandi’s former deputy governor Muhammad Nazar.
Still, Zaini and Irwandi are dominant compared to other candidates.
Security measures ahead of Monday’s vote include 7,930 police personnel or two-thirds of the police force in the province.
Police are also deploying 728 police personnel from outside Aceh and 1,749 soldiers.
KIP has provided 9,786 polling stations throughout Aceh; around 5,000 of them are in Pidie and North Aceh, both categorized as high-risk zones regarding security.
The Home Ministry has allocated Monday, April 9, as a local holiday in Aceh to help ensure conducive conditions for polling day.
“This is a long weekend for the Acehnese, but we feel nervous for the result. Hopefully it will be good for all of us,” said Idar, a Banda Aceh resident.
Although the Acehnese have faced the shadow of intimidation ahead of voting, many believe that they will be able to deal with the pressure as they have become used to terror.
“A divided GAM is not our concern. The important thing is to select a leader who cares for us and brings Aceh to a better future,” Zahara said.
Many Acehnese have attended several campaigns held by governor candidates, before the campaign period expired on Thursday, April 5.
They recalled that campaign events held by Irwandi and his rival Zaini were always packed with thousands of people, including women and children, compared to other candidates.
“People want to see Irwandi and Zaini. They are quite popular here compared with other candidates,” Zahara said.
Both candidates are similarly offering job creation, prosperity, free education and health services.
“If you ask me who will win this election, it’s a tough question. Both Irwandi and Zaini can win, but it will depend on the Acehnese,” said an Aceh expert, Teuku Kemal Fasya. The Occidental Research Institute (ORI), a local research institution in Aceh, has predicted that Zaini–Muzakir will win, as 36 percent of village figures preferred them instead of Irwandi–Muhyan (24 percent).
The recent ten-day survey showed that 40 percent of civil servants tended to prefer Zaini–Muzakir, while Irwandi–Muhyan were only predicted to gain 22 percent of civil servants’ votes.
Zaini–Muzakir were also the favorite pair of fishermen, with 56 percent of them saying they would choose the pair.
ORI surveyed 3,728 respondents in 264 districts in Aceh since March 10.
“There are many changes in the survey after Zaini–Muzakir listed themselves as candidates. Previously, Irwandi and Muhammad Nazar were competing in the survey,” Maimun Bin Lukman, the ORI director said.
Maimun added that Acehnese hoped their choice would improve human resources in the province through free education and health services, as well as to create a transparent and accountable bureaucracy.
Days before the election, many had yet to receive information on whether they were registered to vote or not.
“Until now we haven’t received any invitation. We’re unsure if we can vote,” said Ali, a Beureuneun district resident in Pidie regency.
“Perhaps we will get the information a day before election, hopefully,” another citizen from Pidie said, adding that he was confused whether to wait for his invitation or just go to the polling station directly.
The government is still busy distributing election logistics like ballot papers, invitations and election boxes. Several remote areas in Simeuleu Island and South Aceh are now facing distribution problems due to insufficient budgets.
In some areas, KIP is also complaining about the budget, which has yet to be distributed to the election committees in the field, causing a lack of preparation.
The election postponements have been blamed for swelling the budget.
Ahmad Tajudin and Teuku Suriansyah
Ahmad Tajudin, 50, popularly known as Abi Lampisang, a prominent local ulema who leads the Al-Muhajirin Teungku Chik Di Ujeun Islamic boarding school in Great Aceh. Besides learning from other prominent ulema like Abu Chik Tanoeh Abe, Abu Tumin and Ayah Samalanga, the senior Free Aceh Movement (GAM) member also counts as one of his teachers the late Hasan Tiro, leader of GAM and the late Indonesian president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid.
He is also the former kadhi or leader of the then so-called Independent Aceh Sumatra State.
His running mate is Suriansyah, the former president director of state-owned paper producer PT Kertas Kraft Aceh during 2002-2007. When Gus Dur was president in 1999, Suriansyah was one of the president’s advisors on Aceh issues. Suriansyah is now a member of the National Professional Certification Agency (BNSP).
Peoples’ salvation in life and afterlife
1. To speed strategic infrastructure development
2. To prioritize religious and cultural values in development
3. To boost prosperity and reduce poverty
4. To conserve the environment
5. To boost bureaucratic performance and eradicate corruption, collusion and nepotism.
Supporters: Muslim scholars, students of Islamic boarding schools, some former combatants.
Irwandi Yusuf and Muhyan Yunan (Independent)
Irwandi was Aceh’s first directly elected governor, serving from 2006 to 2011. Irwandi led GAM’s intelligence unit during the separatist campaign and represented GAM at the Helsinki peace talks. He is currently popular for the provision of free health services under his administration’s Aceh Health Insurance (JKA). Irwandi is well-known for his straight-forwardness. He was a member of the Aceh Party, which comprises former GAM members, however, after a serious dispute between him and the party leaders, Irwandi nominated himself as an independent candidate for governor.
His running mate Muhyan previously led Aceh’s Public Works Agency.
To resume fundamental transformation in Aceh that will focus on transparency and accountability.
1. To resume human resources development based on competency and Aceh culture
2. To resume sustainable peace through implementation of the Helsinki MoU based on democracy and human rights
3. To create good governance to support low cost and quick public services
4. To use sustainable natural resources fairly to support Aceh’s economic growth
5. To develop, improve and maintain basic infrastructure to support the production system and basic services
Supporters: Some members of the political elite from the Office of Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Ministry, various NGOs and activists, the local Aceh Peoples’ Party (PRA) and several prominent former GAM leaders, including former spokesperson Sofyan Dawood, former reintegration agency chief Nur Djuli and Muharram, a former guerrilla commander in Greater Aceh.
Darni M. Daud and Teuku Ahmad Fauzi (Independent)
Darni Daud is the rector of Aceh state university Syiah Kuala, while Ahmad Fauzi is a senior lecturer of the state-run Islamic University IAIN Ar-Raniry Banda Aceh. Darni and Fauzi call themselves the heart of the Syiah Kuala University, often referred to as the heart of the Acehnese.
Darni claims that he and Fauzi represent Aceh’s diversity as he was born in Pidie Jaya, while his wife comes from Central Aceh. Meanwhile, Fauzi is a native of East Aceh and his wife comes from Greater Aceh.
Fauzi is a lecturer with a masters degree in political and religious sciences
To achieve Aceh’s dignity, peace and prosperity, based on religious values.
1. To improve Islamic syariah, education, culture and health, with equal access for all Acehnese
2. To improve and boost sustainability and a fair local economy
3. To improve and boost public infrastructure to strengthen competitiveness, as well as to reduce risks of disaster.
Supporters: Syiah Kuala alumni and students, and academicians.
Muhammad Nazar and Nova Iriansyah
Muhammad Nazar is the former deputy to then governor Irwandi Yusuf. Supporters include the Democratic Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Voice of the Independent Acehnese (SIRA) Party.
Nazar headed the original SIRA, the Aceh Referendum Information Center, which successfully gathered 2 million people demanding a referendum, to allow people to vote for independence in Banda Aceh in 1999. He was arrested twice, and released after the government granted him amnesty in 2005.
Meanwhile Nova, an entrepreneur, was the leader of the Aceh Democratic Party.
To establish transformation and development toward prosperity, security, peace and justice, dignity and a civilized life
1. To develop people to be more religious, productive, pro-development and civilized through the power of transformation
2. To develop fundamental needs to bring about sustainable prosperity
3. Normalizing government functions and development based on laws and Aceh’s values to achieve good and clean governance
4. Law enforcement, political education and security without discrimination
Supporters: Democratic Party, United Development Party (PPP), local party SIRA.
Zaini Abdullah and Muzakir Manaf
Zaini Abdullah is a co-founder and former foreign minister of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), while Muzakir Manaf was a GAM guerrilla commander. Zaini, whose younger brother Hasbi Abdullah is the chairman of the Aceh Legislative Council, spent a third of his life supporting GAM, including a lengthy exile in Sweden with GAM chief patron Hasan di Tiro.
The pairing combines the older and younger generation of the former GAM.
To achieve prosperity, justice and self reliance based on the Aceh Governance Law, as part of the commitment to the Helsinki MoU
1. To improve Aceh’s bureaucracy through implementation and accomplishment of the Aceh Governance Law to maintain lasting peace
2. To implement cultural and Islamic values
3. To strengthen the economy through qualified human resources
4. To create added value on people’s production and optimize the use of natural resources
5. To create proportional, sustainable and integrated development
Local parties: Aceh Party and Daulat Aceh; National parties: Golkar, Crescent Star Party (PBB), National Mandate Party (PAN), Patriot Party, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Indonesian Party for Unity and Justice (PKPI), some political elites in Jakarta.