Aceh Still Safe, Governor Insists
Nurdin Hasan & Ezra Sihite
Banda Aceh. Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf said the recent violence in his province, including shootings that have killed six people since Dec. 30, had not affected the overall safety and security leading up to next month’s elections.
“The collapse of the electricity pylon and the shooting incidents have nothing to do with the regional elections,” Irwandi said, adding that neither of the incidents would prevent the elections from taking place.
“On a national scale, the condition in Aceh is quite good. It is because Aceh has only recently had peace that everyone expects no wrinkles to take place. And then, when a needle falls, the noise becomes amplified and it reaches Jakarta.”
He said the authorities were still investigating the series of shootings and the collapse of an electricity pylon in Lhokseumawe on Sunday as criminal incidents and unrelated to the upcoming elections.
Aceh, which experienced 29 years of separatist conflict that claimed some 15,000 lives until a peace agreement was reached in 2005, has scheduled simultaneous elections for a new governor and 16 local leaders on Feb. 16.
Irwandi admitted it was possible that the shootings were aimed at disturbing the electoral process but pointed out that while Aceh was in the midst of separatist conflicts in 1999 and 2004, elections proceeded safely.
Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, begged to differ, saying that he believed the recent violence was related to the elections.
“Previously, we viewed them as separate incidents with no links to the regional elections. But the continuing acts of violence and then the collapse of the electricity pylon remind us of past conflicts,” he said.
Djoko said police were investigating the incidents.
Priyo Budi Santoso, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and a Golkar Party lawmaker, said the House would summon government representatives, including Djoko, Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi, Justice and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin and the head of the Election Supervision Board (Bawaslu).
The heads of the police, military, intelligence and election commission would also be asked to attend a House briefing on the situation.
“The letters [of summons] were signed by me [on Monday] and will be sent today. I hope the briefing can be held this week,” he said without giving a date.
He said the government had informed the House that the shootings in Aceh were criminal cases, but Priyo added that “the government should not neglect the possibility that there is another factor,” meaning the elections. Tubagus Hasanuddin, the deputy chairman of House Commission I, which oversees security affairs, said he also believed that the violence in Aceh was linked to the local elections.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker said only a few elite members of the former guerrilla forces enjoyed political positions while most of the former fighters were poor and often unemployed.
“It is the elite who become district chiefs and governors while the other GAM fighters have no money,” Tubagus said, referring to the guerillas from the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement.
Most former guerrillas believe local elections only benefit a certain few, he said, and might want to scuttle them because their own situations will not improve after the vote.
He said that what needed to be reviewed were efforts to provide better welfare for all former GAM fighters.