Press Release
June 23, 2012

Peace Without Justice and Acheh’s Growth Constraints

The Helsinki peace process is approaching its 7th year anniversary, which is on August 15th of this year. Despite its success in discontinuing Acheh’s over three decades armed conflict, the deal has yet to generate proven stability to post-conflict Acheh. Turmoil during the most recent local governor election has shown a despairing prospect of the accord. Meanwhile, uncertainty in regards to past human rights settlement and current security issues have put Acheh’s peace process in an insecure situation, just in time for the European Union (EU) and the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) to end their peace mission in Acheh by the end of this year. Inevitably, Acheh’s future towards a sustainable peace is once again being questioned.

Since the massive earthquake and tsunami engulfed the area in 2004, Acheh’s political status has been overshadowed by intensive international humanitarian relief on post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction. Chaotic situations following the massive destruction have caused the Achehnese to react incautiously toward the Helsinki peace deal, formulated between GAM and the Indonesian government under CMI auspices. With minimum civil society involvement for the duration of the talk and without a possibility to exercise any options, the then traumatized Achehnese were forced to accept the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on August 15th, 2005.

Recent development shows many cases of elite politics abusing the MoU only to gain personal and organizational profit. The recent Acheh governor election was a prime example of this issue, where many candidates tried to delude voters with the promise of a prosperous Acheh by merely implementing the MoU. One particular candidate - the current elected Vice Governor, Muzakkir Manaf - in fact said on an aired Governor Debate on April 5, 2012, that “we believed if we are to fully implement the MoU, then the Achehnese would be able to stand up on their own feet.”  This statement is certainly deceptive and dishonest since the MoU has no legal binding whatsoever and its implementations lie squarely on the mercy and goodwill of Jakarta.

Furthermore, the MoU is also being used by ex GAM chieftain, Malik Mahmud, for his personal gains, by ‘appointing’ himself as Acheh’s guardian of state (Wali Nanggroe) through Acheh local government law (qanun) of Wali Nanggroe. Gunnar Stange and Antje Missbach stated in an article (Inside Indonesia’s weekly, 12/11/2011):  ”A supreme ruler for Aceh?”, that “the new draft (of qanun Wali Nanggroe) did not contain any provisions on a body for electing the wali. Instead, it stipulated that the wali would be appointed for life and explained that after Hasan Tiro’s death the office should be passed automatically to Malik Mahmud.”
Apart from being undemocratic and unconstitutional, this ill-defined draft has certainly tainted the noble status of Wali Nanggroe and tarnished the sacred character of Acheh’s prominent leader, the late Tgk. Hasan Muhammad diTiro.

Adding to our dismay, the MoU abuse is not solely confined to the local government of Acheh, but it also extends to the Indonesian authority. The Helsinki peace deal has certainly influenced Indonesian politics nationally. Therefore, it has been exploited by Indonesian elite in their dirty diplomacy and private agenda over the Indonesian presidential throne. The International Crisis Group (ICG), in its February 29, 2012 report on Indonesia “Averting Election Violence in Aceh”  said that “... there is one very salient political fact that everyone in Jakarta and Banda Aceh is well aware of: Partai Aceh in 2009 delivered more than 90 per cent of the vote in Aceh for the president.” There is no doubt that Indonesian political parties are trying to please the newly elected local government while simultaneously hoping for full support in the next presidential election as a return of their favor.

More certainly, the MoU is also being used as a means to cover up massive human rights violations during the conflict. A few weeks ago, the Achehnese commemorated the Simpang KKA tragedy to honor the Achehnese who had been brutally killed and injured by Indonesian military following a communal gathering of civilians on May 3rd, 1999. According to Aceh NGO’s Coalition for Human Right’s data, 46 civilians were killed, 156 were severely injured, while 10 other went missing. This and several other similar tragedies during the conflict have yet to be resolved.

The failure of the Helsinki accord to bring justice to the Achehnese has reflected in Acheh's economic stagnancy. Although it enjoyed a period of rapid growth during the subsequent years following the Tsunami, the World Bank rather stated, “... most growth and jobs created in Aceh have been linked to the availability of reconstruction funds.” [The World Bank, Aceh Growth Diagnostic, July 2009]. Therefore, when the funds stop, Aceh’s economy plunged down nearly back to its original conflict state, they continued in the report.

The World Bank also stated that the most binding constraints to investment and growth in Acheh have been illegal extortion and security concerns of potential investors. While it is easier to blame the Achehnese and/or the ex-combatants on this issue, we really need to uncover the truth that Indonesian corrupted justice system is not capable of exercising its duty in providing justice to its own people, let alone to the Achehnese.

Verily, the Helsinki peace accord has failed to conduct a respectable reconciliation to Acheh’s conflict, but merely secured Acheh peace at the hands of new local leaderships under Indonesian ruling. This, by far, is not an unfamiliar way to control the Achehnese under continued oppression, but in fact the exact same way of “...adopt(ing) a strategy of cultivating the local aristocratic elite or ulèë balang as the best way to bring Aceh under control” as described by Rodd McGibbon in his “Local Leadership and the Aceh Conflict” as a strategy proposed by Snouck Hurgronje for the Dutch authority to overcome the Acheh Sultanate.

The current Acheh local government, regardless of being elected through an independent election or through threats and intimidation, is only another form of Indonesia's indirect rule over Acheh. Along with its attachment to Indonesian defective bureaucracy, the local government is incapable of upholding a credible management and a trustworthy leadership. Merely facilitating Acheh toward self-government, the new local government could only plunge themselves deeper into the Indonesian injustice system and become involved in corrupt administration.

Moreover, impunity practices toward Acheh’s past human rights abuses by security forces have continually hindered application of justice, which is a fundamental requirement on generating security and stability to post-conflict Acheh, in order to create a sustainable peace. Unfortunately, these practices along with a corrupt justice system are acutely rooted in the Indonesian regulation, providing no other way out except through the right to self-determination of the people of Acheh, which means rejecting any adherence toward the Indonesian system all together.

Secretariat of the ASNLF
Tel. +45 4156 9190