Call for Peace in Central Aceh Falls to Deaf Ears

“There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”
(A. J. Muste)

One might wonder why after the long and winding road to reach the peace pact between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, which signed in Helsinki, Finland on August 25, 2005– after the loss of hundred thousands Acehnese by the impact of earthquake and tsunami–violence still occur between groups in Aceh. Currently Aceh is undergoing a new phase of peace building where former rebel has elected as governor and the province is granted special autonomy by Law of Government Aceh No.11/2006. The peace pact which previously conducted under the supervision of the Aceh Monitoring Mission thus an international body, has been transferred to Indonesian government and the local authorities therefore (ideally) all security matters are fall into the jurisdiction of police force as it is the only authority which mandated to protect the security of all civilians. However again in Central Aceh, we are witnessing that ‘security’ has been manipulated by particular groups to maintain their short-termed interests.

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Recently the national newswire and local papers were shocked by another killing and arson took place in Takengon, a beautiful landscape with high altitude located at the downhill of Central Aceh District. The incident which took lives of 5 KPA members happened at Atu Lintang, approximately located 30 kms out of town on Saturday morning on March 1, 2008. The latest incident occurred following one which happened on February 29th, at 10.00AM in Kota Takengon, where employment dispute took place between IPT (Terminal Workers Group) and Komite Peralihan Aceh (KPA) that resulted attack of 3 (some sources mentioned 4) KPA members. The latest news pictured less of crowd near the incident location and that police were on guard on the scene. The poor bodies of KPA (Aceh Transformation Commission/Komisi Peralihan Aceh) members have been evacuated to the nearest hospital however it was reported also that no further identification yet took place caused by heavy rain. Until today local sources informed that the police have already questioned 13 “witnesses” and one was considered as suspect.

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There were obvious evidence that militias were involved in the displacement of the locals and the creation of insecurity of civilians. Nonetheless the Indonesian authority denied the existence of such groups prior to the signing of Helsinki MoU but strangely militias are mentioned under the ones who have the rights to receive reintegration funds. Up to today the remnants of having such groups has created backlash where peace building is supposed to take place.

The sad thing is that obviously the police in Central Aceh seemed not learnt anything from the history of violence in the area amidst former violence in 2002 where Central Aceh was polarised sharply during the height tension of armed conflict. Back in 2002 there was a failed international mediation to Aceh conflict. Takengon witnessed the burning of Joint Security Committee headquarter by militias following the flow of IDP s out of Central Aceh. Militia groups were established in order to maintain the areas within Indonesia’s territory thus transformed the armed conflict into one of intergroup conflict in the Gayo society, which is quite a multiethnic one, although it has been part of Aceh Sultanate in 16 century hence also part of Aceh Province.

There were obvious evidence that militias were involved in the displacement of the locals and the creation of insecurity of civilians. Nonetheless the Indonesian authority denied the existence of such groups prior to the signing of Helsinki MoU but strangely militias are mentioned under the ones who have the rights to receive reintegration funds. Up to today the remnants of having such groups has created backlash where peace building is supposed to take place. The latest incident once again proves that although many parties claimed that ‘violence between the two sides has ended’ there are still tones of issues that need to be addressed. Local tensions in Central Aceh included the stalling of reintegration funds, inequality of post conflict recovery projects in some areas, as well as the rivalries to welcome the next 2009 local election. The situation in Central Aceh also has been heightened by the call to form a separate province from Aceh.

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Recent conversation via sms, email and phone to friends and sources in Banda Aceh and Takengon, from student activist, NGO worker, to member of BRA and KPA members; expressed their hopes that police is able to go thorough investigation in order to take the responsible parties into account. The expectation however seems ‘surreal’ if one understands the complex nature of society and politics in Central Aceh and its surroundings.

Specifically refer to the incident in Aceh Tengah, in my opinion we could not see this incident merely as spontaneous act which took by one group to another or merely seen as mass action from some groups of community to others. We must put the incident in line with the analytical view of broader sociological context of Central Aceh as an area which is undergoing peace process. We also must remember that peace pact was put into effect only upon the support of all Acehnese in the country and abroad whom have experienced the 30 years of suffer under the armed conflict. At least there are several requirements for peace agreement to work. There has been the successful mediation, the establishment of agency which transform the combatants into civilians, and the 2006 local election as a next step according to Helsinki agreement that opens the way for a democratic-led Aceh. Those have accomplished that in reality, now NGO s (local and international), BRA (Aceh reintegration Body), local government are the ones whom responsible in implementing the peace agreement.

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One thing is clear that under the frame of sustainable peace building, local civilian authority, which included police force, must be aware that it is their responsibility to facilitate peaceful environment, by their ability to bridge communication among any groups from the grass root to the ‘elite’ level of society. Only with continuous dialogue on the importance to support the peace agreement among all level of Acehnese society, and not only via ceremonial events to celebrate peace pact or the disbursement of reintegration ‘projects’ that peace can be transformed into a more positive way which brings the ideal welfare to Aceh society in all districts.

 

 

 

Program Director of The Interseksi Foundation, Jakarta. She also works as a researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Jakarta.