Post-elections Aceh - What next?

Updated On: Dec 19, 2006

The keyword is reconstruction for post-election Aceh.  

The difficulties in rebuilding the province of Aceh after years of warfare were visibly demonstrated by the frustrations of the people on the ground. On 14 December 2006, villagers blocked a key coastal road demanding money from the local government to rebuild it after the devastating tsunami storm in 2004. The urgency of the protestors stemmed from the crucial role that the highway plays in linking the provincial capital Banda Aceh with the port town of Meulaboh

The problem does not lie with the international donors. In fact, the US government has already decided to undertake responsibility to reconstruct the vital highway but this has been repeatedly delayed on the Indonesian side because of squabbles over landownership. The US is not alone in experiencing such problems. The international community pledged US$7.1 billion (S$11 billion) for post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in Aceh, out of which some US$4.5 billion has already been committed. But the problem again is not with disbursement but with implementation by the Indonesians.  

Mr Andrew Steers, the World Bank's country director for Indonesia, vocalized the frustrations of the international community when he said that Indonesia still lacks long-term strategies for rebuilding Aceh.  Mr Steers also opined that, to rectify the current situation, a strong local government is needed. However, with the ongoing democratic transition, Indonesia has neither a strong local nor central government. Its politics are still highly factionalized even with the seemingly successful elections.  

Other non-Western countries, however, are more optimistic about Aceh’s prospects. Malaysia will continue to support the rebuilding of Aceh which was devastated by the tsunami in 2004, so said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. “The people of Malaysia and the Government will continue to oversee the situation here,” he said on 14 December 2006 after officiating a RM4.6mil school at Kota Jantho, about 70km from the capital. He added that Malaysia was proud that the election, which concluded on 11 December 2006, was executed without incidents. 

Malaysia, as a regional power, seems to be keen on providing the fruits of economic development to Aceh. It helped build 100 houses for Aceh tsunami victims and also a residential hostel/school that can accommodate 800 children orphaned by the disaster. Malaysia also hopes to boost the Acehnese economy by promoting it as a tourist destination for Malaysians. "Among them is tourism and with 2007 being Visit Malaysia Year, Malaysia's Tourism Ministry will also promote Indonesia under its "one destination, two nations" concept," Malaysian DPM Najib said.  

As a gesture of reciprocity, the Indonesian President had also agreed that the air connectivity network between the two countries be further expanded not only by their flag carriers -- Malaysia Airlines and Garuda-- but also low cost carriers (LCCs) operating in both countries. 

The same level of confidence seems to be expressed by the Indonesians as well. Both Jakarta and ex-rebel leaders vowed to maintain the peace even after the departure of the international monitors (AMM) drawn from the EU and ASEAN, saying any future disputes would be handled through dialogue and consultation. Former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) spokesman Irwandi Yusuf, Aceh’s governor-elect after the elections, said peace would be preserved even without the presence of the AMM. "We no longer need a mediator since the government and GAM have been able to work out their disputes with dialog," he said. 

Other issues that the new governor of Aceh will have to get down to include the reintegration of former combatants into the society, bringing reforms to the bureaucracy in Aceh, revitalising the economy and reviewing the way Islamic law is being adopted in Aceh.  A plateful to start with for someone who is seen as lacking experience and support from any political party.  


Aceh 'will not have sharia law' (Bangkok Post, 17 December 2006)

Vows for continued peace as AMM leaves Aceh (Jakarta Post, 17 December 2006)

Indonesia: Achenese demand justice as monitoring mission winds up (AKI/ Jakarta Post, 15 December 2006)

GAM and former rebels in elections victory (Jakarta Post, 17 December 2006)

Aceh 'will not have sharia law' (Bangkok Post, 17 December 2006)

Aceh protesters want money for seized land (AP/ST, 15 December 2006)

Malaysia to continue helping Aceh (The Star, 15 December 2006)

Indonesia Values Highly M'sia's Contributions In Aceh (Bernama, 16 December 2006)

Vows for continued peace as AMM leaves Aceh (Jakarta Post, 16 December 2006)

All problems in Aceh now RI's domestic affairs: VP (Antara, 15 December 2006)

Aceh gets additional fund from donor countries worth US$110 million (Antara, 15 December 2006) 

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