Revoking the military emergency a precondition for Aceh elections

Sinar Harapan – September 16, 2003
Max Lane pictured with Abdurrahman Wahid (Tempo)
Max Lane pictured with Abdurrahman Wahid (Tempo)

Jakarta – Revoking the status of a military emergency in Aceh is a prerequisite for holding general elections in Aceh. If not, it will be difficult to hope for quality elections.

This was the common thread in the discussion “Empowering the 2004 Elections to Resolve the Aceh Conflict” which was held in Jakarta on Monday September 15. Appearing as a speaker was the Managing Coordinator of the Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KIPP), Ray Rangkuti and Australian Indonesian-ist, Max Lane.

“If elections are still going to be held in Aceh the military emergency must be ended first and the administration returned to the civilian [government]. If not, it will be difficult to hope for a quality election there. The large number of troops in Aceh will only benefit the large [political] parties”, said Rangkuti.

According to Rangkuti, a quality election has a number of prerequisites. Firstly, everyone who has the right to vote must do so in a safe atmosphere, without coercion, to ensure that their choice is in accordance with their conscience. However providing a feeling of safety during the elections in Aceh represents the big problem.

Secondly, there is a concern among Acehnese people that if they are too accommodating towards the elections they will come under pressure from GAM [the armed separatist Free Aceh Movement], while if they are not accommodative enough they will be stamped with the anti-NKRI tag [anti- the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia which implies support for independence and/or GAM].

Thirdly, there will be many situations which are unjust during as campaign it proceeds in Aceh. Fourthly, there is no guarantee of security over the distribution of logistics [for the election] in Aceh which could disrupt the elections.

“There is still another problem, where the TPS (polling booth) will be located. If it is near a military barracks there will certainly be a problem. The TPSs must be in a neutral place and must be easy to access”, said Ray.

Nevertheless, Ray was convinced that the elections in Aceh would still be held because of the political reasons which are a consideration for the government. According to Ray, the government will explain to the public that the situation in Aceh is safe, with the elections as evidence of this. Secondly, though the elections, the government will also obtain legitimisation that Aceh is part of NKRI.

Ray also declared that only the big parties would participate in the election in Aceh, because it is difficult for the new parties to obtain the access to establish branches there because of security problems.

Cease fire

Meanwhile, Max Lane said that aside from the need to end the military emergency, there needs to be a cease fire agreement. Max Lane added that what is needed in the elections is an agreement that all spectrums be given the same opportunities, both those who are pro-NKRI and those who are pro-referendum and independence.

“If only the large parties participate in the elections in Aceh, there will not be any party which is articulating a referendum. If the elections in Aceh are not in accordance with these preconditions the local elections will not produce any kind of resolution. The election must be carried out in a peaceful atmosphere”, he said.

On the preconditions which were mentioned earlier, Max Lane said the elections in Aceh must produce a semi-final (sic) resolution between the struggle to win two different visions, that is independence or continuing to maintain Aceh as part of NKRI.

Max Lane hoped that the elections which will be carried out in Aceh will be able to change the mentality and methods of rule in the territory. So far according to Lane, the mentality and methods of rule in Aceh are still the same as during the period of the New Order [regime of former President Suharto].

“This struggle over the two vision of independence or pro-NKRI cannot be resolved by just asking the people to put up red and white [national] flags”, said Max Lane. (emy)

[Translated by James Balowski.]