LSI: Acehnese feel safe but economic situation poor

Kompas Cyber Media – April 19, 2006
Signing of MoU between GAM and Jakarta in Helsinki (pewarisnusantara)
Signing of MoU between GAM and Jakarta in Helsinki (pewarisnusantara)

Heru Margianto, Jakarta – What are conditions like in Aceh six months after the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government was signed in Helsinki? The answer – safe but the economic situation is poor say Acehnese.

The Acehnese public says that on the ground the Helsinki agreement is running well and as a result genuinely feel safe from further armed conflict in the province. Nevertheless they have complaints about the poor economic situation with the price of goods rising while jobs are difficult to find.

These were the findings of a survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) on the peace process and local politics in Aceh. The results of the survey were outlined to journalists by LSI executive researcher, Anies Baswedan, at the Sari Pan Pacific Hotel on Tuesday April 28.

The survey, which was conducted between March 8-18, took a sample of 1015 respondents using a multistage random sampling method. The survey’s margin of error was less than 3.1 percent and the level of confidence 95 percent.

Feeling safe but no more

Baswedan went on to explain that 76 percent of the Acehnese public stated that the security situation in the province was good. But this sense of security was limited to feeling safe from armed conflict and the public still does not enjoy freedom and justice.

“In the areas that were once a basis for GAM, there are still concerns about talking politics. The public also feels afraid to organise. There is a fear of being arrested by security forces”, said Baswedan.

Furthermore explained Baswedan, the survey showed that 38 percent of respondents representing Acehnese society as a whole still feel afraid to talk politics. In the former regencies where GAM had a basis meanwhile, this level of fear is higher, 48 percent.

The survey also found that half (50 percent) of Acehnese are still afraid of being arbitrarily arrested by security forces. Moreover, this level of fear is higher in former GAM areas, that is 59 percent. “This could be because of the traumas of the past”, said Baswedan.

The main problem the Acehnese are confronting at the moment explained Baswedan is economic, the evidence being that only 22 percent of Acehnese stated that the economic situation in Aceh is good or very good.

In both rural and urban areas in relation to the above issue the public complained about the economic conditions with almost half of the Acehnese population (40 percent) stating that the economic situation was poor or very poor.

In answering the question of what is the most important issue in Aceh, 43 percent said that the price of basic good are too high with 33 percent saying it is difficult to find employment.

Aside from these two issues, law, security, transportation, education and leadership are also regarded as important issues for the Acehnese people although this was the case for less than 5 percent of respondents.

In responding to the survey, two members of the House of Representatives, Ferry Mursyidan Baldan and Farhan Hamid expressed the view that the economic difficulties confronting the Acehnese are a general problem that is the case in all parts of Indonesia.

Hamid, who is also the chair of the special committee deliberating the Draft Law on Aceh Government (RUU-PA), was of the view that the in factual terms the economic situation in Indonesia is less than adequate. Thus according to Hamid, it is difficult cite economic problems as a measure of the main problems in Aceh at the moment.

Hamid also said that Acehnese people’s appreciation of the peace process should be seen positively and the signing of the Helsinki MoU must also be realised as soon as possible through law in the form of the RUU-PA.

[Translated by James Balowski.]