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The Jakarta Post | Elections in Aceh and Timor Leste: After the struggle
Years after two very different peace settlements in Aceh and Timor Leste, the theme of the unfi nished struggle continues to shape election politics. In either place there is no question of a return to confl ict with Jakarta as the power struggles are now internal. But the challenge for both is to transform “struggle” from an end in itself toward the kind of political competition that will deliver results for voters.
Last week, voters chose a governor and other local offi cials in Aceh, the Indonesian province where Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels ended a 30-year fi ght for independence in exchange for greater autonomy under the 2005 Helsinki agreement. On Monday, residents of Timor Leste elected their third president since Indonesia’s 1999 withdrawal ended 24 years of armed resistance there.
The Aceh governor’s election was chiefl y a contest between two former GAM members. The incumbent Irwandi Yusuf, the former GAM propaganda chief, had hoped to win on the basis of popular welfare programs he had introduced during his fi ve-year tenure, such as free medical care and scholarships for study outside Aceh.
He ran again as an independent, hoping to attract the support of the ruling Partai Aceh (PA), founded by rival GAM stalwarts in 2007, or failing that, avoid alienating their supporters. The strategy failed: He lost to the PA ticket (Zaini Abdullah and Muzakir Manaf ) by 56 percent to 29 percent.
As we travelled through the province in the days before the polls, we were told three things were at stake: peace, security and prosperity. But when asked what was the key factor behind how people were voting, the answer from all of those who foretold Partai Aceh’s win was far simpler: “the struggle”. A strong resistance brooks little dissent; those who might have voted otherwise feared being labeled “traitors”.
Partai Aceh helped promote this thinking in part through direct intimidation of voters. But this alone cannot explain its wide margin of victory. It also capitalized on the politics of struggle in three important ways. It built a campaign around the need for fuller implementation of the Helsinki agreement.
While there was almost no discussion of what this means, it sent a powerful message that the fi ght was not yet over. PA also built on the strong support for Muzakir Manaf, former GAM military commander, who while running for deputy governor was by far the larger draw.
Loyalty to Muzakir among former GAM fi ghters, particularly among the lower ranks, was key. Finally, it drew on the symbols of the struggle, most notably through its fl ag, heavily reminiscent of that used by GAM and which was omnipresent in many parts of Aceh throughout the campaign.
In Timor Leste, the rallying cry of the “unfi nished struggle” is also important, even if the real power struggles are internal. On Monday, former guerrilla commander and armed forces chief Taur Matan Ruak (Jose Maria de Vasconcelos) defeated his opponent Lu Olo (Francisco Gutierrez), Fretilin party president and former political commissar in the resistance.
Since independence, Fretilin has sought the role of standard bearer, marshalling the Fretilin fl ag and drawing on the history of the resistance in its rhetoric. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão has challenged that legacy by setting up his own party (CNRT) and bringing some key veterans to his side.
Throughout the presidential campaign, the question of who contributed most to Timorese independence has been paramount. Gusmão became the most prominent supporter of his former deputy, Matan Ruak, explaining they must work together to further the struggle for the people’s welfare rather than simply independence.
The strength of the Timorese resistance movement lay in its dispersed nature, with leaders in the Diaspora and a vast network of clandestine cells across Timor, Bali and Java supporting the armed front in the mountains.
But after independence, a country of just over one million people no longer offers quite so many leadership posts. This has promoted new fractures among the political elite, as well as brought back the specter of earlier splits.
The bitter wounds left after Gusmão split the Falintil army from Fretilin control in 1987 were among the leading grievances in the violent confrontations of Timor Leste’s 2006 crisis. This fracturing of the resistance had a negative impact on short-term stability, but is a key contributor to the country’s long-term democratic health.
Aceh’s post-settlement history has been shorter and while there have been deep splits within GAM, particularly between those who lived in exile and those who remained fi ghting at home, they have not yet been refl ected in the growth of other strong local parties, allowed in Aceh since the Helsinki settlement.
Partai Aceh says it wants to invite in younger experts and academics to help advise those in its ranks who have little experience governing. But as it now controls both the provincial legislative and the executive (the current parliamentary speaker is the elected governor’s brother), the only real check on its performance will need to be achieved through the rise of credible alternatives.
More decisive fracturing within the ranks of former GAM may be the path to longer-term stability. Parliaments in Aceh and Timor Leste have proven weak: the former in producing the kind of provincial regulations that will give teeth to the 2006 Law on Governing Aceh while remaining consistent with national laws; the latter in providing anything but a rubber-stamp to government legislation.
Both will also need to guard against the capture of the legacy of the resistance by any one party. Timor Leste has been far more successful at avoiding this, but efforts to formalize the role of veterans as guardians of the State through a consultative council and gain more control over government contracts (as in Aceh) could jeopardize this success.
Viewed together, Aceh and Timor Leste show the challenges of making a smooth transition from resistance struggle to multiparty competition. While the “unfi nished struggle” proves a captivating campaign theme, it must not be allowed to hold captive broader democratic competition. The struggle to reduce poverty, maintain security and improve welfare requires very different tactics.
Cillian Nolan is a Southeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Photo: Martine Perret/ Wikimedia Commons
A powerful 8.6-magnitude earthquake, followed by a strong aftershock, struck off Indonesia on Wednesday, creating panic and reviving memories of the deadly 2004 earthquake.
the full text update, with a portion below. No tsunami action today, thank god.
A SIGNIFICANT TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED BY THIS EARTHQUAKE. HOWEVER...SEA LEVEL READINGS NOW INDICATE THAT THE THREAT HAS DIMINISHED OR IS OVER FOR MOST AREAS. THEREFORE THE TSUNAMI WATCH ISSUED BY THIS CENTER IS NOW CANCELLED. FOR ANY AFFECTED AREAS - WHEN NO MAJOR WAVES HAVE OCCURRED FOR AT LEAST TWO HOURS AFTER THE ESTIMATED ARRIVAL TIME OR DAMAGING WAVES HAVE NOT OCCURRED FOR AT LEAST TWO HOURS THEN LOCAL AUTHORITIES CAN ASSUME THE THREAT IS PASSED. DANGER TO BOATS AND COASTAL STRUCTURES CAN CONTINUE FOR SEVERAL HOURS DUE TO RAPID CURRENTS. AS LOCAL CONDITIONS CAN CAUSE A WIDE VARIATION IN TSUNAMI WAVE ACTION THE ALL CLEAR DETERMINATION MUST BE MADE BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES.
Voters in the Indonesian province of Aceh are electing their governor for the second time since a peace deal in 2005 ended decades of conflict…
Results expected April 15.
I invite you to do the unusual: to revisit a faded disaster; to stick with it for 2 1/2 years, adding your ideas and opinions; and to make the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami more meaningful than just poignant Christmas coverage.
I’ll be joined by advisors around the world, including Mayra Padilla as fellow protagonist and photographer.
Why disasters, and why philanthropy?
It could be that natural disasters are picking up steam. Three of the century’s deadliest have occurred in the last ten years (the Haiti quake, 2004 tsunami, and Cyclone Nagris). The most costly are also within easy reach of memory (the Tohoku quake/tsunami, Sichuan quake, Great Hanshin/Kobe quake, and Katrina). And if you believe the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, extreme weather events may be the norm for a while.
Charitable giving to disasters is how we respond, with a check, click or text. One survey showed 47% of households gave to 2005 hurricane relief, for which $5.2 billion was donated in the US. Giving USA reports that 2010 giving to international affairs surged 15.3%, the largest gain of any cause, driven by the Haiti quake and other crises.
Disaster giving is a tremendous resource for lasting change, not just band aids. Yet it is messy: contributions are given emotionally and spontaneously, used under extreme conditions, and usually donated in a short span to pooled funds, with few strings attached.
What can we learn and accomplish?
I want to investigate the impact of our dollars. Who did we help? What difference did we make with the grants I supervised, donated by hundreds who trusted their tsunami gift to Give2Asia?
How do contributors feel about the money’s long term impact, and what can be learned to boost effective and satisfying giving in the future?
I want to learn what Give2Asia and others did well — and less well. How effective were our local grantees and how do they best complement international aid agencies?
I want to see how the two hardest hit regions, Sri Lanka and Aceh, fare today: the tsunami interrupted civil conflict and violence in both, and each took a different path to the relative peace of today.
We want to source and share knowledge with the global community — and the greatest test of success will be tsunami gifts from those reconnected to these places and wishing to act anew.
Why the 2004 Tsunami?
I was once warned by a mentor about the word unique but I’ll risk any tsking here: the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami was unique among disasters.
It triggered historic disaster giving: an estimated $13.4 billion in worldwide pledges. In America, $3.1 billion was donated in a country that gives only lightly beyond its borders. The disaster brought two former US presidents across the aisle in support of places few Americans could spot on a map.
The tsunami also came on the cusp of a new media age. Online giving came into its own; thanks to Groundspring (now part of Network for Good), my own organization was accepting online gifts by Dec. 28. The images were powerful and pervasive even then, before Facebook, YouTube and the first tweet.
Who are we?
Mike: I’ve had the honor of working in philanthropy for more than 15 years. In addition to Give2Asia, I’ve grown in various roles and am currently part of the exciting College Ready division at the Gates Foundation. I’m also a one-time journalist who has a fresh itch.
Mayra: a marketing consultant and photographer who is, first and foremost, a global citizen. Photography, travel, new connections and witnessing triumph over adversary are among my greatest sources of joy. Join us for the stories we’re about to uncover.
Who are you?
A far more interesting question! Please let us know: show yourself and follow us on Twitter; Like the Facebook page; subscribe via email. Most of all, post comments and questions.
Enough prologue.Stay tuned for more preliminary research from Sri Lanka, donor perspectives, and findings from a lit review on tsunami recovery.
An August trip to Sri Lanka will be here before we know it.
One of the schoolgirls learning in a remote, makeshift emergency school during my early 2005 visit, thanks to the grantee PUAS.