Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It’s Election Déjà vu All Over Again

The March 27, 2012 edition of the Jakarta Post had this headline:

Ahead of local election, police tighten grip on Aceh

The article speaks of increased tensions, weapons confiscation, heightened security in Aceh Utara, and then-incumbent gubernatorial candidate Irwandi’s reporting that his life had been threatened several times by Partai Aceh members.

The March 20, 2014  Channel News Asia/Asia Pacific outlet has this headline:

Political divide between former rebels fuels violence in Aceh

It reports that “former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf is a marked man and he is now being targeted by his former colleagues from rebel group - the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).” 

This is still on page one of the local papers, according to JMD staff.  They told me that yesterday was “a very hot situation in Lhokseumawe (Aceh Utara),” where Party Aceh members were shot during a campaign rally there. After the shooting on the same day,  PA members attacked PNA members at a coffee shop; the situation was finally brought under control by the police and army [possibly the Densus 88 counter-terrorism unit that was deployed in March 2012.  Plus ca change . . . ]

This current story is of interest because it gives a pretty concise overview of why there are currently 2 GAM parties duking it out for control of the province:

“Two years ago, Mr Irwandi failed to retain his position as governor and decided to form the Aceh National Party (PNA). The decision split former GAM members right down the middle.
“PNA is seen as a breakaway from the Aceh Party [PA] that has so far been the only political vehicle for former GAM members since the 2009 elections.
“The party is now contesting in this parliamentary election and the contest between former rebels has turned violent. Cases of attacks and killings have spiked since the start of the year.
PNA's vice chairman Kamaruddin Abu Bakar said: "People accused us of being behind the violence. We leave the criminals to the police to tackle. The police should enforce the law. We have called on our cadres in the Aceh Party not to resort to violence."
As the former commander of military operations in GAM, Mr Kamaruddin has a huge influence on former rebels.
However, it is unclear if he can cool tempers as political campaigning heats up.
PNA has claimed it has been the main target of attacks and might not be able to remain passive for long. [Apparently not!!]
The threat of retaliation from PNA would lead to an escalation of violence in Aceh, and that is certainly worrying.”
[so we shall see how the “coffee shop incident” plays out.]

With this being a former conflict zone, it is widely believed that former rebels have kept their old weapons. [this is common knowledge.] 
What's more worrying is that evidence suggests new weapons were used in some attacks.
Aceh Party maintains it bears no grudges against the PNA.
[Ahahahahahahahaha!  Perhaps “grudge”is not how they describe it.]
Aceh Party's vice chairman Abu Razak said: "I see my friends on the opposite side. Having their own party is normal. They are still my friends.”
Unfortunately, Mr Irwandy doesn't seem to share that sentiment. [!!!!!]
"In my view, he is still my friend. Maybe in his view, I'm his enemy," he said.
Leaders from both sides have yet to talk directly to each other, and until that happens, the former GAM rebels who were once on the same side remain enemies."

Well, as we know now, they did meet over coffee . . . .

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