Continuing Controversy over Aceh Governing Law

Aceh’s peace process could be in jeopardy because the legislation passed by the Indonesian parliament to deliver greater autonomy to Aceh appears not to honor some key clauses of the 2005 peace agreement.

Damien Kingsbury of Deakin University in Australia was an adviser to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) during the peace negotiations. In an interview, he said that while the law lessens Jakarta's control over Aceh somewhat, it doesn't go nearly far enough towards establishing the type of autonomy that was seen as the prerequisite for maintaining peace in Aceh.

Irwandi Yusuf pointed out that the peace deal requires all policies made by the central government that have bearing on Aceh must be approved by the Aceh government and legislative council. But the new law only refers to a consultation process.

One key provision in the peace agreement is that Aceh is entitled to retain 70 percent of revenues from its natural resources. But if the central government retains greater control than envisioned under the accord, Prof. Kingsbury explained, Aceh might “get 70 per cent of whatever's left over after all other costs and expenses have been taken out. And as we saw up until very recently, that essentially makes 70 per cent of nothing.”

Another crucial issue relates to the role of the Indonesian military. The peace agreement stipulates that the military would be present in Aceh only for the purposes of external defense. The legislation, however, refers to an Army presence for state security reasons, which could be read as once more giving the military an internal function, something that has been at the heart of the Aceh conflict. Kingsbury says that this issue has been at the heart of the distrust between Aceh and Jakarta.

Meanwhile, GAM leaders say they accept the Aceh governance law, but demand an immediate revision of a number of articles that are not in compliance with the spirit of the Helsinki peace accord. GAM will also make its case with the Aceh Monitoring Mission.

Jennifer Macey, “Aceh Peace Agreement in Jeopardy,” ABC Online (Australian Broadcasting Company), 25 July 2006.
“GAM Accepts Aceh Governance Law with Some Notes,” Antara News, 3 August 2006.
“GAM Wants Aceh Governance Law Revised to Meet Peace Deal,” Jakarta Post, 4 August 2006.