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The Jakarta Post
Friday, February 9, 2007

Aceh Enters New Era with Irwandi at the Helm

Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

After surviving Aceh's long struggle and even being jailed in
2003, former rebel leader Irwandi Yusuf has been installed as
governor of the once-defiant province.

Hundreds of national and international guests flocked to the
inauguration, held under tight security at the Aceh Legislative
Council building in Banda Aceh.

Large numbers of ordinary Acehnese stood outside the building
and applauded after the swearing-in session.

Home Minister M. Ma'ruf presided over the ceremony. He urged
Irwandi and his deputy, former jailed dissident Muhammad Nazar,
to act as the central government's representatives in
maintaining the cohesiveness of the unitary state of the
Republic of Indonesia.

In addition, he asked Irwandi and his deputy to work together
with the provincial legislative council to improve the welfare
of the Acehnese.

"The new governor is also expected to work with the provincial
legislative council as partners, not as rivals," Ma'ruf said.

The minister urged the new governor to cooperate with the Aceh
and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for the
benefit of the people of the tsunami-hit province.

Thursday's inauguration constituted a new era in the
administration of Aceh, putting the province's leadership in the
hands of former members of the now-defunct Free Aceh Movement

Javier Solana, European Union high representative for the common
foreign and security policy, sent a congratulatory message to
the Indonesian government.

"I commend the Indonesian government, the Free Aceh Movement and
the people of Aceh for fully endorsing the outcome of the first
ever direct and democratic local elections and their will to
work peacefully and in partnership for a common future," Solana
said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post.

"I'm confident that the choice of a former GAM representative,
Irwandi Yusuf, as governor of Aceh will be beneficial for the
continued peace process as well as the further reconstruction of
Aceh following the tsunami disaster."

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said Thursday that the inauguration
of Irwandi and Nazar was a positive step forward in Indonesia's
democratic development and in the Aceh peace process.

"We welcome the fact that all sides have taken a constructive
approach to the election and have publicly committed to working
together to develop the province and continue the peace
process," the embassy said in a statement.

A traditional inauguration ceremony for the new governor was
later held at Safiatuddin Park in Banda Aceh. The ceremony was
attended by about 10,000 ordinary Acehnese, who came from nearly
all parts of Aceh. They were invited to have a meal together as
a symbol of thankfulness.

They were all supporters of Irwandi and Nazar, but their number
fell short of the organizing committee's claim of about 50,000.

Acehnese witnessing the inauguration ceremony expressed their
desires and hopes for the future, centering not just on improved
security, but economic development.

"I have never gotten any assistance. I hope the new government
cares more about us, the victims of the conflict," said Nursyiah
Abubakar from Alue Ie Puteh in North Aceh regency.

Nursyiah said she used to ask the government for help, but she
got no answer. She said she hoped Irwandi and Nazar would be
more attentive to people's welfare, since they know a lot about
the needs of conflict victims.

"If they fail to meet their promises, we will not elect them
again ... Just wait and see," she said.

Mustafa Yusuf, a resident of East Aceh regency, hoped the new
provincial administration would be fair and honest.

"They would be nothing if the people did not elect them ... so
after becoming our leaders, let's see what they will do for us,"
he said.