Editorial – Tides of Change

How things have changed in Aceh. That a former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel is now the northernmost province’s governor-elect, following Monday’s ballot, is something that would have been unfathomable just a few short years ago.

The Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26, 2004, brought with it many waves of change, along with claiming the lives of almost a quarter of a million people, the vast majority of them in Aceh.

It was after the killer waters stuck that the central government in Jakarta and GAM reassessed their situation, and decided, amidst the devastating loss of life and property in the country’s northernmost region, to resolve the more than three decades of bloodletting in Aceh that left tens of thousands dead and bring about an end to the fighting.

For this – and for both sides’ adherence to a truce – the Indonesian government and GAM, with its leadership in Sweden, must be roundly applauded.

We are concerned, however, that staunchly Muslim Aceh may err in the face of moderation, with its Syariah law largely targeting women who are not wearing the Muslim headscarf, and which has irritated the European Union – which has been conducting its largest ever mission in Aceh, to monitor the truce and the elections.

GAM, which had been in embroiled in bitter infighting over the elections, also needs to come to terms with its new political power and act accordingly.

At any rate, the events in Aceh demonstrate maturity on both sides – now one– which truly augers well for the coming year.

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