ACEH -- GOI REBUFFS MOVE TO REGISTER FREE ACEH MOVEMENT AS A PARTY

Identifier: 
07JAKARTA2885

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 002885

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP
USAID FOR ANE/EAA
NSC FOR EPHU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2017
TAGS: PGOV, PINS, KDEM, ID
SUBJECT: ACEH -- GOI REBUFFS MOVE TO REGISTER FREE ACEH
MOVEMENT AS A PARTY

Classified By: Pol/C Joseph Legend Novak, reasons 1.4 (b,d).

1. (U) This message was coordinated with Consulate Medan.

2. (C) SUMMARY: In a long-anticipated move, the GOI has
refused to register the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) as a
political party. The decision was based largely on the
party's use of the Acehnese flag and GAM name. GAM officials
blasted the government's action, but promised to abide by the
decision so long as it was legal. The GOI's action may have
backfired by rallying GAM leaders--previously critical of
their own party--to its defense. END SUMMARY.

NO TO AN OFFICIAL "GAM PARTY"

3. (SBU) During an October 10 meeting with members of the
Legal Affairs Committee of the national parliament (DPR),
Minister of Law and Human Rights Andi Mattalata announced
that his ministry rejected the GAM Party's registration as a
local political party. The proposed party violates Pancasila
(founding principles of Indonesia), the country's
Constitution, Aceh's autonomy law, and could even threaten
national unity, according to Mattalata. He added that the
decision was final, although no formal review had taken
place.

4. (SBU) Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security
Widodo A.S. also said banning the party was necessary to
prevent separatism. According to Widodo, the party's use of
the GAM name and the GAM flag--which the GOI considers a
military insignia--were the key problems.

GAM REACTION

5. (SBU) GAM reaction was critical but restrained. GAM Party
spokesman Ibrahim Syamsuddin called the government's refusal
to register the party illegal and premature; the product of
"central government leaders who know nothing about the
political process in Aceh." Syamsuddin denied that the
proposed party violates the Constitution or other laws and
said the GAM flag was not a military symbol. Despite his
harsh criticism of the decision, Syamsuddin told reporters
the party would accept the government's decision so long as
it was based on the law.

RALLYING AROUND THE FLAG

6. (C) As Minister Widodo's comments made clear, the GOI
considers the GAM flag irredeemably linked to separatism.
GAM members of all stripes--including those who opposed the
use of the flag as a party symbol--disagree. Several GAM
members told us the flag had nothing to do with the military
struggle, but represented instead the ideals of justice,
dignity, and good government. One GAM elected official who
is not a member of the party placed the flag in the context
of Acehnese identity. According to him, virtually all former
GAM members have given up their dream of independence, but
asking them to abandon the symbol of Aceh's proud history is
too much for GAM members and supporters.

7. (C) Several former GAM members and sympathizers who
originally opposed the creation of the GAM Party now defend
it. One GAM official said he initially opposed the party
because it bypassed elected leaders such as himself and
Governor Irwandi Yusuf. He now defends the party because he
believes the Ministers' comments strike at all former GAM
members, not just party organizers.

8. (C) A GAM official from East Aceh who felt the proposed
party had hijacked the flag and GAM name to advance the
political objectives of the overseas GAM elite has revised
his position as well. He told us that he now feels compelled
to defend the proposed party in order to defend the Acehnese
flag.

DECISION BACKFIRES?

JAKARTA 00002885 002 OF 002

9. (C) Members of the GOI's coordination team (FKK) agreed
that the ban might have backfired. One FKK official said
prior to the announcement that party organizers appeared
willing to negotiate quietly about the party name and symbol.
That is now impossible because party leaders cannot back
down without appearing weak in front of their supporters. In
effect, he said, the government has enhanced the party's
prominence and given party organizers ammunition to accuse
Jakarta of being anti-GAM, something which could play into
the hands of more radical movement members. Quiet
negotiations, he said, would have been better than the loud,
public criticism.
HEFFERN