To Ban the Crescent Rose

Samiaji Bintang

Fri, 29 February 2008

Indonesian government in Jakarta was banning the crescent symbol that GAM Party used. Irwandi Yusuf, Governor of Aceh, urges the central government to cancel the rule immediately.

ACEHNESE hatred toward Jakarta seems like raise, again. This time appeared during a discussion in the main room of D’ Rodya Café, mid February 2008. Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, Head of Aceh Parliament Sayed Fuad Zakaria, and General Secretary of GAM Party Yahya Mu’az, some of law practitioners, and prominence were attended at the café where located in downtown of Banda Aceh. They had one voice in order to urge Aceh government to resist against Jakarta’s policy.

The resistance appeared after Government Decree Number 77 on 2007 (PP 77/2007) about Local Symbol was released on December 2007. It contains of explanation on local symbol, its function and position, design, and details on where the symbol have to put.

The point of resistance stated in article 6 in the chapter of Symbol Design. Point 4 in this article recalled, “The design of local logo and flag must not have main similarities to the design, logo and flag of illegal organization or separatist organization/ group/ institution/ movement in the Unitary of Republic of Indonesia.”

What is logo and flag either illegal organization or separatist movement insisted in explanation section of the decree.

“The meaning of the logo and flag design either illegal organization or separatist organization/ group/ institution/ movement in this article is the logo and design of the crescent which used by separatist movement in Aceh Province. The logo of the mambruk bird and morning star that used by separatist movement in Papua Province, and the rainbow (benang raja) flag that used by separatist movement in Maluku Province.

Irwandi Yusuf was anger then toward those statements. He felt it is necessary to articulate his objection in front of the participants in the café, particularly some oddities of the decree. Instead, there are also a statement on the crescent flag that is being used as symbol of GAM Party, and the existence of separatist movement in Aceh. Whereas two years after Helsinki accord, Irwandi said, there is no separatist movement in Aceh.

“Because GAM is already integrated itself within society in the Unitary of Republic of Indonesia,” he said.

“As long as we pay close attention, until today central government has never released any decree that stated GAM as illegal party or movement in Aceh. That is why illogical if the explanation in article 6 point 4, PP 77/2007, still recalled there is separatist movement that used the crescent as logo and flag in Aceh,” he continued.

Indeed, in Aceh, illegal organization issues appeared in June 2006. On 21 June 2006, Mustafa Abubakar, former Aceh Governor who became head of Logistics Affair Agency, sent a letter to Major General Bambang Dharmono, senior Indonesian representative in Aceh Monitoring Mission at that time. The letter substance is list of illegal organizations in Aceh, e.g. Centre of Information for Aceh Referendum (SIRA), Indonesia Living Environment Vehicle (Walhi) Aceh, Youth of Work Association (Ikatan Pemuda Karya), and Indonesian Islamic Missionary Endeavor (Lembaga Dakwah Islam Indonesia). There are also Students Solidarity for People (Solidaritas Mahasiswa untuk Rakyat), Students Coalition for Reform Act (Koalisi Aksi Reformasi Mahasiswa Aceh), Cordova, Indonesia Merchant Sidewalk Association (Asosiasi Pedagang Kakilima Seluruh Indonesia), Front of GAM Separatist Resistant (Perlawanan Separatis GAM), Front of Anti Separatist People Fortress (Benteng Rakyat Anti Separatis), and Front of Fatherland Defender (Pembela Tanah Air). However, GAM did not mention in the list.

According to Helsinki accord, point 1.1.5, Aceh has right to use local symbols such as flag, symbol, and hymn. These also mentioned in Law of Government of Aceh Number 11/ 2006, particularly in article 247 point 2 and 3, and article 247.

Hamid Zein, head of Aceh government bureau of law, explained that local symbols are pennant and cultural symbol that reflect local characteristic in the Unitary of Republic of Indonesia. Varieties of symbols are logo, flag, hymn, and flag position of local governor.

Local symbol, Hamid said, had function as local identity that used to tight up the unity of social culture. Local symbol, he continued, not a symbol of local sovereignty. Today, the symbol of Aceh called as Panca Cita (five ideas). The picture are consists of pair of scales, mosque doom, rice, pepper, cotton, chimneys, Acehnese sword (rencong), book, and pen. These symbols are impermanent.

“It depend after 2009 (election),” Hamid said.

However, PP 77/2007 released as though merely to anticipate and prevent the GAM Party existence. This party use similar flag symbol and acronym with Free Aceh Movement. The flag is crescent and star where located between black and white strips above and below. The background color is red.

“It is a mistake,” Irwandi said, “if local symbol that mentioned in the decree is related only to a symbol of one of local party in Aceh, GAM Party.”

Above all, Irwandi argued, the decree related to local parties in Aceh had explained in detail in other central government decree. It mentioned, particularly, in Government Decree Number 20/ 2007 about Local Party in Aceh.

As an Aceh governor, Irwandi did neither involve nor ask about his recommendation toward the compilation of PP 77/2007. However, according to article 8 point 3 of Law of Government of Aceh Number 11/ 2006, “Administrative policies which interconnected to government of Aceh that arranged by central government, should be consulted and through the judgment of Aceh governor.”

Ironically, central government in Jakarta had disobeyed the rule of compilation which base on legal procedure that made by legislators in Senayan, Jakarta. Aceh government considered as a normal form to refuse toward decree of PP 77/2007. This is, Irwandi said, a way to obey the rule, which have been made. Above all, due to legal hierarchy, government decree is one level under the law.

“I am appealing to the central government to be prudent before releasing any policy. It should be base on law. Law of Government of Aceh is not a foreign country law, but it is a law under N-K-R-I (Unitary of Republic of Indonesia),” Irwandi said.

He is not boasting. On 4 January 2008, a month after the decree released, government of Aceh sent a letter to central government in Jakarta. The letter is “immediately” disposition.

“In order to do law enforcement and sustain of peace in Aceh as well as commitment toward Helsinki accord, government of Aceh in a letter, number 188.31/545, had asked central government to cancel and re-consider PP 77/2007, and re-arrange through consultation process and had judgments of Aceh governor,” Irwandi insisted.

On this matter, Sayed Fuad Zakaria, head of Aceh local parliament, supports the Irwandi pace.

“If the governor feels that he never been asked his judgments in this matter, I agree, lets send a letter to central government and said the decree have not fit to the Law of government of Aceh yet,” he said.

THE ANXIETY of central government in Jakarta toward GAM has not fades away yet although peace process has been passing for more than two years. In addition, most of GAM candidates had won in the last local election through independent candidacy, including Irwandi Yusuf and Muhammad Nazar who would govern in Aceh until 2012. It is not impossible then, if GAM Party uses the popular symbol and flag, they would be winning the next 2009 election. The party which supported by most of former combatant have ambition to dominate the local parliament.

It is no wonder if Yahya Mua’az, General Secretary of GAM Party, encouraging Irwandi’s move. However, GAM Party, as he stated in the discussion, is different to the GAM. GAM as name of the party is not acronym of Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka). Then, what is it?

“GAM, that’s all,” he replied, briefly.

Yahya argued that Jakarta have not accepted yet to keep and fully implement the Helsinki accord.

“If there is no wholeheartedness, chaos (in Aceh) could be happened again. Things that we never want to be happened could be raised in the future,” Mu’az insisted.

Meanwhile, Irwandi who has been governing in Aceh for one year asked the audience to stop making polemic after PP 77/2007 released as it could worsen peace situation in Aceh now.

“Whether we are aware or not, more and more absurd policy releases by the central (government in Jakarta), at the same moment a systematic reduction process is going to happen toward sustainable peace in Aceh. Of course, we all didn’t want that,” he insisted.

POSTSCRIPTUM: On 25 February 2008, GAM Party registered its party to Law and Human Rights Office in Banda Aceh. They also announced its new flag and symbol. They was remove the crescent in their flag and symbol, only G, A, and M letters. From now, the acronym of GAM party is Aceh Autonomous Movement (Gerakan Aceh Mandiri) Party.

*) Samiaji Bintang is contributor of Pantau Aceh Feature Service in Aceh

**) Translated by Samiaji Bintang

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by:Samiaji Bintang