Aceh Leaderless Revolution


THE 2005 Helsinki Peace Agreement which ended the three decades of conflict between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government has brought a very significant impact towards the Acehnese. One of the most significant results was the former combatant won the last two elections at the gubernatorial and parliamentary level although with a lesser majority at the latter.

We might be thinking that Aceh will develop at faster rate compare to other provinces in Indonesia because the executive and legislative power at provincial level is in the hand of former combatant in the form of Aceh Party. However, this is not the case.

Reports at the local media suggests that there are ongoing conflict between Governor and his deputy which ranging from the appointment of head of local government agencies to the appointment of speaker for Aceh Parliament.

This situation will continue until the next governor election as both of them most likely will run for the coveted post. It will be a very trying time for the Acehnese as the performance of the Aceh Government during the last three years was very much disappointing especially their failure to maximize the spending of the Regional Government Budget.

Looking at this scenario, the future of Acehnese would not be much different with from time of the conflict   although there might be some consolation in the thought that most freedom fighters all over the world were not known for their administrative and governance skills. Nevertheless, credit should still be given to the current Aceh government in continuing two of better policies of previous governor, for channeling a considerable amount of budget to improve healthcare and providing scholarships for hundreds of Acehnese to pursue their master’s and doctorate programs overseas. Therefore there are still hope and times for the government of Aceh or for the Acehnese to change for the better.

In fact, the future of Aceh looks bright even though a lot of hard work must be done. I come up with this conclusion after observing Aceh from within for the last six months where I met so many good people who has work tremendously hard to contribute in whatever capacity they have for the betterment of Aceh.

They are very keen to devote their time and energy giving back to the community simply because they want to see a brighter future for Aceh. This reminds me of the book written by Carne Ross entitled The Leaderless Revolution where he suggested that we should take a matter into our own hand to solve our problem instead of waiting hopelessly for our ineffective government.

In that book, the writer examines the role of government in today’s world. Although the situation and the condition of one country is different than the other but there are common features where the government are less or even not able to tackle various problems that we are facing. So, if the government cannot do that, who can?

Carne Ross argues that we must do so ourselves. He proposes that we should shift our paradigm from waiting others or government to solve our problem. How is it so? We have to act as it is action that changes thing. He provides four conditions to achieve it. First, an understanding that action of an individual can have global consequence; Second, it is the expression through action that has the most powerful impact upon each other and our surroundings; Third, in solving one problem the involvement of the people who are having problem is a must; and lastly the people have to take back the power from the politicians or government to solve their own problems.

In the context of our situation in Aceh, I believe Acehnese had practiced this in the past by actively act or doing something to contribute to the community. For example, majority of schools in Aceh, especially religious schools, were built and funded by the community through waqf (endowment). Only at a later stage the community handed over the schools to the government.

This practice in fact has been done by Acehnese for hundreds of years including overseas. That is why you will find the famous Bayt al-Asyi (Waqf Aceh) in Mecca which was donated as waqf by Habib Abdurrahman in 1809, the Aceh Street Mosque in Penang was built in 1808 on land donated by an Acehnese Tengku Syed Hussain Al-Aidid and the lesser known school Attarbuyah Adiniyah Anlamiyah (now Maktab Mahmud), Kampung Aceh, Yan, Malaysia was built by Dr. Teuku Abdul Djalil Lamno in 1938.

In Indonesia, the generosity of Acehnese in the past in assisting the government also could be traced back to the buying of Dakota RI-001 Seulawah which was the embryo of Garuda Indonesia Airways now and the donation of 28 kilograms of gold by Teuku Markam for the construction of National Monument in Jakarta during the era of Soekarno.

Currently a small act to contribute to the community has been done by many Acehnese in various sectors of their interest. To name but a few, Alwi from Idi, after working overseas for more than ten years, has now decided to teach English to Acehnese children in Idi, East Aceh. Juanda Djamal and his colleagues, after working at various NGOs post tsunami, is now starting the Beng Mawah, a cooperative movement for farmers and home industries in Saree, Aceh Besar. Muslahuddin Daud, a staff at the World Bank for the last thirteen years, has been working on his own initiatives to empower the local farmer in various districts in Aceh. Saiful Mahdi, a lecturer at Syiah Kuala University Banda Aceh, has been responsible for the establishment of The Aceh Institute and ICAIOS (International Centre for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies), two of the most advance research centre in Aceh now. Kamaruzzaman Bustamam Ahmad, a prolific young academician at the Ar-Raniry State Islamic University (UIN), has been working tremendously hard in producing his groundbreaking work on ‘Acehnologi’. Affan Ramli and his colleagues are playing a great role in reactivating the importance of Mukim institution and customary (adat) movement as one of the solutions to develop a better Aceh.

Last but not least, to follow the footstep of the abovementioned Acehnese in contributing to the community, I have established a small library called Teungku Muda Husen Waqf Library (TMHWL), in respect to my great grandfather, in Gampong Blang Me, Kuta Blang, Bireuen with 500 books of various genres in several languages from my personal collection.

I hope in the future, although on a smaller scale, I can follow the footstep of John Wood of Room to Read who had build 1,800 schools and opening more than 16,000 libraries with 13 million books for more than 8 million children across Asia and Africa.

Historical facts and the above mention small acts have shown varying degree of success if we proactively take action to solve our problems. This is the key to Aceh’s prosperity in the future regardless of who will have political power. I have a firm believe that the Aceh development will move on the right track if all stakeholders take the responsibility with both hand according to their field of interests and their areas of expertise. The time has come for Acehnese to embrace Aceh leaderless revolution.