A decade after the Helsinki MoU: Finding a New Strategy in Resolving Conflict in Aceh

ELSAM, Jakarta – On 15 August 2005, the government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement signed a memorandum of understanding, confirming their commitments to resolve the conflict in Aceh in a peaceful, comprehensive and sustainable manner. The memorandum of understanding is known as the Helsinki MoU.

One decade after the signing of the Helsinki MoU, the situation of Aceh in the current context needs to be reviewed, especially two years after the introduction of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Regional Law (Qanun). According to Suraiya Kamaruzzaman, an Acehnese woman activist, the anniversary of the MoU is an appropriate moment to reflect on the condition of Aceh, noting the current political situation.

“Ten years further is an appropriate moment to review Aceh’s situation. Other than the political processes, which have ground to a halt at the regional parliament level, we need to observe the issue from the victim’s perspective, especially in responding to the issue of truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), noting Aceh’s political condition in the last decade. It is important to consider whether the need to create a TRC still exists,” she stated in the focus group discussion on Aceh TRC, held by ELSAM on 5 August 2015 in Oria Hotel, Jakarta.

According to Teuku Kemal Pasha, an anthropologist from Malikussaleh University, the resolution of the Aceh issue will stagnate if constitutional space is not improved. He considered that the creation of a TRC is part of the constitutional space, not political space.

“In reality, the Helsinki MoU gave rise to new elites. Aceh politics need to see reconciliation as an important agenda, in face of the complexity of the creation of justice. The justice approach for the current situation is not strategic, and what is needed is a record of human rights violations in Aceh,” explained Kemal.

Responding to the strategy of conflict resolution in Aceh, Otto Syamsudin Ishak stated that Aceh needs to learn from the civil society advocacy pertaining to the Agrarian Law (UUPA). This is due to the different advocacy strategy required during times of conflict and peace.

“We have to observe the advocacy roadmap of our Aceh colleagues, and only then enter the issue of truth: whether through a commission or court process. This is needed because we need vertical and horizontal pressure for the TRC,” said Otto, representing the National Commission on Human Rights, in the same forum.

According to Kamala Chandra Kirana, before creating the TRC mechanism to resolve past abuses in Aceh, there is a need to create a common understanding of Aceh’s future in the next decade. This is because the social movement required is no longer than the formalist mechanism utilised by the new elites.

“At the national level, there is a hesitation on the efficacy of the TRC, as the domination of transactional politics cannot yet be overcome. The current post-conflict condition in Aceh has also created new elites, not only actors and ethnicities. Our movement is now emotionally tired, lacking new ideas, and thus needs a new alternative,” explained Kamala.

She considered that the creation of a concept of Aceh’s future is a collective imagination process, which is to be the result of a consensus. According to Anderson’s imagined community concept, such a process should be at the community level. What Aceh needs is social transformation, not mere formal procedures.

Writer: Lintang Setianti
Editor: Ari Yurino