Here's a really good article on the new Governor of Aceh by a former JP journo.


Yusuf, Former Rebel Leader, Wins Aceh Governor Race (Update3)

By Douglas Wong and Berni Moestafa

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Irwandi Yusuf, a former separatist leader who was in an Indonesian prison for treason two years ago, won the first direct election for governor of the country's Aceh province yesterday, according to two independent exit polls.

The 46-year-old Oregon State University-trained veterinarian, who learned guerrilla warfare in Latin America, won almost 39 percent of the vote, according to separate counts by the U.S.- based National Democratic Institute and the Indonesian Survey Institute. Official results are scheduled for Jan. 2.

``This is the dream of Acehnese people fulfilled and they want change, fundamental change in all aspects of life,'' Yusuf said late yesterday. ``It will be hard for me. Aceh will be like a wild horse because there are so many things to do.''

Aceh, Indonesia's third-wealthiest province by resources, won a greater share of its income and the right for freed and exiled Free Aceh Movement, or GAM leaders to stand for office under the 2005 peace deal. Yusuf, who set aside independence demands to participate, may now control a budget that has risen 513 percent to $3.1 billion from 1999.

GAM, ``will now be tested on what results it can produce for the people and whether it can overcome resistance to reform from the civil service,'' said Sidney Jones, Jakarta-based project director for the International Crisis Group.

About 75 percent of Aceh's 2.6 million registered voters turned out yesterday in the culmination of a peace process they hope will end a 30-year separatist war and lead to recovery from the 2004 tsunami. The two killed a combined 5 percent of the province's population.

Peaceful Poll

The poll was peaceful except for a small bomb that exploded near a polling station without hurting anyone and the ransacking of three stations by people who weren't allowed to vote, according to the European Union Election Observer Mission.

``Maintaining the peace is the most important job for the new government,'' said Azhari Alamsyah, a fish seller in Banda Aceh's market. During the conflict, which killed 15,000 since 1976, no one would leave their homes in the evening, he said.

The provincial capital was subdued today, with Yusuf having declared last night that GAM would not be celebrating as the results aren't official. ``I'm not the governor yet,'' he said.

GAM Split

Yusuf and his running mate Muhammad Nazar beat Humam Hamid and Hasbi Abdullah, aligned with GAM leaders exiled in Sweden, who received about 16 percent support, according to the exit polls. GAM, which plans to reorganize into a political party before the 2009 Aceh legislative elections, didn't endorse a gubernatorial candidate after failing to agree on one.

The split didn't appear to help other candidates such as Malik Raden of Indonesia's largest political party, Golkar, who won about 14 percent support, and caretaker governor Azwar Abubakar, backed by two national Islamic parties, who won about 11 percent.

``It's impossible that the other candidates will be able to beat him,'' Malik said of Yusuf's projected victory. He and Humam said they accepted their defeat and the people's choice.

Yusuf and Nazar will work hard to build Aceh peacefully, ``that's what's expected by all the Acehnese people,'' said Indonesia's Defense Chief Djoko Suyanto after meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta today.

``The Indonesian military, with all its capacity, will support that effort regardless of whether they are former GAM,'' he told reporters.

Spices, Oil and Gas

Autonomy agreements in 1950, 1959 and 2001 failed to secure peace in the last part of modern Indonesia to fall to Dutch colonial rule in 1873. A prosperous trading and spice-growing sultanate from the 18th century, Aceh's oil and gas reserves were first extracted in the 20th century.

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's biggest company, opened Indonesia's first liquefied natural gas plant in north Aceh in 1977 and the province exported more than $2 billion of gas per year at its peak. Little of that income went to Acehnese, with the fourth-highest poverty level among Indonesian provinces.

``We would like to speak to investors like Exxon,'' said Bakhtiar Abdullah, a spokesman for GAM, which wants revisions to the law that grants Aceh 55 percent and 40 percent of its oil and gas revenue, respectively. Most Indonesian provinces get a 15 percent share for oil and 30 percent for gas.

GAM has not yet had direct contact with foreign investors he said. ``Aceh is a very rich land, we should be able to achieve dignity for all.''

One of the new governor's immediate tasks will be to oversee the continuing reconstruction from the tsunami which struck on Dec. 26 two years ago and left almost 170,000 dead or missing and more than half a million homeless.

The tidal wave spurred GAM and the central government to agree to make peace. It also allowed Yusuf to escape from his prison when its walls were swept away.