Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – Poor law enforcement and a failed political transformation by former militants involved in the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) are responsible for several incidents of political violence that occurred in the province ahead of next month's legislative elections, an activist says.
"The institutional transformation of the former GAM is remarkable, with the establishment of a local political party. But it did not come with a change in their political behavior. In that case, they failed," Aceh Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) director Mustiqal Syahputra said during a press conference on Wednesday.
The press conference took place in response to recent incidents of violence in the region, involving organizations such as the Coalition of Human Rights NGOs (NGO HAM), the Aceh Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Aceh Judicial Monitoring Institute (AJMI) and others.
On Sunday night, a legislative candidate from the Aceh National Party (PNA) was shot and killed in a barrage of 42 bullets by unknown gunmen while driving on a secluded road near Sawang in South Aceh district.
The attack was the second against the party since Feb. 6, when the head of the PNA was beaten to death in front of a crowd in Kuta Makmur, North Aceh district, by two men who were allegedly from the rival Aceh Party (PA).
Last month, the campaign office of Zubir H.T., a legislative candidate for the National Democrat Party (NasDem) was attacked by unknown masked shooters who fired 10 shots. The shooting was followed by the beating of two members of Zubir's campaign team in Munyee Kunyet village, in North Aceh district.
The LBH director deplored the incidents, saying that after three rounds of elections since peace came to the region, Aceh should have seen improvement in democratic practices. Instead, the region continues to face the same issues in this year's elections with violence and illegal acts resulting in fatalities, he said.
According to observations by Banda Aceh LBH, violence in Aceh escalated ahead of the 2014 election compared to 2009 and the local election in 2012.
Meanwhile, in the past year, the LBH recorded 38 violent incidents related to elections; three murders, five arson cases, six of persecution and the rest consisting of abductions, intimidation and the destruction of campaign offices.
Twenty cases of violence were recorded in the region in 2009, and ahead of the 2012 regional election, 22 were recorded, with shootings, and the vandalizing of campaign materials, intimidation and terror being dominant.
"With such a history, the police should have been stricter in implementing the law and prioritizing preventive efforts in anticipation of violence," Mustiqal said. "Political parties should make more efforts to build a dignified democracy. Aceh is already tired with all the terror, intimidation and threats."
But Zulfikar Muhammad, the executive director of NGO HAM, said the deployment of more police in Aceh will not solve the problems, as seen in previous elections when it failed prevent violence.