Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – Escalating political tension and rampant violence in Aceh in the run-up to next month's the legislative election have prompted activists to declare an emergency in the province.
Several nongovernmental organizations, united under the Democratic Forum, have expressed concern over the unabating violence in Aceh, which seems to be related to the upcoming election.
"The violence in Aceh keeps increasing and its no longer normal. If the situation persists and the election organizers ignore it, the result of the election in this province will not be reliable, because democracy will have been disrupted," spokesman for the Democratic Forum, Agusta Mukhtar, told a press conference on Thursday.
The Aceh Democratic Forum recorded at least 36 cases of violence during the official campaign period so far, including shootings, terror acts using grenades, assault and the destruction of political parties' offices.
"The violence has doubled since the beginning of March," he said.
Agusta said the election should have been a celebration of democracy giving the opportunity for the people to choose their leaders. However, he said, this has been tainted by violence that could prevent the public from exercising their right to vote.
"The Aceh Party [PA] for instance, has committed a number of attacks and that has scared the already traumatized people who had to deal with violence in the past," he said.
The Aceh Party was founded by former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) members after a peace treaty between the rebels and the Indonesian government was signed in Helsinki, Finland, in 2005 to end the decades-long bloody conflict that killed more than 25,000 civilians in the province.
As part of the peace treaty, the province of Aceh was permitted to implement a form of Shariah, or Islamic law.
"The intimidation and terror committed by Aceh Party includes saying 'anyone who does not vote for PA would be kicked out of the province.' This should be classified as open intimidation, not to mention terror against the village heads and villagers. Unfortunately so far there has been no reaction from the election commission," he said.
Agusta said the Democratic Forum appreciated the police's response to the violence by arresting several PA supporters. He said the central government should intervene by forming a special team to evaluate the performance of Central Information Commission (KIP) and the Elections Supervisory Body, or Bawaslu.
'We demand that the political party that has committed this violence be punished so it can serve as a lesson for other parties so they would not use any form of violence to garner votes," he said.
Last week Aceh Police charged 21 members and supporters of the Aceh Party over a string of attacks on rival political parties.
The police initially arrested 50 people in connection with a spate of attacks targeting members of the Aceh National Party (PNA) in Banda Masen Village, in Lhokseumawe district. A mob of PA supporters converged on the home of Amri, a local official with PNA, in retaliation for the shooting of the PA's Ahmad Syuib, 28, during a campaign event.