The Corruption of Ex-GAM Members: An Irony of Aceh’s Development

By : Almira Fadillah

 The domination of local political power in Aceh has lasted since the Government Regulation (PP) No. 20/2007 about local political parties was implemented. Thus, in 2009 election all local political parties was accommodated. Consecutively, Aceh Party (Partai Aceh/PA) that is considered representing the aspiration of former GAM members won legislative election in 2009 with 47% votes and in 2014 with 35.4% votes. These were ahead of the votes gained by Aceh National Party (PNA) that was also formed by former GAM members. PNA only got 6.8% votes in 2014. Some former GAM members also won in local election in their area. They are now occupying some strategic positions from governor up to regent and mayor.

Theoretically, Lucyan Pye, a political science scholar suggested that social and political stability is a requirement in development. The power possessed by former GAM members that they got from the election is politically good capital to pursue political stability required to run any policy. Therefore, there should not be any political obstacle for Aceh government to accomplish their agendas which is pro-people development, especially given the fact that central government has given a great support in terms of Special Autonomy scheme.

Regarding the otsus funds, Act No. 11/2006 about Aceh Government article 183 paragraph 2 explains that Aceh will receive otsus funds for 20 years starting in 2008. For the first 15 years, the amount of the funds is 2% of National General Allocation Fund (Dana Alokasi Umum Nasional /DAUN). Then in the 16th year (2023) until the 20th (2028), the amount will be 1% of DAUN. Therefore, during 2008-2015, Aceh has received Rp 42.3 trillion otsus fund and it will reach Rp 163 trillion in 2027. This fund, according to 183 paragraph 1 UUPA, must be allocated for development especially infrastructure development and maintenance, pro-people economic empowerment, poverty eradication, education fund, social fund, and healthcare for any province with around 5 million people. It is obvious that these development priorities must be pursued by anyone in power.

Corruption and the Oligarchy of Former GAM Members

If we look carefully, Aceh has had 2 important capitals to achieve the development mandated by UUPA. First is relatively stable local governance. Second is sufficient budget to support the programs. Thus, it is not excessive if the Acehnese hope better regional development. Unfortunately, the reality is not in line with the expectation. The Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) mentioned that the number of poor people in Aceh in March 2005 reached 851,000 people, increasing 17.08% from it was in September 2014 which was 16.98%. Around 157,000 live in downtown areas while 694,000 people live in suburb. The poor category includes all people whose income is below the poverty line standard, which is Rp 390,150 per month in suburb and Rp 410,414 per month for downtown people. With this data, Aceh ranks 26 out of 34 provinces in terms of poverty followed by West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), Bengkulu, Gorontalo, Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), West Papua and Papua.

Another problem in Aceh is the unemployment rate that is high. BPS data suggested that the rate was rising up to 217 thousand people of 2.183 million labor force in August 2015 or at 9.93%. This number was above the national unemployment rate at 6.68%. According to Institute for Development of Acehnese Society (IDeAS), the development in Aceh is ironic, especially given the fact that the province has received great amount of otsus fund amounting to Rp 42.2 trillion since 2008 to 2015. This great amount apparently cannot effectively cut the rate of unemployment in Aceh.

All these ironic facts regarding Aceh development reflect the real condition in Aceh under former GAM members leadership post Helsinki MoU. Disappointment is spread among the society including former GAM members group themselves who feel excluded. Demonstration and even armed movements are held to protest Aceh government who are considered incapable and only care about their own interests. An instance is shown by Din Minimi, a former GAM fighter, who then declared his war to Aceh Government led by Zaini Abdullah as the Governor and Muzakkir Manaf as Vice Governor. The Aceh government is considered failed in fulfilling the peace agreement and ensuring the welfare of Acehnese

The ironic development in Aceh also shows the low credibility of political leadership of ex-GAM elites in the government for the Acehnese. According to the Working Committee of the Anti-Corruption Movement (Gerak), there were 27 corruption cases in Aceh in 2015 with Rp 885.8 billion potential loss. This number was higher than in 2014, which was only Rp 500 billion. It is estimated that around 10% of total otsus fund was being corrupted. The Division Head of Corruption Advocation Gerak Aceh, Hayatuddin Tanjung, in a press conference mentioned that corruption practices in Aceh is now propagating, structured and systemized (as quoted from Thus, Gerak Aceh demanded KPK, Polda Aceh, and Public Prosecutor’s Office to create corruption eradication strategy in Aceh and execute all corruption cases.

These rampant corruption practices in Aceh under Zaini Abdullah – Muzakir Manaf leadership are also highlighted by Aceh Transparency Society (Masyarakat Transparansi Aceh /MaTA) that is concerned with the sharp increase of corruption cases reaching up to 50% since 2013 with Rp 513.5 billion loss. There are at least 8 modes of corruption in Aceh such as abuse of power, fictitious reports, budget cut, neglect of projects, budget mark up, inappropriate technical specification, and embezzlement. MaTA and Gerak Aceh demands Aceh Public Prosecutor’s Office to finish all existing cases. “There are 18 corruption cases handled by the attorney office that are stopped,” said MaTA coordinator Alfian during his visit to Aceh Public Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday (20/1/2016).

(Retrieved from

The movement of ex-GAM members in Aceh politics has formed a new oligarchy power that not only control the politics, but also the economic network in Aceh. Jeffrey Winters definedoligarchy as a small group of people possessing power to gain wealth. Politics for them is a wealth defense or wealth hunting. This kind of politics must always lead to corruption. There are some examples showing the corruption by ex-GAM members such as one involving North Aceh Regent, Ilyas A Hamid who was Ex-GAM high rank official in Pase (2016). He is now on Corruption trial in the District Court of Banda Aceh. Moreover, in an alleged corruption case of the Regional Development Company of Lhokseumawe’s (PDPL) fund, the LhokseumaweDistrict Attorneyhas examined 27 witnesses, including three former chief of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) Region Pase (2014). In addition, a protest was held by the people of East Aceh Regency on suspicion of 10% reduction of funds by East Aceh Regent Hasballah M Thaibfor the implementation of projects funded by the East Aceh budget(APBK) to improve the welfare of former GAM fighters.

 Law Enforcement Consistency

            The corruption issues in Aceh is now in the red zone and cannot be underestimated. Corruption has threatened the rights of Acehnese to enjoy the development, wealth, and proper public services. The otsus fund should have been allocated for the interests of 5 million Aceh people. Therefore, all law enforcement officers, especially KPK, must put corruption in Aceh as a priority. The role of KPK is ultimately important since the Police and Aceh attorney did not make any progress. KPK can supervise and support both Police and the Attorney Office to improve their performance in corruption eradication.

The law enforcer must not be daunted by any threat, pressure, and even the propaganda from the ex- GAM. Aceh society is now starting to open themselves and more critical and objective in seeing things. For them, what is urgent is to ensure that the otsus fund is allocated accordingly and is prioritized for the sake of Aceh development. The future of Aceh cannot be handed to a group of people who only speak that they fight for Aceh but instead betray the interests of the Acehnese by corrupting the otsus fund that in principle belongs to Aceh people.

Disappointment and fretfulness of the society regarding the otsus fund corruption cases should be a momentum for all Aceh political elites, especially former GAM to fix their credibility in public eyes. Aceh otsus fund is not the spoils of a war that they can use as they wish. It belongs to Aceh people given by Central Government as state obligation to take care of its people. The abuse of the fund means the abuse of people trust, thus they must hold responsible for everything they have done according to the existing law in Indonesia.

*The writer is an observer at Galesong Institute. Political master candidate. Residing in Bandung.

*Seluruh isi tulisan menjadi tanggungjawab penulis.