Aceh Feature, 17 Oktober 2009
It was dark, 19:00 local time. Yusmar Yunus is all eyes and ears – all aims to the television set in front of him. He is watching the debates of the candidates for the 2009-2014 President of Indonesia in one of the national television stations, Trans TV.
A number of men join Yusmar in his room on that June 16th 2009 evening. They all sit on the floor.
Yusmar is a former combatant of Free Aceh Movement. He is a small yet well-built man with well-trained biceps. He used them to carry his weapons against the Government of Indonesia in 1997. He is 32 years old.
”Ka dimulai beuh acara debat, soe meunang marit takalon jinoe (the debate begins, let us see who win this battle of the words)” Yusmar says.
”Fery, deungo jeeh Mega-Pro, calon Presiden kah (Feri, listen to the Mega-Pro, your favorite candidate),” Yusmar exclaims to his fellow.
”Lon netral, pegawe hanjeut meupolitek (I remain neutral, no politics for government officials),” Fery replies.
Fery Kusmawadi works for the Office of Farming of the Province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. His smile implies that he enjoys the debate. Sometime he jokingly comments on his favorite candidate.
“Soe kadukung kah (So who do you support)?” Yusmar interrogates.
“Netral hai, dalam undang-undang kamoe kalheuh diatoe haroeh netral (My neutral stance is prescribed by law),” Fery says, diplomatically.
State Employment Law No 43/1999 explicitly stipulates that government officials must be politically neutral. Article 3 of the law dictates that officials have to remain neutral from any political affiliations and to exercise non discrimination in providing their public service.
Article 43 and 44 of Presidential Election Law no 42/2008 also states the dos and don’ts for the government officials during the election. Article 43 stipulates that any officials - state, structural or functional - , head of the village and others must not take any decision and/or action advantaging or disadvantaging any candidate. Article 44 point 1 prohibits government officials to take any action inclined to support any candidate before, during and after the campaign. Point 2 of the same article lists down the prohibited actions such as to be involved in meetings, to give approval, endorsement, promotion and to distribute any campaign merchandise.
Those violating the law will face six to thirty six months of prison time, and/or pay Rp 6 to 36 million sanction fee.
“No comment or applause please, you have to wait after these candidates deliver their visions and missions,” Yusmar says to me, as if he were the moderator of the debate.
“Teuman soe neudukong (Who do you support)?” I ask.
“Faster, better,” he firmly replies.
Yusmar continues to watch the television.
“Jeeh hai...seunyum sabee Pak Jusuf Kalla (Keep smiling, Jusuf Kalla),” he says.
“Beutoi... beutoi (Hear, hear),” Akmal Sulaiman comments. He also watches the debate. Akmal is a student.
The room becomes more and more crowded. The rising room temperature starts to bother them. Yusmar wears a worn T-shirt. The fan spins.
The debate is moderated by Anies Baswedan. He is the rector of Paramadina University. Helmi Yahya is the MC.
Three candidates debates is on “Good and Clean Governance and Enforcing the Supremacy of Law and Human Rights.”
Each candidate is scheduled to answer questions in two minutes and have other candidates respond to it.
The first candidate is Megawati Soekarnoputri. She wears the official color of her party, red. She is the president candidate from Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan/PDI-P).
PDI-P was the winning party in the last 2004 Election. In the 2009 Election however, it only secures 14.03 per cent of votes nationwide. With two other parties, the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya/Gerindra) and Labor Party (Partai Buruh), PDI-P forms a coalition.
All together, this coalition secures 18.74 per cent of votes nationwide and 21.6 per cent of seats in national parliament. Prabowo Subianto is the candidate for vice president of the coalition. Often linked to the kidnapping of activists and shootings of students on the brink of Soeharto’s downfall, his reputation is dubious. This coalition, known as Mega-Pro, bears a political slogan of: “Mega Pro People.”
“Clean governance and enforcement of law and human rights are mandates of the 1945 Constitution. We will carry out this when we are elected as president and vice president. Together, we will ensure that law enforcement will be non discriminatory,” Megawati replies.
Aceh is declared a Military Operation Zone during Megawati administration.
“Nyoe peugah haba, neusoe jeut (easier said than done),” Yusmar comments.
Commercial breaks stop the debate for a while. A political ad is aired. This time is on Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and Boediono, or popularly known as SBY-Berbudi. Their slogan is “Continue.” The television screen shows their tagline: they come from the people, they come to serve the people.
Fery laughs when he reads the line.
“Public money for public officials,” he comments.
The debate starts. Now it is SBY’s turn to respond. He wears a batik shirt. He has a rhythmic hand gestures.
“Kiban meubibawa SBY (SBY is very charismatic),” Akmal says. He complements his favorite candidate.
“Jusuf Kalla peukureung ngon SBY, rumeh sabe (Jusuf Kalla is no less, look how he keeps on smiling),” Yusmar also defends his candidate.
SBY is the president candidate from Democrat Party (Partai Demokrat). It wins this year’s election with 20.85 per cent of votes and 26.43 per cent of seats in the parliament.
Demokrat also forms a coalition with other parties. Four big parties join SBY’s party: National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional/PAN), Justice and Prosperous Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera/PKS), National Awakening Party (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa/PKB) and United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP)). The rest are small-size parties.
This coalition boosts the number of votes for into 51.72 per cent and parliament seats into 56.07 per cent.
Out of the blue, Yusmar throws a parody in Aceh language.
Ungkot pa’ak pajoh kureng
Kureng pajoh aneuk sure
Aneuk sure pajoh bileh
Bileh pajoh udeung
udeung pajoh angen
A tuna fish eats a cob fish
A cob fish eats its own offspring.
It later on eats anchovies.
Anchovies eat shrimp.
Shrimp at the end eats wind.
“Arti jih (What does it means),” I ask.
“Rayeuk jabatan, rakyeuk a’up. Rakyat kecil makan angin (Big guys eat big meal. Little guys eat wind),” he answers.
Yusmar supports Jusuf Kalla alias JK, the Head of Golongan Karya Party (Golkar). It forms a coalition with only one political party, the People’s Conscience Party (Partai Hati Nurani Rakyat/Hanura).
This coalition only secures 18.22 per cent of the votes nationwide and 22.32 per cent of seats in the parliament.
Wiranto, a former general, is JK’s vice president candidate. Under a nickname of JK-Win, they carry a slogan “Faster, better”.
“Droe neuh kon mantan GAM. Pakon hana neudukong SBY (You are a former Free Aceh Movement supporter. Why don’t you support SBY?” I ask.
Most of ex Free Aceh Movement activists are SBY supporters because his administration brings peace to Aceh.
“Kali nyoe presiden kon dari ureung puloe Jawa sigoe ta peumunang (I vote for a non Javanese candidate),” he answers. Yusmar’s statement is discriminative in nature.
“Tapih, mantan peutinggi GAM ramee nyang dukong SBY (But the rest of the ex Free Aceh Movement guys vote for SBY?)” I continue.
“Nyan kon mamandum politek (It is all politics),” he replies.