Ibnu Mat Noor, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh
Zaini Ali was walking in the front yard of Runtoh mosque in broad daylight in the town of Sigli in Aceh on the weekend when gunshots were heard.
The legislator from Pidie regency, North Aceh, died on the spot. It was Friday, only a day after Aceh figures and visiting Vice President Hamzah Haz had agreed to say no to violence and yes to negotiations.
Zaini, a former vice chairman of the Golkar functional group in Pidie during the Soeharto years, who became head of the Crescent Star Party of Pidie chapter, knew that his life had been under threat for some time. (Golkar changed its name to the ""Golkar party"" only after Soeharto fell from power in 1998).
He moved from his house to the regent's guest house in Pidie, about three kilometers away, exactly three months ago to evade his assassins. That was after unidentified people had set fire to his house.
After the incident Zaini moved to Banda Aceh, which is 112 kilometers from Sigli, along with his family. He took his family back to his house after it had been repaired but he still refused to sleep there.
Zaini, who was a former chief of the tax office in Pidie, was the fifth Acehnese figure to be assassinated this year. He was once appointed as chairman of the House of Regional Representatives for Pidie regency in 1999.
""We received a telephoned death threat prior to the burning of our house,"" Fatimah, 50, wife of Zaini, was quoted as saying by Muharizal Hasan, a human rights activist.
Muharizal said both Zaini's family and local villagers claimed they did not recognize the killers.
Pidie military commander Lt. Col. Supartodi said on Saturday that a youth was being questioned in relation to the killing.
He said he suspected supporters of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) were behind the killing.
""We learned that GAM had invited Zaini to join not so long ago but he had refused. Afterwards, he often received death threats and at one point he fled to Jakarta, only to return recently to prepare for the election of a new regent,"" Supartodi said.
A GAM spokesman told Serambi Indonesia newspaper that it was not involved in the shooting of Zaini.
""We fiercely condemn this killing. GAM will punish the perpetrator,"" Abu Razak said.
He added that it was in GAM's interest to protect Zaini as he was a public figure in Pidie.
""It is illogical that GAM should have killed him, especially as GAM members are staying in the barracks,"" he said.
Supartodi said all witnesses to the killing had claimed that they did not recognize the killers.
""It is possible, though, that they were simply too scared to say,"" he said.
Fear has gripped locals and legislators alike in Pidie for months, said a member of staff at the legislative office, who refused to be identified.
No legislators stayed in their homes, he said, some slept at their party offices, others took rooms on a monthly basis at low-priced hotels.
""Others hop from one relative's home to another,"" he said.
Those legislators who lived far away from Sigli never went home even during daytime. If they wanted to meet with their families, the latter would go to their lodging houses in Sigli.
Asked to comment about it, Supartodi said the military was taking an umbrella security measure to protect legislators when they left their houses, even in Sigli itself.
Five legislators have been killed in the last three years. Another legislator, Aly Djauhari, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, disappeared months ago. Another one, Ghazali Usman, a legislator from the East Aceh chapter of the National Mandate Party was kidnapped by GAM three months ago.
What the Acehnese need most today is freedom from fear. Those who have weapons often take the law into their own hands. Truth has come from the tip of a gun. Everyone, from common people to legislators, is gripped by fear.
It is not unusual that legislators have to flee Aceh from time to time, human rights activist Maimul Fidar said. There were times that they convened their meetings in Jakarta and in West Java, he said.
Aceh legislator Mustafa Abdullah, however, disagreed that Aceh legislators had occasionally fled to Jakarta out of fear.
""It is not out of fear. They have important meetings outside Aceh. That is the reason,"" he said.
There is resentment among many Acehnese that legislators all too easily leave their constituents at times of crisis.
Legislators, on the other hand, have an intrinsic fear for their legitimacy, as 75 percent of Aceh's electorate did not vote in the 1999 elections.