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Jakarta Post

Aceh's great fall?

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, July 5, 2018   /   08:05 am
Aceh's great fall? Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators arrested Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf during an operation in Aceh on Tuesday evening. He was flown to Jakarta for further questioning on Wednesday morning. (Antara/Hafidz Mubarak A)

It is both disappointing and shocking, not only for the people of Aceh but also those with high expectations for Irwandi Yusuf, when the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested the Aceh governor and other officials on Tuesday evening on suspicion of misuse of special autonomy funds for the province.

KPK investigators flew Irwandi and Bener Meriah Regent Ahmadi to Jakarta on Wednesday for questioning. Barring no unforeseeable interruptions in their prosecution, such as a pretrial motion, the two directly elected regional leaders will soon face trial. 

Their arrest was ironic, following the blossoming of democracy through simultaneous local elections less than a week earlier across 171 provinces, municipalities and regencies. Especially for Irwandi, the KPK’s move looks to spoil the anniversary of his first year in office, which falls on July 5.

Needless to say, the KPK is ruthless and does not care about the credentials of a public official it is investigating. Neither has it shown fear over the power or popular support behind the people it has targeted. It is because of this nondiscriminatory approach that the KPK has gained public trust and respect.

Aceh’s people, as well as many in the country, knew Irwandi well and therefore elected him the governor for the second time in February last year. Voters put their hopes high on his campaign platform, called Aceh Hebat (Aceh Great), which included easy and quality access to education and health care for all, food security, clean energy, and the promotion of peace and bureaucratic reform to achieve good governance and a clean government.

Irwandi lured Aceh voters with his trademark tagline hana fee (no fee) as he envisioned a corruption-free government that better served the people. “Officials who ask for kickbacks are cutting off their bridge to heaven,” he said last October.

Irwandi started realizing his promises by allocating much of the Rp 15 trillion (US$1.04 billion) provincial budget for this year to his signature programs. He dared to initiate breakthroughs, as evident in his gubernatorial decree to address the bottleneck that was impeding budget deliberations, as well as his unpopular decision to move the sharia-based punishment of caning away from the public.

His commitment to the fight against terrorism was proven when he helped police arrest suspected members of a Jamaah Islamiyah-linked group in Aceh Besar regency during his first term a decade ago. He has also walked the talk about Aceh being part of Indonesia, which was stipulated in the Helsinki peace accord that ended the decades-long conflict between the Free Aceh Movement and Indonesia in 2005.

Irwandi is not the only leader who, despite his anticorruption stance, has fallen from grace because of his failure to live up to his promises. A lesson learned from the Irwandi case is the need for frequent interaction between a leader and his or her people just to strengthen each other.

Making Aceh great again without Irwandi will be a tall order for Deputy Governor Nova Iriansyah now.