The Jakarta Post
The Aceh provincial administration installed on Monday a former separatist leader as the wali nanggroe, or traditional leader, although the Home Ministry has yet to ratify the appointment.
Former self-styled prime minister of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), Malik Mahmud Al Haytar was sworn in at the Aceh Provincial Legislative Council (DPRD) in an extraordinary plenary meeting attended by Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah and other provincial officials.
Bureaucratic Reform Minister Azwar Abubakar, who hails from Banda Aceh, also attended the ceremony as well as a number of lawmakers with constituencies in Aceh.
Malik in his speech conveyed his gratitude to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former vice president Jusuf Kalla for their roles in achieving the 2005 Helsinki memorandum of understanding which ended the Aceh conflict.
While thousands of people tried to attend the ceremony, opinion in Aceh was divided on the position.
'I do not understand the need to have a wali nanggroe institution and a wali nanggroe position for the interests of Aceh people,' said Abdullah Haris of Banda Aceh. 'Not only is the position not clear, its contribution is also questionable.'
Haris said he did not understand the role of the wali nanggroe other than being a customary institution dealing with customary affairs.
'All I know is that the institution does not handle political issues although its creation was part of the political process in Aceh,' he said.
The Aceh provincial administration spokesman, Nurdin F. Joes said that the provincial administration insisted on carrying out the ceremony although it still awaited confirmation by the central government through the Home Ministry.
The ministry asked the Aceh DPRD to clarify 21 items included in the Aceh Qanun (Bylaw) No. 8/2012 on the Institution of the Wali Nanggroe.
'The Aceh DPRD certainly had to clarify some of the Qanun contents to the ministry. We have done that so there is no problem anymore,' Nurdin said.
Outside the Aceh DPRD compound, tension escalated after soldiers and police confiscated GAM flags being carried by GAM members who wanted to take part in the swearing-in ceremony.
The crowd attacked the Aceh Besar Military District Command (Kodim) headquarters demanding the soldiers return the confiscated flags.
Soldiers were forced to fire warning shots to disperse the angry crowd. Tension was defused after the military decided to return the separatist flags.
Article 96 (1) of the 2006 Aceh Administration Law defines the wali nanggroe institution as a customary leadership to unite the people and with the authority to develop and supervise the management of customary institutions, customs, the granting of degrees or titles and other customary ceremonies.
The appointed wali nanggroe is also tasked with protecting the Acehnese heritage both inside and outside the province.
A wali nanggroe is appointed for a period of seven years and can be reappointed as long as he can carry out the duties. There is no limitation on how many terms of office a wali nanggroe can serve. In the past, the position was for life.
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