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Aceh holds its first democratic election -

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Aceh holds its first democratic election

Reporter: Geoff Thompson

HEATHER EWART: Two years ago, the Indonesian province of Aceh became synonymous with unimaginable
destruction after the Boxing Day tsunami which killed about 170,000 people there. But the tsunami
also swept away three decades of bloody civil war between the GAM rebels of the Free Aceh Movement
and the Indonesian military. As a result of successful peace talks, today the people of Aceh will
directly elect their own governor for the first time. The election is being played out against a
disturbing trend the enforcement of strict Islamic law, such as 40 strokes of the cane for drinking
alcohol. From Banda Aceh, Indonesia correspondent Geoff Thompson reports.

GEOFF THOMPSON: When Humam Hamid last campaigned here in Burum he was beaten up by the supporters
of a political rival. It was a rare incident of violence in this first ever direct election for the
job of Aceh's governor. That's quite an achievement, after 30 years of a conflict recently assessed
to be as constantly intense as the worst of the Bosnian war. Since 1976 the Free Aceh Movement,
known as GAM, has fought for control of this resource rich province. Just two years ago, 40,000
Indonesian soldiers were sent here in a fresh offensive to crush the rebels.

HUMAM HAMID, CANDIDATE: This is a turning point in history for the Acehnese, whether we will go to
the right place or whether to the wrong place.

GEOFF THOMPSON: A well known moderate leader among Aceh's civil society, Humam Hamid is running for
the governorship with the GAM identity and former political prisoner, Hazbi Abdullah, as his

HUMAM HAMID: The Acehnese want a change. Some will go into it with rifles and guns, some with

GEOFF THOMPSON: Whoever wins this week, it was 2004's tsunami, not guns and voices, which finally
forced the seismic shift in Aceh's political landscape. The day after much of Aceh was washed away,
GAM declared a unilateral cease fire. Six months later the rebels signed a peace agreement with the
Indonesian Government.

IRWANDI YUSUF, CANDIDATE: There is no use of war, GAM could not defeat the Indonesian military and
the Indonesian military could not defeat GAM.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Irwandi Yusuf leads GAM's young Turks. The rebel veteran has overwhelming rank and
file support, as a former fighter, prison and a hard headed peace negotiator.

IRWANDI YUSUF: I say the real fighters, we enjoy huge support from the fighters.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Among them is the popular former GAM commander, Sofyan Dawod.

SOFYAN DAWOD (TRANSLATION): I have difficulty giving hope to those in the field. Why? Because I can
only ask them to be patient. It's already been a year and you know that patience has its limits.

GEOFF THOMPSON: After 18 months of initial peace, Aceh's ex combatants must still break rocks to
earn less than $1 a day.

RESIDENT (TRANSLATION): I want to start my own business but I have no money. I need capital to

GEOFF THOMPSON: None of these men have yet received reintegration funds promised by Indonesia's
Government. Experts agree that if one issue threatens Aceh's future peace and reconstruction, this
is it.

MARK KNIGHT, INT'L ORGANISATION FOR MIGRATION: The real challenge is to create a momentum whereby
there's belief enough in the future that you can deal with the disappointments of every day. If
that balance is not achieved then, yes, there is a danger.

KUNTORO MANGKUSUBROTO, ACEH RECONSTRUCTION CHIEF: We need peace. If there's no peace then we've got

GEOFF THOMPSON: There has been one alarming omission from the new Aceh's election debate - the
forced implementation of Islamic law by the province's very own Sharia police. They're Aceh's
version of the Taliban's ministry for the protection of virtue and the prevention of vice and
they're on their way here to this popular stretch of beach where young couples like to gather in
the early evening. Public romancing is now banned in Aceh, along with any form of gambling and
drinking alcohol. When they come, the lovers scatter. But not all escape. Some are lectured, have
their IDs confiscated and are told to report the next day to the office of the Sharia police.

SHARIA POLICEWOMAN (TRANSLATION): She is not wearing the clothes required by Sharia. She is wearing
a veil but her shirt is not right.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Women get particular attention for wearing revealing clothes or too small a

RESIDENT: They told, "I'm very sorry, sister."

GEOFF THOMPSON: But you're not happy?


GEOFF THOMPSON: Implementing Sharia law like this provokes a common complaint.

RESIDENT: And the whole thing is, there's somebody doing corruption but no one catch. They need to
do that first. After that, come to us.

GEOFF THOMPSON: They may look like schoolyard prefects, but this is serious work. Banda Aceh's
Sharia police chief shows us the straight arm method with which the convicted should be punished.
But this Sharia police film shows how caning works in practice. In the past year, across Aceh, 140
people have been caned like this for Sharia offences.

GEOFF THOMPSON: The faint line here, this where they hit you? How long ago? Four months ago?

GEOFF THOMPSON: In Banda Aceh, Syafullah Ali was the last one to be whipped. He was sentenced to 40
strokes for drinking alcohol, but collapsed after just seven.

SYAFULLAH ALI (TRANSLATION): It hurt, it really hurt and I was humiliated because so many people
were watching.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Critics of Sharia's implementation in Aceh argue that Islamic law should be guided
by the mosque and not a new bureaucracy. Both GAM aligned candidates in this election have voiced
their distaste for the Sharia police.

IRWANDI YUSUF: Punishment is a small part of the teaching. Why we should concentrate on this?

GEOFF THOMPSON: Will you stop caning if you're Governor?

HUMAM HAMID: We are going to have a deep and long dialogue about that.

GEOFF THOMPSON: As Aceh rebuilds, the Acehnese face the challenge of reconstructing their own

KUNTORO MANGKUSUBROTO: This is the first time for the people of Aceh after 30 years of conflict
they have a say on how they will shape their future.

HEATHER EWART: Geoff Thompson reporting from Banda Aceh.

(c) 2006 ABC