By: Hasballah M. Saad                                                                  January, 2006 

Since 1873, when the first expeditions of Dutch mission arrived in Bandar Aceh Darussalam, later on named as Kota Raja, Acehnese people have lived within a very long conflict situation until 1942. Similar condition continued during the Japanese army invasion which took over control on Aceh until 1945. From the time of the independence day August, 17th,1945 up till now, many kinds of conflicts have been continuing, such as Civil War (1946), Second Aggression War (1948), Darul Islam Movement (1953-1962), Communist Party Rebellion (1965-1970), the Aceh Free Movement (1976- 2005) and later on the unbelievable tsunami and earthquake on December, 26th, 2004.


It is not very difficult to think about the impacts of such unrest on the civil society’s daily life. Thousands of public facilities such school buildings were destroyed, private properties damaged, community leaders and teachers killed during the conflict era. Consequently the younger generation who grow up during the conflict situations has exhibited a very unstable and violent character. And later on, the tsunami and earthquake brought a complete destruction and hopelessness to the Acehnese people. Just within the range of 10 minutes, the earthquake and the tsunami waves on the morning of December 26th, 2004, took the life of more than 300,000 people. Widows, orphans and homeless people were scattered over the coastal regions in Aceh.


The Tsunami, on the one side had created a very enormous effect on the people and coastal region in Aceh. It also affected the economic, political and cultural aspects of the Acehnese daily life: severe destruction to Aceh and the Acehnese population. On the other hand, the tsunami has caused the warring parties in the region to direct their attention to the fate of the Acehnese population who were then in the state of real emergency and helplessness. At least partly on this humanitarian basis, the two parties agreed to meet for the purpose of building peace for Aceh which was indicated by the signing of the peace agreement between the Aceh Free Movement and the Government of Indonesia in Helsinki, Finland on August, 15th, 2005.


Thanks God, it is really a blessing in disguise, even though the Acehnese and people around the world are facing the biggest challenge, the peace agreement has become a very important momentum for us to define the better future for Aceh, because of three reasons. First, the peace was achieved and could be very important modalities for development; rehabilitation and reconstruction of the New Aceh.3 Now we are coming to a very important question: What kind of New Aceh that we want to build? What kind of tool that we have in hand to prepare and what kind of model of development that has to be referred to in terms of our references?


We have to deal with the tsunami affected areas and the results of a very long conflict simultaneously. The mandate of the BRR Aceh and Nias4 at the beginning didn’t include the peace agreement consequences, such as compensation and re integration fund and management for former Aceh Free Movement members. That is something that has to be considered as additional part to the original mandate of BRR. For this case, consequently BRR has to adjust the organizational structure and its budget.


Second, the people around the world have a very strong willingness and commitment to take care and bring so many resources to Aceh, in terms of emergency relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction aids. The problem is how to manage and use the fund effectively and efficiently, without any misuse and or being useless. Transparency, accountability, and public participations have to be considered as important parts of the management of reconstruction process. The clear maps of problems and accurate identification of damage and needs are the other conditions to be considered.


Third, there is a common objective to be achieved between the Aceh Free Movement and the Government of Indonesia, to help and to provide a better future of life for Acehnese, after tsunami and at the end of the conflict. This objective was supported by not only by Civil Society, and the Acehnese people in Aceh, but also by the Acehnese Communities, and people around the world. For your information, currently there are more than 300 International NGOs and UN agencies working in Aceh conducting various programs. Some of these agencies work on humanitarian aids such as development of people houses, food supplies program, health and education services, and long term development program such as infrastructure development, public facilities, financial support and economic recovery.


The problem is there is very limited trust from the international side to both government agencies and BRR and its partner
s. So what should we do to provide better services to protect all of the third conditions as mentioned above?


There are two main important areas which have to be mentioned. First, the planning stage, even though the National Planning Agency has already provided the blue print of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction for Aceh and Nias Post Tsunami Era, the very important question remains to be answered related to the descriptions of New Aceh concept.


Many people have perceptions that the blue print of rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh and Nias is very much of physical oriented. This is caused by very poor and lack of understanding of local genuine, wisdom, values, character, and culture. In the blue print of development, culture development was put as a part of development that was identified as a physical aspect such as building, facilities, group of dancer, and so on. There are very poor in values system and it is beyond the meaning of any kind of performance and models of construction and physical development. Actually, within the frame of the New Aceh concept, any development aspects must consider the four system values: (1) Acehnese character and culture, (2) Islamic values as majority people references, (3) Nationality values as a part of the Indonesian State, and (4) Humanity values as a reference of human being.


The related question is how can we implement and elaborate those values system into the blue print of reconstruction? There is still an opportunity to be discussed, even though the blue print already exists. Shall we open the opportunity to evaluate and revise the plan of this development?


Second, does the Organizational Structure, Leadership and Management of BRR have a strong willingness to be criticized and open minded to adjust and improve the capacity, capability, sensibility of the team, in terms of moving toward the true and clear New Aceh concepts mentioned above. The four values system must be considered as a reference in all stages of development. It is not too late to make an adjustment, because we have another three years of four year reconstruction period.


Are we convinced that the New Aceh concepts could be achieved within the four year reconstruction period? I do believe that it is not easy for BRR and any other related agencies doing effective work without good and effective coordination. Political support from the Government of Indonesia, the Aceh Free Movement, and the Civil Society in Aceh and around the world is necessary and even vital. Who will take responsibility to provide the necessary support is not just BRR, but include all local government elements, community leaders, civil society leaders, ulamas, NGO activists, and politicians both at district, provincial and national levels.


We have to change the paradigm of development, not to provide and reconstruct the model we already had before. There is no any vision looking forward. Actually Aceh before tsunami and the end of conflict is not the desired picture of Aceh. We have to come to a new perspective, to give a maximum opportunity for the people of Aceh to achieve their own better life in the future, by providing the facilities, supports, references, and spirit to do it by their own way and capacity. The goal of development is how to push people to be more civilized, respect to human being, move to more modern lifestyle, but based on traditional root and their own cultural values. The character building is more important than physical construction and development.


How do we define the goal of development of Aceh to be more cultural based and put the character building as a central part of development should be considered in the future? How do we use the values system mentioned above to be a reference in any stages of development which are more important to be considered than building a very good physical construction planning, without a clear vision and philosophical values beyond the reconstruction and rehabilitation activities.

People who live in Aceh have to play the central and strategic role of development. Any kind of development that was planned in the blue print have to considered that the subject of rehabilitation and reconstruction is the people’s life in Aceh, as a part of Indonesia, with very specific conditions, because of conflict and tsunami impact.


The destruction in Aceh is not only caused by the natural disaster such as tsunami and earthquake, but also as the impact of a very long period of armed conflict, and so on. In the other part of the world such as Japan after the 2nd World War, or Germany after Hitler Regime, and other countries have a similar damages. In the Holy Qur’an, it is clearly rel
ated a story on Saba kingdom5 as a very clear example for us to learn such experiences. Macedonia, Greek and Mongol Kingdom in the West and South Asia Region in the past were gone with the time, because of their failure to rebuild after the damage. Their golden age was gone with the wind. But Japan and Germany and other First Countries, such as Italy, Great Britain, Spain, America, Australia, and Korea, tell us successful stories how to deal with their own problems in the past. The existing achievement of development depends on right and appropriate strategic of development design, management quality of the development process, and of course the quality of planning and design. Supported resources could be useless if we fail to prepare all the necessary conditions.


How about the Aceh case after the conflict and tsunami disaster? The answer is in the hand of all of us, BRR, the Government of Indonesia, the (former) Aceh Free. Movement, civil society in Aceh and around the world, and of course International Agencies as well as donor countries.


At the end of my speech, allow me on behalf of all of tsunami and conflict victims to extend our gratitude and thanks the Government of Norway, as well as the Holland and other European Union Countries who have committed to work hand in hand with the Government of Indonesia. And also for other countries who work very hard and donate so many important things to prepare a better future life for the Acehnese, for Indonesia.

Thank you for your kind attention.