Distrust of the provincial government runs deep in certain regions.
BANDA ACEH, indonesia
The government recently contained a violent incident in its central highlands that threatened to reopen the decades-old armed conflict. But a political movement to form new provinces in the central region and the south could fracture Aceh anew.
No evidence has yet tied the March 1 killing of five former rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to the breakaway efforts. But in Aceh's central highlands, many residents deeply distrust former members of GAM, which negotiated a peace deal after the tsunami and won the provincial governorship in 2006 elections.
The breakaway efforts poses a serious challenge to Gov. Irwandi Yusuf, himself a former GAM rebel who once agitated for Aceh's independence from Indonesia and whose movement broadened autonomy for Aceh in the peace deal. It would test his government's authority and disperse Aceh's rich resources of timber, minerals, oil, gas, and arable volcanic soils.
Analysts say the movements, which date back to 2002, are fueled by the self-interest of local politicians who could increase their budgets as each province qualifies for central government funds. "It's about resources," says Sidney Jones, of the International Crisis Group in Jakarta. "People who want new provinces stand to get that money."
The lack of tsunami-related aid directed toward their area has been a particular point of contention for central highlanders. During the long separatist conflict, locals there formed militias loyal to the Indonesian military and clashed with GAM rebels. Leaders behind the breakaway movements have capitalized on perceptions that the Aceh government has let central and southern roads crumble and economic development languish even as billions of dollars have poured into provincial coffers and coastal communities as part of the 2005 peace deal and tsunami aid.