|17th Governor of Aceh|
25 June 2012 – 25 June 2017
Irwandi Yusuf (Governor)|
Tarmizi Abdul Karim (Acting)
|Succeeded by||Irwandi Yusuf|
24 April 1940|
|Political party||Aceh Party|
Zaini Abdullah, a medical doctor by profession, is a former separatist activist of the Free Aceh Movement (or GAM, Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) in Indonesia who was elected as the governor of the province of Aceh in the 2012 election for the five-year period 2012-2017. Elected with 56% of the vote, Zaini Abdullah is the second governor directly chosen by the electors of Aceh since the granting of restricted autonomy to the area by the Indonesian government in 2005. His predecessor Irwandi Yusuf, who was elected in 2006 for the period 2007-2012, was the first governor chosen in the province by direct elections.
Zaini Abdullah was sworn into office as governor in a ceremony held in conjunction with a plenary session of the Aceh Provincial Legislative Assembly (DPRA or Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Aceh) in Banda Aceh 25 June 2012. The ceremony and other official arrangements were, however, marred by a personal assault on the former governor, Irwandi Yusuf, by supporters of the new governor and by a grenade attack earlier in the day at the house of a local GAM leader.
Zaini Abdullah was born in Beureunun in the Pidie District (Kabupaten Pidie) in Aceh in 1940. His father, Tengku H. Abdullah Hanafiah, was a supporter of Daud Bereueh, a prominent leader in Aceh during the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s. Zaini Abdullah's schooling years were spent in Aceh and North Sumatra:
- 1947-52: Primary school, Beureunuen, Pidie District, Aceh
- 1953-57: Middle level school (Sekolah Menengah Pertama), Sigli, Aceh
- 1957-60: Higher level school (Sekolah Menengah Atas), Banda Aceh, Aceh
- 1960-72: Medical Faculty, University of North Sumatra, Medan, North Sumatra.
He later practised as a medical specialist in Aceh and North Sumatra in various areas:
- 1972-75: Head of a health clinic (Puskesmas) and head of the general hospital in Kuala Simpang, East Aceh district
- 1975-77: Specialist, medical studies in obstetrics, Pirngadi General Hospital, University of North Sumatra, Medan.
In 1976, when the GAM declared their open opposition to Jakarta central government policies in Aceh, Zaini Abdullah joined with the GAM and became a close adviser to Hasan di Tiro, the founder of the GAM. In 1981, Zaini followed Hasan di Tiro to live in Sweden, travelling through Medan and Singapore. In Sweden he studied at Uppsala University for a medical degree and between 1990-1995 practised as a doctor. Later, in 2002 when negotiations over the insurgency in Aceh were arranged in Tokyo, he was a member of the GAM delegation to the discussions. During the next few years, as a member of GAM delegations he took part in other meetings to discuss a peace agreement in Aceh.
Zaini Abdullah is a co-founder and former foreign minister of the GAM while his running mate in the 2012 elections (now deputy governor), Muzakir Manaf, was a GAM guerrilla commander. The pairing of Zaini Abdullah and Muzakir Manaf as running mates for the 2012 elections was seen as a move to combine the older and younger generation of GAM activists.
Both Zaini Abdullah and Muzakir Manaf were closely involved in the various stages of the negotiations to end the GAM resistance and implement a peace process in Aceh. They were, especially, both key members of the GAM negotiating team during the negotiations in 2005 which led to the signing of the Helsinki MOU on 15 August 2005. Various statements which both of them made during the 2012 gubernatorial election campaign suggest that they are not satisfied that the Indonesian Government in Jakarta has yet fulfilled the terms of the MOU.
At the time of their election, Zaini was aged 72 while Muzakir, aged 39, represented the next generation of GAM activists. The Zaini-Muzakir campaign ticket was supported by the Aceh Party, a local Acehnese political party mainly composed of former GAM activists, as well as a number of other key political parties. The Aceh Party had earlier won a majority of seats in the Aceh Provincial Legislative Assembly (DPRA, or Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Aceh) in the 2009 provincial elections and is an influential party in Aceh. Zaini has spent close to one-third of his life supporting the activities of the GAM, including during the lengthy period when he lived in exile in Sweden along with chief GAM patron, Hasan di Tiro, who died in Aceh in June 2010. Zaini's younger brother, Hasbi Abdullah, is chair of the Aceh Provincial Legislative Assembly.
Role as governor
During the campaign for the 2012 elections Zaini Abdullah placed considerable emphasis on the importance of strengthening Islamic values across Aceh. He also said that he wished to see more attention given to the implementation of the provisions of the Helsinki MOU, signed in August 2005, which brought reconciliation in Aceh between the GAM and the Indonesian Government.
The transformation of GAM from a guerrilla movement into an established and integrated part of the formal Acehnese political landscape has been accepted by the Indonesian Government in Jakarta. On one hand, the Indonesian national leadership in Jakarta appears to take the view that it is best to bring the former guerrilla freedom fighters into the national political fold. On the other hand, there is nervousness in Jakarta about agreeing to special arrangements for the province of Aceh because of the precedents that this approach might set for political agreements with other provinces across Indonesia.
One major challenge for Zaini Abdullah as governor of Aceh will be to mediate between the strong regional pressures from within Aceh for greater autonomy and the insistence of the national government in Jakarta that governance arrangements in Aceh remain consist with Indonesia-wide principles of government. Another difficult challenge will be to promote economic growth and development in the province which has been held back by local conflict stretching out over almost three decades from 1976 until the signing of a peace agreement in Helsinki in 2005.
Record as governor
In early 2013 it was revealed that Zaini Abdullah, despite his earlier promise that he was in favour of preserving Aceh's eco bio-diversity, made a decision allowing for continuing deforestation. A new logging proposal came to light in October 2012 when the newly installed governor Zainin Abdullah wrote to Indonesia's Minister of Forestry proposing the conversion of protected forests to logging concessions.
Also during the early part of 2013, governor Zaini Abdullah was faced with a range of issues arising from activism in the Aceh provincial parliament (DPRA or Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Aceh). The DPRA announced support for various measures, some with the force of provincial law (Qanun), announced in earlier years by the Aceh Freedom Movement (GAM or Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) or written into the 2005 Helsinki MOU for Aceh. These included the promulgation of a new flag for Aceh identical to the GAM flag used before the signing of the Helsinki Peace Accord, a new coat-of-arms for the province, and support for the establishment of truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses of rights in the province before the signing of the Helsinki MOU in 2005. The proposal to promulgate a provincial flag identical to the earlier GAM flag met with a sharp response from the central government in April when president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, using unusually pointed language, warned of the recurrence of war in Aceh.
Difficulties between the central government and politicians in Aceh over the issue of the provincial flag continued during 2014. After the new administration in Jakarta under president Joko Widodo took office in October, it was proposed to Aceh leaders that they agree to drop the plan to adopt their preferred flag in return for certain concessions from Jakarta. The new Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security affairs, Tedjo Edhy Purdijanto said that Jakarta was prepared to provide certain mining concessions to Aceh provided the demand to adopt a flag very similar to the GAM flag was dropped.
- Free Aceh Movement
- Insurgency in Aceh
- Acehnese gubernatorial election, 2006
- Acehnese gubernatorial election, 2012
- Hotli Simanjuntak, 'Zaini-Muzakir wins substantial victory', The Jakarta Post, 18 April 2012.
- 'Indonesia's Aceh Elects Ex-Rebel Governor' Voice of America, 16 April 2012.
- Before the election of Irwandi Yusuf, in accordance with procedures which had been followed for many years in Indonesia, governors in Aceh as well as most other provinces of Indonesia had been considered to be civil servants rather than politicians and had been directly appointed by the president of Indonesia, usually on the advice of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
- Hotli Simanjuntak, 'Aceh governor installation marred by attack', The Jakarta Post, 26 June 2012.
- Details here are taken from the official website of the Dr H. Zaini Abdullah campaign website, www.zaini-muzakir.com
- Some details of Zaini Abdullah's close links with GAM and Hasan di Tiro in Sweden can be found in Antje Missbach (2012), Separatist Conflict in Indonesia: The long-distance politics of the Acehnese disapora, London: Routledge.
- Nani Afrida, 'Gubernatorial candidates', The Jakarta Post, 9 April 2012.
- For some details of the Helsinki MOU see the section on The peace agreement and the first local elections in the entry on Aceh.
- A detailed account is set out in Hamid Awaludin, Peace in Aceh: Notes on the peace process between the Republic of Indonesia and the Aceh Freedom Movement (GAM) in Helsinki, CSIS, Jakarta, 2009, translated by Tim Scott, ISBN 978-979-1295-11-6. Hamid Awaludin, Minister for Law and Human Rights between October 2004 and May 2007, was leader of the Indonesian Government delegation for the negotiations.
- Nurdin Hasan, 'New Aceh Chief Pledges to Push Peace, Prosperity', The Jakarta Globa, 18 April 2012.
- For reports of interviews with Zaini Abdullah about his plans for government in Aceh, see Zaini Abdullah, 'Discourse: Aceh's governor-elect touts business, sharia and reconciliation', The Jakarta Post, 27 April 2012, and Mohamad Burhanudin, 'Inilah Wawancara "Kompas" dengan Zaini Abdullah', Kompas, 22 April 2012.
- Elizabeth Batt, 'Aceh Governor's logging proposal could exterminate iconic species', Digital Journal, 16 February 2013.
- Apriadi Gunawan, 'Aceh insistent on flying GAM flag', The Jakarta Post, 7 April 2013.
- Hotli Simanjuntak, 'Aceh to set up KKR without nat'l precedence', The Jakarta Post, 18 April 2013.
- Ina Parlina, 'SBY warns of repetition of Aceh war', The Jakarta Post, 6 April 2013.
- Novianti Setuningsih, 'Jakarta Forces Aceh to Shelve Flag in Exchange for Concession Rights', The Jakarta Globe, 20 November 2014.