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Cablegate: Aceh: Incoming Governor Blasts Syariah, Syariah Police

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OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #3610/01 3622327
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 282327Z DEC 06 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2621
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0275
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1254
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHHJJPI/USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 JAKARTA 013610

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

Consulate Medan cable # 38, 2006

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KISL SOCI ID
SUBJECT: Aceh: Incoming Governor Blasts Syariah, Syariah Police
Crack Down


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1. (SBU) Summary: Aceh's incoming governor Irwandi Yusuf has
publicly vowed to block new Syariah regulations, including a draft
law to cut off the hands of convicted thieves, prompting Syariah
officials to withdraw temporarily the proposed law pending revision.
Meanwhile, out of the public eye Irwandi and his advisors are
working on a plan to enlist moderate ulamas in an effort to rollback
some of the existing Syariah rules. In late December the religious
police in Banda Aceh launched a crackdown on hair salons serving
both male and female customers for "promoting inappropriate contact"
between the sexes. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Asking an Acehnese if he supports Syariah law is like
asking an American if he supports liberty and democracy; you know
the answer you are going to get before you ask the question. The
problem is in how it is defined. According to several Acehnese
intellectuals as well as our own conversations around the province,
a majority of Acehnese hold moderate views on the implementation of
Syariah. Many say that, except in the case of crimes which the
police seem powerless to stop such as corruption, it is best
enforced within the family. In fact, one group of villagers
professing adamant support for Syariah law near Kuala Langsa flatly
refused to believe that people could be physically caned under
existing regulations; caning, they insisted, was, and should be,
"mental." Only a relative minority of Acehnese are thought to
support vigorous enforcement of petty offences such as small-scale
gambling. A solid majority of GAM members, including incoming
governor Irwandi Yusuf, are in the former camp.
Incoming Governor Blasts Syariah
--------------------------------
3. (SBU) Prior to the election Irwandi privately criticized Syariah
law as "imposed by Jakarta" and blamed it for distorting traditional
Acehnese culture and scaring off tourists and investors. Should he
become governor he promised to reform Syariah enforcement and
rollback the most extreme provisions. Not wishing to alienate any
of Aceh's powerful ulamas before the election, however, he avoided
discussing religious issues during the campaign.
4. (SBU) With the election over, however, Irwandi has become more
open about his views. On multiple occasions he has blasted a draft
law mandating that the hand of convicted thieves be amputated as
"persecuting the poor" who steal to feed their families and vowed to
block its implementation. According to Irwandi, Syariah's enforcers
should focus on improving peoples' welfare and says that if any
hands are to be cut off it should be the hands of "rich, corrupt
officials".
Amputation Law Withdrawn
------------------------
5. (SBU) Although he has not yet assumed office, Irwandi's
criticisms are already having an effect. While downplaying
Irwandi's influence, Syariah officials acknowledged to us recently
that their plans to present the draft amputation law to the
provincial legislature (DPR-D) in early 2007 have been set back; the
law has now been shelved until they can write rules distinguishing
between thieves who steal to feed their families and those motivated
by greed. This rewrite will take about a year to complete.
Religious Police Launch New Crackdown
-------------------------------------
6. (U) At approximately the same time the Syariah Affairs Office was
withdrawing the draft amputation law, the Syariah Police (waliyatul
hisbah or WH) were launching a crackdown on cell phone vendors
suspected of distributing pornography and on Banda's ubiquitous
unisex beauty parlors. According to the WH Chief in Banda Aceh,
these businesses were violating section two of Provincial Regulation
number 14 of 2003 concerning inappropriate contact between members
of the opposite sex. (Note: This section in the law forbids
"inappropriate contact of unmarried couples, immorality, and filthy"
as defines them as "activities, events, or situations that can lead
to adultery." Some Acehnese have complained that the language is
vague and grants excessive discretion to the WH.)
7. (SBU) The crackdown affected more than 30 salons and nearly a
dozen cell phone vendors. In preparing to take action against the
salons, the WH Chief said he had deputized elderly ladies from the
neighborhood to monitor salons and report on their activities. He
also said that the mayor's office had previously notified each of
the salon owners in writing that they were suspected of violating
applicable regulations and in jeopardy of losing their license. On
the day of the crackdown, he said, persons working in the salons and
their customers were "educated" about the regulations and released.

and will not be clearly identifiable as "Irwandi's plan", he hopes
it will give him the political cover needed to implement genuine
reform. Heffern

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