Cablegate: Opening of Gam Office Generates Controversy, Reveals Splits

DE RUEHJA #1928/01 1970025
O 160025Z JUL 07





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Opening of GAM office Generates Controversy, Reveals Splits
within the Movement

1. (SBU) Summary: On July 7, a small group of GAM leaders led by
Muzakkir Manaf provoked controversy by announcing their intention to
use the free Aceh flag as the party symbol and "GAM" - the acronym
for the Free Aceh Movement - as the party name. GAM's spokesman
defended the move by appealing to the Helsinki MOU and by claiming,
incorrectly, that President Yudhoyono himself personally authorized
the formation of a "GAM Party." The President, Vice President, and
even Aceh Vice Governor have criticized the move as inconsistent
with the Aceh Government Law and the Minister of Justice has said
that the party will not be allowed to register. This episode has
exposed the deep divisions within the GAM movement. Governor Irwandi
Yusuf is out of the country and none of his closest supporters or
any GAM-affiliated elected officials attended the announcement. End

GAM Opens a Political Office, Ignites Controversy
--------------------------------------------- ----
2. (U) In a small ceremony held on July 7 in Banda Aceh, former
Senior GAM Commander (now Senior Coordinator for KPA, the committee
for Change in Aceh, GAM's moniker within the province) Muzakkir
Manaf and a small group of KPA officials formally opened a "GAM
Party" Secretariat and announced that the free Aceh flag would be
the party's symbol. The event was notable in that only a small
number of GAM members attended; those elected to political office
last December were completely absent. Irwandi was out of the
country and none of his closest allies were present.

3. (U) During the ceremony, Muzakkir announced that the former
rebels were making slow and steady progress in the establishment of
a political party and that they had formally applied to register.
The opening of the office and presentation of the party symbol were,
he said, simply "routine" steps in the registration process.

4. (SBU) Despite Muzakkir's innocuous description of the event, the
announcement was anything but "routine." GAM spokesperson Ibrahim
Syamsudin also downplayed the controversy by misquoting section
1.1.5 of the Helsinki MOU which permits Aceh to use a regional flag
and crest and by claiming, incorrectly, that the President and Vice
President had authorized the use of the name and flag the previous
week in a meeting with Malik Mahud.

Jakarta Responds
5. (U) When word of the GAM's claims reached Jakarta, State
Secretary Hatta Rajasa told the press bluntly that GAM's claim that

the President had authorized the formation of the party were untrue.
Vice President Kalla blasted the announcement of the "GAM Party" as
inconsistent with the Helsinki MOU. A police spokesman criticized
GAM and also issued a warning: the police, he said, will use every
means available to monitor GAM for separatist acts. He also warned
GAM that while they have not yet violated the law, the police can
arrest persons conspiring to take action against the country.
Contacts in Aceh report that there is a constant police presence
outside the new party secretariat and that the party name and symbol
have been covered.

GAM Members Criticize Party Announcement
6. (SBU) The controversy over the party name and symbol is not
limited to Government and security officials; some GAM members are
displeased as well. Several Senior GAM cadres close to Irwandi told
us that the office was opened without their knowledge and at least
three have called the recent acts unnecessarily provocative and
premature given a lack of consensus within the movement about how a
political party should be organized. Though Irwandi is still out of
the country and has not commented on the issue, Vice Governor
Muhammad Nazar distanced himself and Irwandi from the controversy by
publicly reminding "all parties" that they must follow the
guidelines in the Helsinki MOU and PP20/2006, guidelines which, he
said, "everyone already knows."

Will the Party be allowed to Register?
7. (U) Under existing laws, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights
has responsibility for approving the registration of political
parties. Minister of Justice Andi Mattalatta has said publicly that
the party will not be allowed to register so long as it insists on
using the GAM name and free Aceh flag as its symbol because they
contravene regulations governing the formation of political parties
as well as the spirit of the Helsinki MOU.

JAKARTA 00001928 002 OF 002

Internal GAM Dynamics
8. (SBU) Since becoming governor, Irwandi has regularly appeared
publicly with GAM "Prime Minister" Malik Mahmud and has tried to
downplay the rift in the movement which opened after he entered the
Governor's race against Malik's explicit instructions. The
movement's steps toward the formation of the party indicate,
however, that the rift has not entirely healed.

9. (SBU) The rift is clearly seen when looking at the party
leadership structure - or the lack thereof. Invitations to the July
7 ceremony listed Muzakkir Manaf as the deputy party chief but did
not indicate who would be the party head. GAM members - including
those affiliated with the new party - either will not or cannot say
who will be the party chief.

10. (SBU) Zakaria Salman, former GAM Minister of Defense, has been
closely involved in forming the party, cannot say who the party head
will be. Salman is an Irwandi rival who lost most of his influence
when Irwandi won the election last December. He remains very close
to Malik and attended the recent Malik - Yudhoyono meeting in
Jakarta. According to him, Malik planned to assume the role of party
chief himself but could not do so because he is not a citizen. Malik
hopes, however, to "influence" the party from behind the scenes as a
senior advisor. This tracks with Malik's comments to Consulate

11. (SBU) Salman said that Malik's second choice was to install
Muzakkir Manaf as party head but was deterred from doing so after
Irwandi told him that he would lead the party when it was formed.
Despite this, said Salman, Irwandi has not yet agreed to lead this
"GAM Party."

12. (SBU) Some other GAM-affiliated elected officials have not
bought into the "GAM Party" either. One local leader, the Regent of
East Aceh, criticized the way the party was being established and
told us that he has not been consulted. He worries that Malik will
try to appoint others to lead the party in his district, something
he and other local leaders would find unacceptable. Malik must
accept that, he said, or get out of the way. Other observers concur
that without the support of the GAM-affiliated government officials,
the party will not be viable.

12. (SBU) General Zainal Arifin, the head of the Aceh Peace,
Communication and Coordination Forum, blames the current controversy
on Malik Mahmud. He believes Malik was looking for ways to build
support and reassert his authority within the GAM movement. Using
the flag and GAM name, Arifin said, was Malik's way of throwing red
meat to low-level GAM members, many of which are not satisfied with
the government and resent the economic success enjoyed by some GAM
leaders. If Malik is to regain his former influence, said Arifin,
this is one way to do it. Because the Government will not approve
the formation of the party as currently proposed and because he does
not believe Irwandi will go along with the scheme, he said, Malik's
effort is almost certainly doomed to fail and he will likely lose
out in the process.


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