Cablegate: Gam Founder Hasan Di Tiro Returns to Aceh

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P 140650Z OCT 08




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1. (SBU) Summary: Free Aceh Movement (GAM) founder and leader
Hasan di Tiro returned to Aceh on October 11 in an historic visit to
the province some 30 years after he went into exile. The 83-year
old di Tiro has used the visit to call on all sides to respect the
2005 Helsinki MoU, but because of his frail condition, has been
forced to deliver his public statements through surrogates.
Indonesian police and military have reacted professionally to di
Tiro's presence. Since the signing of the Helsinki MoU, di Tiro has
said he would visit Aceh "when the time was right". Health and other
factors prevented the visit and many doubted he would ever return.
So far, observers agree, the visit has promoted the peace process
and helped to bolster the ranks of the Aceh Party prior to April,
2009 legislative elections. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Hasan di Tiro founded the Free Aceh separatist movement in
1976 and fled to Malaysia in 1977 after being wounded in an
Indonesian government attack on GAM forces. He eventually settled
in Sweden in 1980, becoming a Swedish citizen and receiving
political asylum. His visit to Aceh on October 11 represents the
first time he has been able to return to Aceh since fleeing the
province. As the founder and ideological fountainhead of the Aceh
independence movement, he is revered by GAM and its successor
organization the KPA. While not a direct signatory of the Helsinki
MoU in 2005 (his right-hand man and GAM commander Malik Mahmud
signed on behalf of the GAM movement), he is still regarded as the
pre-eminent father of the GAM movement and his return to Aceh after
over 30 years represents a significant event for Acehnese regardless
of their political persuasion. di Tiro is also the grandson of Aceh
hero Tengku Cik di Tiro, who was killed fighting the Dutch in 1891.

Some in Government Caught Off-Guard

3. (SBU) Sources at the Coordinating Ministry of Politics Law and
Human Rights have told Consulate Medan that they were not consulted
by the Department of Foreign Affairs before the issuing of an
Indonesian visa to Hasan di Tiro, who now holds Swedish citizenship.
Initial police reaction in Aceh was muted; Police Commissioner
Rismawan told the media in advance of di Tiro's vist that he would
not be accorded any special status. Later, comments from the
Indonesian military made it clear that they considered the di Tiro
visit of special interest, and the police agreed to provide
additional security. KPA stepped into this void by stating publicly
that they would provide a security detail of 360 loyal GAM
supporters, albeit under overall police control.

4. (U) The newly assigned Chief of the Indonesian National Police,
General Bambang Hendarso Danuri, told the media on October 9 that
the police had prepared security measures for "a regular guest" in
advance of di Tiro's visit. When asked whether Hasan di Tiro's visit
could reignite separatism in Aceh, Hendarso refused to comment. The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to the media on October 7 that
the visit was personal in nature and that there was no "political
agenda". An Aceh Regional Police spokesman told the press on October
7 that they were not sure yet about specific locations to place
police officers for the security because the KPA had not yet
provided the complete agenda of di Tiro's visit in Aceh. KPA has
told the media that they have organized a special unit to support
the police in protecting di Tiro. Governor Irwandi Yusuf declared in
advance of the visit that di Tiro would be treated as a provincial
"guest of state".

Soujurn in Malaysia: Preparations for Return

5. (U) Hasan di Tiro arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Sweden on October
4 and spent a week in Malaysia prior to departing for Banda Aceh on
October 11. Accompanying di Tiro was former GAM "Prime Minister"
Malik Mahmud (who signed the Helsinki peace agreement on behalf of
GAM) and former GAM "Foreign Minister" Zaini Abdullah. Indonesia's
chief negotiator at Helsinki, Hamid Awaluddin (currently Indonesian
Ambassador to Russia) and Zainal Arifin, Deputy of the Forum for
Communication and Coordination (FKK) from the Coordinating Ministry
of Politics Law and Human Rights also joined di Tiro in Kuala
Lumpur. During that time media reports indicated that he also met
with Governor Irwandi Yusuf, other GAM supporters both from
Indonesia and Malaysia, and Acehnese religious leaders. Di Tiro also

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gave TV interviews to journalists from Indonesian TV station RCTI
and Malaysian TV7 in English on October 8 emphasizing his support
for peace in Aceh and stressing the personal nature of his
motivations for returning to Aceh at this time.

Political Significance

6. (SBU) Regardless of how GAM or the Indonesian government attempt
to paint the motives for his visit, di Tiro's trip carries
considerable political significance. Di Tiro's visit is widely seen
as a way for the post-GAM Aceh Party to bolster its ranks in advance
of April, 2009 legislative elections after which the Aceh Party is
expected to become the largest caucus in the Aceh provincial
legislature (DPRA). While di Tiro has stressed the personal nature
of the visit, the symbolism and choice of venues and appearances
have showcased the link between di Tiro's founding of the GAM
movement and the current Aceh Party's campaign to win seats in the
upcoming April elections. The head of rival Aceh local political
party SIRA, Taufik Abda, told Consulate Medan on October 14 that di
Tiro's presence in Aceh has had a unifying effect on Party Aceh's
membership as well as assuaging skeptics of di Tiro's acceptance of
the Helsinki MoU.

7. (SBU) But the visit also showcases the mutual efforts of actors
in Banda Aceh and Jakarta to ensure that di Tiro's statements
advance the peace process. One of the reasons that several important
Aceh interlocutors traveled to Kuala Lumpur during the week of
October 4 may have been to coordinate with di Tiro and ensure his
message and visit were not divisive. The military and police have
shown restraint during the visit, and GAM has not used the event to
reopen old wounds. As such, and provided this goodwill continues, di
Tiro's return puts a seal of success on the achievements of the past
three years.

GAM Supporters descend on Banda Aceh

8. (SBU) di Tiro was welcomed by dignitaries and supporters at
Banda Aceh's airport on arrival on October 11. He went directly to
the provincial capital's Raya Mosque from the airport, and addressed
his supporters through a surrogate, Malik Mahmoud, at an event
attended by thousands of GAM followers. di Tiro's next stop was the
Governor's office where he met with governor Irwandi Yusuf and 130
dignitaries and officials during a dinner event on the evening of
October 11. Dignitaries included Vice Governor Nazar, the head of
the provincial legislature, the Head of the FKK, the heads of the
Aceh Reintegration Body, and senior KPA officials. A local NGO
reported to Consulate Medan that they had been contacted by KPA to
send foreigners to support the rally as well as provide money so
that GAM supporters from West Sumatra and other regions could
attend. Consulate Medan contacts indicate that GAM did not make
provisions for food, water, or accommodation for their supporters at
the Saturday rally and that this detracted somewhat from the success
of the event.

Link to Aceh's Historical Heroes

9. (SBU) On Sunday, October 12 di Tiro visited the graves of
Acehnese resistance fighters involved in battling the Dutch before
traveling east from Banda Aceh to visit the grave of his
great-grandfather Cik di Tiro, another hero of resistance against
the Dutch. At the grave of Cik di Tiro, Hasan di Tiro issued a
second statement through Malik Mahmoud invoking the history of
Acehnese resistance against foreign occupation but stressed that the
Acehnese values of the warrior reflect a warrior "who is dauntless
in war, but even more courageous in peace". The link to Cik di Tiro,
through his grandmother, is a tool that Hasan di Tiro has called on
in recent years to link him to the Acehnese royal family and cement
his claim to the Wali Nanggroe (Defender of the Nation) position
stipulated in the Helsinki MoU.


© Scoop Media

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