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Cablegate: Aceh's New Sharia Law Disturbing but Not Enforceable

VZCZCXRO4392
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #1810/01 3030823
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 300823Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3693
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS COLL
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0961
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 3679
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 3489
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 2112
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001810

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MTS, INR/EAP
DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS AID
USAID FOR ANE/EAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI ID
SUBJECT: ACEH'S NEW SHARIA LAW DISTURBING BUT NOT ENFORCEABLE

REFERENCES: A. 1533
B. 1569

1. (U) This cable is Sensitive but Unclassified. Please handle
accordingly. This message was coordinated with Embassy Jakarta.

2. (SBU) Summary. The September 14, 2009 local Sharia law passed by
Aceh Provincial Parliament (DPRA) imposing stoning for adultery is
highly unlikely to ever be implemented, even its proponents admit.
However, the new DPRA leadership and the Aceh Governor, who oppose
the law, are very concerned over how this law will tarnish Aceh's
international image, hurting tourism and investment. The law is so
vague that no one clearly understands its intent. The newly-elected
Parliament stated it intends to revise the controversial law.
Meanwhile, the coronation of an Acehnese woman as Miss Indonesia has
created a tempest in a teapot, and the head of one Acehnese district
has outlawed women wearing pants and tight dresses. End Summary.

3. (SBU) Aceh's lameduck provincial Parliament, in a final act of
political opportunism before most lawmakers were swept out of
office, saddled the newly-elected legislature with a provincial
Sharia law mandating death by stoning for adulterers (reftels). The
new law also imposes steep prison terms and public caning for
homosexual acts, rape, and pedophilia. Many believe the outgoing
lawmakers wanted to hamstring the incoming Parliament, which is
controlled by the secular Aceh Party (PA), the party of former
separatists. Two Muslim-oriented parties, Social Justice Party
(PKS) and United Development Party (PPP) spearheaded the law.
However, even PKS lawmakers told ConGen Medan that they never
intended for the law to be implemented, but rather the law will help
to discourage adultery just by sending a message. PKS leaders said
Sharia law until now has done nothing to discourage vice so a
stronger signal was needed.

4. (SBU) Indeed, none of the authoritative figures we spoke with
from a wide spectrum of Acehnese society believed the law would ever
be used. According to a leading Acehnese Sharia scholar who drafted
Aceh's original Sharia laws, the requirement for four witnesses of
high moral authority catching adulterers in the act makes the law
impossible to enforce. He told ConGen that he and other Muslim
scholars told DPRA they opposed the law, and were surprised when it
was passed.

5. (SBU) Governor Irwandi Yusuf has publicly stated he will never
enforce the law. While the law was supposed to go into effect
automatically 30 days after passage, even without the Governor's
signature, Irwandi told ConGen because the executive branch was
never consulted on the law, it cannot take effect without his
signature. Others authorities believe the law took effect on
October 14 even without the Governor's signature but said without
executive branch enforcement, it will never be carried out.

6. (SBU) Aceh Party has publicly opposed the law and pledged DPRA
would revise it. The stoning law "is still controversial and the
Acehnese people are not ready for it," DPRA Chair Hasbi Abdullah
said. Hasbi told ConGen that he is very concerned that the law will
tarnish Aceh's international image at a time when it is recovering
from years of conflict, worried it will scare away investors and
tourists. Irwandi expressed the same concerns, adding that the law
could be misused for personal retribution. ConGen told PKS, the
media and other interlocutors that such a law does scare tourists
and investors and is not good for Aceh's development, and no one
seemed to disagree. Our comments were reported in Acehnese media.
Per reftels, Embassy Jakarta officials have also raised concerns
regarding the implications of this new regulation at the national
level.

7. (SBU) A prominent Acehnese female human rights leader with the
NGO Kontras told ConGen that she is not so concerned about the law
being used as she is by the precedent it sets. The fact that DPRA
could pass such a half-baked law with no consideration for its
implications is disturbing. Since a Sharia law cannot be revised
until a year after it has passed, this law will distract DPRA from
more pressing issues, she added. Furthermore, the law creates a
tone of intolerance in society, encouraging citizens to impose their
own moral authority on others.

8. (SBU) Another hot moral issue in Aceh has been the recent

JAKARTA 00001810 002 OF 002


coronation of a free-spirited Acehnese woman, Qory Sandioriva, as
Miss Indonesia. While the national media has played up the
controversy as revolving around her refusal to wear a head scarf
(jilbab), many Acehnese told ConGen the real issue is that she
claims to represent Aceh. They complain that Qory spent almost her
entire life in Jakarta. People also said the head scarf is not as
issue so much as the swimsuit contest. Acehnese have not
traditionally covered their heads and rural women still do not.

9. (SBU) Adding further to the perception of religious intolerance
in Aceh, on October 26 the head of the West Aceh District government
announced that he was outlawing women wearing pants or tight
dresses, unless the pants are worn under an ankle-length
lose-fitting dress. Regent Ramli M.S. also banned sale of such
clothing. Men are banned from wearing shorts above the knees.
According to the new regulation, tight clothing will be cut off with
scissors by religious police and the violators will be issued a
proper dress.

10. (SBU) These Acehnese laws reflect how a conservative minority
has highjacked the agenda in Aceh, which is one of Indonesia's more
traditional societies but overwhelmingly tolerant nevertheless. The
Aceh Party-led government is likely to reverse such laws but will
need to do so carefully to avoid ire of the handful of fanatics
pushing for these laws.

HUME

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