A furor has erupted over the recent formation of the GAM party in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh. Former members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) announced the formation of the party on July 7. Chaired by former GAM military commander Muzakkir Manaf, it adopted GAM’s white crescent and star symbol on a red background as its logo. Former GAM “prime minister” Malik Mahmud later said that Jakarta had agreed to the establishment of a local party in Aceh based on the former rebel group that fought for Acehnese independence from Indonesia.
Many people in Aceh remain traumatised two years after a peace deal ended almost three decades of war. If left untreated this could trigger violence, according to a recent report by the International Organisation for Migration, the Indonesian government and the Harvard Medical School. Some 85% of nearly 2000 people interviewed were still plagued by fears and deep insecurity. The report said 35% of people interviewed suffered depression, 10% post-traumatic stress and 39% anxiety. Almost three-quarters said they had been exposed to combat, with 28% reporting they had suffered beatings and 38% that they had lost a friend or a relative in the conflict. “These memories are alive in the community, and they have the tremendous power to reproduce that violence”, said Harvard’s Byron Good. Limited resources remain a major obstacle for those requiring treatment, with most aid being dedicated to tsunami recovery and little to post-conflict rehabilitation.
The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has officially started the process of forming a local political party following a meeting in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh on June 4, which was attended by GAM leaders, members of the Aceh Transitional Committee (KPA) and activists from the Aceh Referendum Information Centre. KPA Chairperson Muzakir Manaf said that that the idea to form a local party is part of GAM’s political struggle following the Helsinki peace deal signed by GAM and the Indonesian government on August 15, 2005. “Now is the time for us to undertake measures to create an Aceh that is more just and dignified”, he told on June 5. Aceh is the only province in Indonesia where law permits the formation of local parties not affiliated with an existing nationally based party. Three local parties have already been established — the leftist Acehnese People’s Party, the Acehnese People’s Alliance Party for Women’s Concern and the Gabthat Party.
On May 20, a group of women activists in Indonesia’s northern-most province of Aceh declared the formation of a new local political party — the Acehnese People’s Alliance Party for Women’s Concern (PARAPP).
The first congress by the Preparatory Committee for the Acehnese People’s Party (KP-PRA) was disrupted on February 28 when around 75 participants were rushed to hospital with suspected food poisoning.
The left-wing Acehnese Peoples Party (PRA) will be holding its founding congress in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh at the end of February. Sydney University Southeast Asian Studies lecturer Max Lane spoke to Thamrin Ananda, chairperson of the Preparatory Committee of the PRA.

The Indonesian government has an almost "pathological hostility to separatism", Dr Ed Aspinall, lecturer in South-East Asian Studies at Sydney University, told a forum on July 2.