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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 20:34 GMT
Viewpoints: Aceh's first elections
The first direct elections in Indonesia's Aceh province are being held on Monday, 11 December.

The elections are the culmination of a two-year peace process between the government and separatist rebels, which began after the 2004 tsunami that devastated Aceh.

Here, people in Aceh tell how they are looking forward to the chance to elect their own governor.

ANGGE SAKA TUSE, PROCUREMENT MANAGER, 27

Angge Saka Tuse
Education is the biggest priority for Angge Saka Tuse

People here are very, very excited. At last we can have our own vote, a vote we can use to elect our own leader.

Before, we had to accept what was handed down to us by the Indonesian government, but soon we will finally have the chance to express our independence.

I will vote. I need a fresh leader with fresh ideas and fresh ways of thinking.

These days, we see many young leaders with new programmes and approaches for Aceh. Although they are young, they will be listened to because the people want this.

Nobody thought we would get to this position. During the conflict, we lived under threat in frightening times. We were always frightened for the safety of our families, and sometimes riots would break out.

The tsunami changed everything. We received so much help from all around the world. And people saw what was really going on in Aceh.

The biggest priority for me in these elections is education for children and women. In Aceh, before the peace, so many people missed out on a good education. We have to think about the future of the next generation to run for election.

SAFRUL MULUK, LECTURER, 33

Safrul Muluk
Safrul Muluk says there is a real sense of anticipation in Aceh

In a million years I never expected that we would be able to elect our own governor. We knew that peace with Gam (the separatist rebels) was a condition for that. But we couldn't imagine it.

I'm thrilled because I now have the voice to actually choose the person I want to lead Aceh. Instead of choosing a political party and then have the party decide who will be their representative, we now have direct power.

My ancestors never had this opportunity.

Aceh is full of campaigns at the moment. There are eight candidates for governor: one is from the former Gam rebel group and the others are from national parties.

There is a real sense of anticipation among my students. They can't wait for voting day to come so they can cast their first vote. This day has given many Acehnese a sense of belonging.

My message to whoever wins this election is to make the peace between the Indonesian government and Gam a real priority. I feel it is fragile and I would like a governor who encourages peace. Only then can we think about growth and development.

That comes from my heart. My life changed in a massive way two years ago. I lost 32 family members in the tsunami; everybody here lost family. But we survived and it united us.

The Acehnese are resilient. We were hit by the biggest natural disaster in the world and we are still going. It united individuals and communities and we sorted out our priorities.

Gam were willing to put aside their ambition for an independent state and that is huge.

AHMAD FITRI ANNAHAR , BUSINESSMAN

Al-Nahar
Mr Nahar says that poverty is the first challenge for the new governor

This is something we never expected, especially in Aceh. But it is something we desperately wanted.

This is a big moment for us because we didn't even expect peace in our time. It is like a blessing from God - the whole world sees Aceh now and we are having a democratic election.

These elections enable me to feel more Acehnese. After all, being Acehnese for us is different to being Indonesian.

As an Acehnese I am happy that the former rebels can participate democratically, I am grateful they stopped the violence.

Everywhere we go, everybody is talking about this election. Uneducated people, school graduates, everybody knows about it and everybody wants to participate.

The most important problem for the new governor to solve is that of the tsunami victims. They have been long suffering. We have to eradicate poverty in Aceh.

MUHAMMAD SUBHAN, STUDENT

Muhammad Subhan
Muhammad Subhan had always hoped for direct elections in Aceh

As an Acehnese, I feel very happy. This is the first time the people of Aceh have been able to select their own leaders.

I hope this restores hope and change to our province after the mass disaster of the tsunami. But even before the tsunami, this was my hope.

People welcome this election with gratitude and with a feeling of happiness. When the political campaigns are conducted, people come out to see what the opinion, vision and mission of all the new leaders are.

This really is an election for the people.

I think almost all candidates want to keep the peace process in Aceh strong.

They have different ways of doing this, but the important thing is that they seem to have the right priorities.

Even the former Gam rebels running spent a long time struggling for the independence of Aceh. They are now using their rights as individuals to elect the leaders they think will accommodate their struggle.




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