Aceh Stoning Law Hits a New Wall

By webadmin on 12:45 am Oct 31, 2009
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Nurdin Hasan

Banda Aceh. The local bylaw calling for adulterers to be stoned to death cannot be implemented because lawmakers who passed the regulation did not act with the blessings of the governor, the acting chair of the Aceh Provincial Legislature said on Friday.

“We adhere to the Helsinki memorandum of understanding, which stipulates that legislative council members for the 2004-2009 term of office did not have the authority to pass a law without the approval of the governor,” said Hasbi Abdullah, the acting chief of the council.

Hasbi — a member of the relatively moderate Aceh Party, which is dominated by former pro-independence rebels — said the new council would delay consideration of the stoning law as other issues were more important.

“In my opinion qanun [the local bylaw] is still a draft and not yet a law,” Hasbi said.

The Helsinki memorandum of understanding is the peace treaty between the government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) that was signed in Finland in 2005, ending nearly 30 years of armed conflict.

The province’s autonomy law takes the Helsinki agreement into account, reinforcing the limits on the Aceh legislature’s independence.

“The Helsinki memorandum applies not only to GAM but to all the people of Aceh. That’s what we have to stick to in order maintain peace in Aceh.” Hasbi said.

The Helsinki agreement granting limited autonomy to Aceh stipulated that Jakarta’s authority was limited to foreign relations, defense, monetary and fiscal issues, judiciary power and religious freedom.

Asked when the newly elected council, which was inaugurated on Sept. 30, would resume deliberation of the qanun, Hasbi said that the council would put the matter on hold.

“We won’t discuss it for now. As to the public controversy, we will try to explain [the situation].”

He said the most important issues facing Aceh were the economy, infrastructure, education and health care.

“The qanun is not that important. It will only drain our energy and spur controversy,” he said.

The qanun, which included the stoning provision, was met with opposition from inside and outside of Indonesia.

Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf also refused to sign the bylaw because of the stoning clause.

The bylaw also mandated lashing as punishment for premarital sex, rapists, homosexuals, users of alcohol and persons discovered with a member of the opposite sex who was not a relative.