Talking ASEAN Series: “Managing Election-Related Risks: Experience Sharing from Sulu, the Philippines”
12 March 2014
Talking ASEAN Series:
“Managing Election-Related Risks: Experience Sharing from Sulu, the Philippines”
Date/Time : Wednesday, 12 March 2014 / 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
The Habibie Center
Jl. Kemang Selatan No. 98
- Mr. Fathun Karib (Researcher, The Habibie Center, Indonesia)
- Mr. Michael Alar (Project Manager, Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, the Philippines)
- Ms. Titi Anggraini (Executive Director, Election and Democracy Association (Perludam), Indonesia)
- Mr. Vandrazel M. Birowa (Project Officer, Center for Humanitarian Dialogue – Sulu Office, the Philippines).
This dialogue session is part of the annual “Talking ASEAN” series held by The Habibie Center, Jakarta. On this occasion, Mr. Fathun Karib from The Habibie Center reported his findings on the rising percentage of election-related violence, especially in conflict-prone areas in Indonesia. These findings were obtained during his term in National Violence Monitoring System (NVMS) Project which covers nine (9) provinces in Indonesia from June 2005 – April 2013. According to his data, there have been 585 electoral violence, 47 deaths, 510 injuries, and 416 destroyed properties since the introduction of directly-elected local leaders in Indonesia in 2005. Mr. Fathun further emphasized that the number of incidents is relatively high, but when observed more closely, most of them were small-scale destruction toward campaigning properties (e.g. banners or billboards), vehicles, or operation centers of electoral candidates whereas the deadly incidents and serious assaults are concentrated in two provinces, Aceh and Papua.
Mr.Fathun concluded that it is not the system of direct local election but the local politics and social context of post conflict area that contribute to electoral violence in nine provinces monitored by NVMS. From the nine provinces, four of them are post-conflict areas (Aceh, Maluku, Northern Maluku, Central Sulawesi) and one is a conflict hot spot (Papua). Aceh and Papua are the provinces with the most deadly impact of direct local election. Prior to local election, Aceh underwent the shifting and transformation of conflict from vertical (State – Aceh Liberation Movement/GAM) into horizontal (between groups) whereas in Papua, there is an ongoing conflict between elites who are capable of mobilizing tribes which resulted in an enduring tribal conflict.
Ms.Titi Anggraini from Election and Democracy Association (Perludam) then explained the concept of “election paralegals” as a potential mean to prevent and/or eradicate election-related violence. Election paralegals are educated and trained on election law enforcement to provide free legal assistance on the election law violations and to develop the public awareness related to the election law enforcement. Their existence heavily relies on community participation, mainly those who are familiar with the respective local context and understand the importance of justice and democratization in the election process (community leaders, university students, youngsters, religious leaders, activists, teachers, etc).
Mr. Michael Alar and Mr.Vandrazel M. Birowa from Center of Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD) then briefly described their experiences in Sulu, Mindanao where violence associated with elections is also an established phenomenon. This situation is exacerbated by the presence of dire armed violence that weakens sustainable development and contributes to a culture of violence.While election paralegals are not a familiar concept in the case of Sulu, the effort undertaken by CHD in Sulu to eradicate violence bears the same spirit of “from community to community” by mobilizing local people to participate in election monitoring.
Some references can be drawn from CHD experience that can be made relevant to the situation in Indonesia and can also be implemented in the other ASEAN Member States:
1. The Importance of Investing in Young People: When given the opportunity and ample space to participate in violence monitoring and prevention, young people take it to a different level of energy and idealism that eventually generates social change. In Sulu, CHD ran an initiative called PERV (Preventing Election-Related Violence) supported by Australia Aid which aims to empower -among other- local young people to create a local network to identify, document, and monitor violence which occurs prior, during, and post-election.
2. United Effort: Building strong alliances is crucial in social mobilization for violence prevention. Existing monitoring groups should also bring together those that have access to resources and capacities that can complement and strengthen monitoring works (local leaders, indigenous groups, etc).
3. Communities as Active Participants: Communities cannot just be targets or mere beneficiaries of monitoring work. Whole communities must be allowed to play an increasing role in election monitoring if such efforts are to become sustainable in the long run. CHD creates means to encourage local people in Sulu in the form of “Community Speak-Outs” where CHD can raise their awareness on potential eruption of violence, consult them on peace-building strategies, and mobilize them for involvement in monitoring activity. CHD also trains local actors such as police personnel, volunteers and community advocates on election monitoring procedure.
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 In general, paralegals are those who are not lawyers, but have knowledge in material and procedural law, with supervision of an advocate or legal aid organization whose role is to help people seek the justice. They do not require formal educational background in law degree, but must follow the training of paralegal establishment. In Indonesia, paralegal concept has been developed since the 1970s with Indonesian Legal Assistance Body (LBH) being one of the most prominent enforcer through its Indonesian Paralegal Network (JPI) initiative.
 Sulu is an autonomous island province of the Philippines located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Among the seventy-seven provinces in the country, Sulu ranks the last in terms of Human Development Index (HDI, 2006). This situation is mainly perpetrated by the presence of an ongoing violent conflict between the government and various secessionists armed groups (with Moro National Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf being the biggest group of combatants) since early 1980s.