BANDA ACEH (Bernama) – The Dec 26, 2004, tsunami has left a black mark on the lives of the people of Aceh, however, they regard there is a silver lining behind the disaster that killed hundreds of thousands of Indonesians on the island of Sumatra on that day.
About 60 per cent of the city of Banda Aceh was devastated by the tsunami, however, rapid redevelopment was undertaken by the Indonesian government assisted by various organisations and governments of foreign countries.
Even traders here say that the natural disaster brought great wisdom as a peace deal between the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government was struck less than a year after the disaster, ending 30 years of conflict which had a negative impact on the economy.
The GAM laid down arms and agreed to hold a peace agreement with the Indonesia government in 2007, boosting tourism and business sectors.
The agreement, gave way to the reconstruction of Aceh, making it an autonomous region which has full jurisdiction in economic development and the implementation of Islamic law (syariah).
According to a gold trader, Harun Keuchik Leumiek, 73, the peaceful state of affairs after the tsunami, caused business to grow between 70 to 75 per cent.
He said he had opened his gold shop in Pasar Aceh since 1953, however, the dispute between GAM and the government had a negative impact on his business.
“At that time, many dare not go out at night, not to mention tourists who wanted to visit Aceh who were afraid of unrest and conflict in Aceh at that time.
“It was difficult for me to do business because often I had to close shop early so I could go home before nightfall,” he told Bernama here.
Cloth merchant, Din Jainuddin, 50, described the tsunami disaster and the subsequent peace between
the GAM separatists and the government in Banda Aceh as having given new breath to the people there.
He said before the tsunami, he had a small cloth shop in Pasar Aceh for almost 30 years which was destroyed in the disaster.
With a capital of Rp3 million (RM843), he said he was selling cloth on the sidewalk, however, within four years, he was able to buy a large shop priced at Rp4 billion (RM280,000).
Omar Abdul Rahman, 43, who works in a travel agency, said in addition to the acceleration of economic growth in Aceh, the tourism sector was also booming.