- The main candidates to replace Abdon Nababan appear to be his three deputies: Rukka Sombolinggi, Mina Susana Setra and Arifin “Monang” Saleh.
- The alliance’s national council has yet to release an official list of the candidates.
- The proceedings could stretch late into the night.
TANJUNG GUSTA, Indonesia — Today marks the finale of the fifth congress of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). In a grand caucus that happens only twice a decade, and brings together representatives of communities from Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, Papua and just about every other place in this vast archipelago, the organization will decide on a new leadership — ideally through consensus, but perhaps through a vote if they cannot agree. The event could stretch late into the night.
The most likely choices to replace Abdon Nababan as secretary general appear as of this afternoon to be one from among his deputies: Rukka Sombolinggi, daughter of one of AMAN’s founders; Mina Susana Setra, a Bornean Dayak, the alliance’s largest constituency; and Arifin “Monang” Saleh, whose father led a farmers movement right here in this part of North Sumatra. But AMAN’s national council has yet to publish a list of official candidates, and other names have been floated too. Some are even calling for Nababan to stay on, although he insists he is finished in the role.
Depending on who emerges to lead AMAN, there is the possibility of a shift in stance for an organization whose initial approach to power was purely adversarial, but which under Nababan has moved closer to politics. Besides fielding candidates for political office and beginning to engage with a notoriously corrupt legal system, a Nababan specialty has been to cultivate ties with influential bureaucrats who can further the alliance’s agenda. But disappointment ran high with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo this week after he backed out of attending the congress at the last minute, opting instead to inaugurate a border post in Kalimantan. Nababan on Friday expressed exasperation with the administration as AMAN waits for it to deliver on its campaign promises but said the alliance would continue to support the president. It remains to see if his successor will take the same line.
Banner image: Traditional Batak dancers in Samosir region of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province. Photo by Dolf van der Haven/Flickr