When he took power more than a year ago, Irwandi Yusuf knew that his job was going to be tough. But talking in his office in Banda Aceh, the governor of the embattled Indonesian province acknowledged that the task was not getting any easier. 'I know the job better now, but my support base is getting more and more disobedient,' he said. Mr Irwandi was the first directly elected governor of Aceh, the once war-torn province and the area worst hit by the December 2004 tsunami. Of the eight candidates in the December 2006 election, he won almost 40 per cent of the vote. Mr Irwandi took office in February 2007. His support base consists mostly of members of Gerakan Aceh Merdaka (Free Aceh Movement - GAM), the former rebel group that laid down arms after a peace deal with Jakarta was signed in August 2005. But he said the slow progress of reintegrating former combatants was creating problems. '[The former rebels] are getting frustrated and don't always listen to me,' said Mr Irwandi, who used to be a GAM senior member but ran as an independent at the election after the former rebel group's elite chose someone else as their candidate. The simmering unhappiness among former rebels has been cited as one of the reasons behind a rise in crime in the province, with reports of widespread violence and other offences, including illegal taxes on post-tsunami reconstruction projects. A scheme to reintegrate former GAM members was the cornerstone for ensuring continued peace after the agreement, but that has yet to be accomplished. Under the scheme, former rebels and conflict victims are to receive land and aid money to help rebuild their lives. The Aceh Reintegration Agency, the provincial institution tasked with supervising the scheme, is struggling to identify beneficiaries, and the central government has yet to allocate special funds over the state budget to compensate them. To date, about 3,000 former rebels have been compensated, but many more are claiming their share. Mr Irwandi also said his task had been impeded by the delay in transferring power from the central government to the province, as requested by the peace agreement signed in Helsinki. The agreement called for Aceh to have full autonomy except in the areas of defence, national security, foreign affairs, fiscal and monetary policy, the judicial system and religious affairs. The transfer of authority for the remaining fields of governance was to take place via government regulation transfers. However, according to Mr Irwandi, Jakarta had so far only produced the government regulation transfer that deals with the establishment of local parties. 'How can we run this province if the necessary regulations are not in place,' he asked. The governor added that the slow transfer of authority meant issues related to oil and gas, the establishment of a human rights court and land ownership were yet to be implemented. 'These are real problems,' he said. Mr Irwandi said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla were not at fault. 'Yudhoyono and Kalla are both very committed to maintaining peace in Aceh. The problem is below them, where some politicians and bureaucrats in Jakarta are not so committed to the peace and do not know the details of the peace agreement,' he said. Mr Irwandi said he was pleased the province had progressed on the path towards peace. 'Peace was and still is fragile. But I would say it is now based on much more solid fundamentals than a year ago,' he said. 'I would claim this to be the main achievement of my first 12 months in office.' His claim is supported by many Aceh residents, although rising violence has stirred concern. Mr Irwandi has also been publicly criticised for failing to improve the qualify of life for the province's 4.5 million people. 'This is an unfair comment and I do not accept it,' he said. The Aceh Poverty Assessment 2008 report showed that poverty in Aceh increased in the aftermath of the tsunami, from 28.4 per cent in 2004 to 32.6 per cent in 2005. But it also showed that the poverty rate fell in 2006 to 26.5 per cent, below the pre-tsunami level, suggesting that the rise in tsunami-related poverty was short-lived and that reconstruction activities most probably helped lower the figure. Despite the improvement, the report said, poverty in Aceh remained significantly higher than in the rest of Indonesia, which on average stood at 17.8 per cent, according to the latest National Socio-Economic Survey, conducted in December 2005. Mr Irwandi stressed that in recent months he had reorganised parts of the bureaucracy to facilitate his economic policies. He inherited a bureaucratic apparatus and a local legislature crammed with members of nationalist parties, who once viewed GAM and Mr Irwandi as enemies. The distrust between the governor and the bureaucracy is an open secret in the province. 'I have had to put my middlemen in the right positions. Only like this I can push my ideas through,' said Mr Irwandi, who has maintained the image of a politician untainted by corruption. Aceh is considered by some observers to be the most corrupt province in Indonesia, a country regularly rated among the most corrupt in the world. Mr Irwandi's long-term economic plan is to improve Aceh's infrastructure and open access to global markets, especially Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. In the short term, the plan focuses on improving the plantation, farming and fishery sectors. 'Aceh has industrial deficiencies in all sectors, especially electric power. Until we improve these sectors, investors will not come,' he said. 'But in the meantime, we have to allow people to make a living.' The electrical grid in Aceh can supply only half the population. Hinting that he may run for another term after the present one expires in 2010, Mr Irwandi said his economic plan encompassed a five-year period. 'I may rerun; we will see. And if I do, I will still run as an independent candidate, so that I will be free to follow my own agenda and not have to answer to political parties or lobbyists,' he said. 'But if [the public] expected big results in a year, they should have elected God and not me.'