Aceh Deal Leaves Left Exiles in Cold
- From Aboeprijadi Santoso <tossi20@...>
Aceh deal left the Left out in the cold
By Aboeprijadi Santoso, Amsterdam.
The amnesty offered to GAM (Free Aceh Movement) rebels following the
Helsinki peace accord - indeed, that accord itself - is a case of
reconciliation between post-authoritarian Indonesia and one former
adversary. For the first time, a deal has been stroked with one of
New Order's fiercest enemies and victims. However, Suharto political
machinery's biggest victim is still the forgotten political left of
the sixties - at home and exiled. In Europe, the exiles are at pain
to learn that GAM rebels, who had fought against the state they
helped found, defend and still love, have received amnesty and
regained civil rights, which they could only long for.
"No one should touch the existing state of Indonesia from Sabang to
Merauke because the Acehnese were not spectators, but took part in
the revolutionary struggle of 1945," said `Bahrum Salman'. Bahrum's
real identity, he disclosed to Radio Netherlands, is Cut Husein Fatly
of Tapaktuan, one of the three Acehnese who set up the first Aceh
branch of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1956. His comrades were
killed in the mid-sixties as were his wife and 11 other women in what
was known as Aceh Gerwani (PKI women movement) massacre.
Cut left for China in 1964 and moved to Amsterdam in 1980. At 85, he
retains his nationalistic fervor, helps promoting Indonesian dances
in Europe and proudly celebrated the 60th independence-day at the
Ambassador's residence in Wassenaar.
For Cut, Hasan M. di Tiro's GAM is no different from Daud Beureu'eh's
Darul Islam. "They wanted to change this state, so I resisted." Like
the late poet Agam Wispi, he belong to the old guard of Acehnese
defenders of Indonesian nationalism.
Given the agony they went through since 1965, virtually all exiles
predictably find Jakarta's deal with GAM "unjust" to them. Said Cut
Husein, "we were the first victim (of the Army). A million of us had
been killed!" He welcomes the peace, but warns "don't let the
Acehnese be intimidated by the GAM and killed by the Army. Let them
Tom Iljas, 66, another exile from West Sumatra living in Stockholm,
is also upset. A young man from Painan, he joined campaign against
the PRRI regional rebellion in the mid-fifties. The local authorities
were impressed and recommended him for a scholar-ship to study in
China. His only "sin" was apparently that he joined the pro-Sukarno
student organization (PPI) in Beijing � thus, he lost his Indonesian
As GAM rebels returning to the society with some rewards, Tom said,
he welcomes the peace "with pain". "I'm jealous because they took
arm, yet become normal, respectable citizens. We didn't take arm,
(but) our rights were robbed without being tried. No rebels were
treated like us. Look at (PRRI leader Col.) Ahmad Husein, the state
facilitated his business."
An Indonesian diplomat in Stockholm said "may be you should first
take arm and rebel." That's "a cynical joke," said Tom, who often met
with GAM leaders in the city but keeps a distance because "we are on
Francisca Fangidaey, 80, another exile with undoubted patriotic
credentials, is "astonished" about Jakarta's deal with GAM. It
means, "we, the exiles, are regarded as traitors, that hurts me
deeply." A Dutch educated Floresian woman, who "felt Dutch and
thought completely in Dutch (when the Dutch ban Malay)," Francisca
said, "the first Indonesian words I learned were Bung Karno, Bung
Hatta and merdeka (freedom)." She became a heroin of independence war
as she joined young militants in Java and sought supports abroad.
Now living in Zeist, the Netherlands, Ibu Sisca hopes President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration will bring changes. "Opening
a dialog and returning our passports are the least he should do to
us," she said, adding that other issues like indemnification and
political party are "of secondary importance".
The agony of being left out in the cold is related to the Cold War
that is apparently far from over at home. At the same time, unlike
the GAM, they have nothing to bargain with � no arms, no guerilla's,
no territory, no homeland, no tsunami.
It's a hard reality for the exiles, whom President Abdurrachman `Gus
Dur' Wahid once called "the wandering freedom fighters". As the three
cases above show, they are remaining loyal and emoti- onally attached
to their country, but have practically lost a homeland and their
civil rights at that.
It reflects the traumatic legacy of the mid-sixty killings and
persecutions that remains unresolved. A few hundreds of exiles across
Europe lost their citizenships upon refusing to sign loyalty to Gen.
Soeharto, April 1966, after the military attaches took over R.I.
embassies in China and former Soviet bloc. Most R.I. presidents had
since asked them to return home, with Gus Dur being the only one, who
tried to help them regain their rights, but failed.
"That's because of Yusril," said Wijanto, an exiled lawyer in
Utrecht, the Netherlands, pointing out that then Minister of Justice
Yusril Ihza Mahendra had actually obstructed President Gus Dur's ins-
truction despite Yusril's own acknowledgment that the revocation of
their passports was unlawful.
Meanwhile, critics said, leftwing exiles tend to be more interested
in their own issues. While enthusiastic about Asia-African
solidarities during the sixties, they oddly took for granted New
Order's brutal occupation of East Timor � except a few like Umar Said
and J.J. Kusni in Paris, who helped found Europe's first pro-Timor
Thus, a narrowed nationalistic spirit among many has
misled "patriotic" views on East Timor, Aceh and Papua. Ironically,
this has strengthened the very discourse of the New Order apparatuses
that continue to frame and perceive the problems in terms of
separatism, territorial integrity and war. In reality, the issues
reflect a complex nexus of injustice, human dignity and collective
identity - in addition to vital resources.
Just as it is a principled matter to respect the legitimate rights of
all New Order victims, it's important to review the discourse of
state-nationalism as a legacy of Suharto's New Order.
One needs, that is, to conceptually deconstruct the N.K.R.I.
discourse � the unitary state with the "K" from Kesatuan (unit) being
the militaristic-turned-sacred concept � in order to revive the
original, pluralist discourse of "R.I" (Republic of Indonesia) that
gave birth to this nation-state sixty years ago.
The writer is a journalist with Radio Netherlands.
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