Nationalism verse Separatism
A Case Study of Aceh
By Hasballah M. Saad (Acehness, born, grew in Aceh)
Koshamda Secretary General
http://www.islamic-paths.org/Home/English/History/Countries/Indonesia/Nationalism_Separatism.htm - http://www.islamic-paths.org/Home/English/History/Countries/ Indonesia/Nationalism_Separatism.htm
One day, in September 1953, Teungku Muhammad Daud Beureuh chose to take a rebellious position against the Republic of Indonesia. The consideration that based this decision was probably a feeling of hurt and betrayal of the people of Aceh by the Unitary State of the Indonesian Republic. The decision to proclaim an Islamic State/Moslem Indonesian Troops was a behavior that emerged from feelings that Aceh has been betrayed in a very painful way. On the other hand, Prime Minister Ali Sastramidjaja subjectively saw that it was precisely Aceh and Beureuh who rebelled and betrayed the Indonesian Republic.
It is interesting to re-scrutinize the expressions of the people of Aceh at that time, as noted by Van Dijk in his book about the Islamic State, which portrays that whilst they truly do not want to separate themselves from their brothers, they can’t accept being treated as a stepchild in a house named the Republic of Indonesia.
This was clearly defined when Teungku Beureuh answered questions related to the causes of their revolt, as excerpted by AH Geulanggang, that the disarray of the law in effect at that time was what caused the revolt. At that time Beureuh advised the Republic’s leaders to not use force but to cope with the main problem and improve the foundations of their country.
This is what also caused the DI/TII movement to demand from the government of the Indonesian Republic, as formulated in the Batee Kureng charter, that Aceh be given self-autonomy, except in matters of foreign policy, defense and economy.
Discussions on the differences of these opinions have never been completed, although an accord in 1962 was reached to end the revolts in Aceh. The government issued amnesty, abolition and rehabilitation to all adherents of Teungku Beureuh and reinstalled its leaders to their original status, as was before they joined the DI/TII movement.
Implicitly, the adherents of the DI/TII members feel that they have reobtained their rights as citizens and that they are innocent. Yet, what the government did next was to always give DI/TII members special treatment and their roles in politics and the government always experienced difficulties. They seemed to have always been purposely set aside in their political roles.
Twenty years later on December 4, 1976, Hasan Tiro – who is a loyally adherent toward Teungku Beureuh and who spent almost 30 years of his life in the US – proclaimed the Independent Aceh state. What based Hasan Tiro’s and friend’s actions, according to their confessions, were instigated by two things. First, that Aceh is considered an area that is still churning as a continuation of the late Aceh is considered an area that is still churning as a continuation of the late Aceh kingdom and that never surrendered sovereignty towards the Dutch until 1942 when the Japanese invaded it.
Hence, Aceh as a matter of fact can not be included as part of the former Dutch territories when the Unitary State of the Indonesian Republic formed itself based on it. According to this train of thought, Aceh has the right to return its governance towards a monarchy and that the government be held by the descendents of the former Aceh leaders.
Historically, Teuku Tjik Di Tiro Muhammad Saman was the one who received the mandate (Sikureueng seal) from the last sultan of Aceh, Muhammad Daud, before he, representing himself, surrendered and was in the end exiled to Ambon and then sent back to Batavia where he passed away. Hasan Tiro is Syeh Saman’s grandson and feels very entitled towards the position of leading the kingdom of Aceh.
Hasan Tiro was then made to cancel his intention to continue Aceh’s monarchy possibly due to an agreement between Aceh’s ulamas – consisting of Teungku Ahmad Hasballah Indrapuri, Teungku H. Hasan Kruenkale, Teungku Jakfar Lam Jabat and Muhammad Daud Beureuh – who chose to stay within the Unitary State of the Indonesian Republic and disregarding the urging of Mansur Ph.D. who resides in East Sumatera, to establish an independent state.
Yet, Hasan Tiro found a different reality once he returned to Aceh from exile in 1976 that could be thought of as the second factor to Hasan’s movement to proclaim an Independent Aceh which was the economic, political, social, cultural and national development situation that was assumed it was not sustaining the hopes of the people of Aceh and made them severely suffer. Hasan’s disappointment towards this reality galvanized his intentions to separate from the central government’s hegemony and proclaim the Independent Aceh state on December 4, 1976.
So, there was in fact two basic reasons as to why the Independent Aceh movement began, namely historical legitimacy and social-economic realities that made the people of Aceh severely suffer. These are the subjective views of the Independent Aceh’s party.
Had the Indonesian Republic not approached this matter with violent response and bullets, but by empathetically opening discussions, the feelings, views and restlessness of Aceh and Hasan Tiro’s party could have been proportionately negotiated within the constitutional limits that could have yielded tolerable political compromises.
It is regrettable that Soeharto’s government along with his political advisors chose weapons as a means towards settlement. This decision, to this, caused more disarray to the problem of Aceh.
The question now is whether Ache still has the potential and opportunity to reconcoct the potentiality of nationhood that was in near disarray into an organization called the Unitary State of the Indonesian Republic or has all the opportunities toward that end have all been closed?
Emotionally, the answer may be easy to guess, because what has emerged and flourished within the people of Aceh is a new format derived from the causes that instigated Tuengku Beureuh to revolt against the Republic then, in December 1953. The social-political and security realities in Aceh for the last ten years were what caused its people to galvanize its choice to confirm its friendship towards the Indonesian Republic as in two neighboring countries. Aceh is inclined to be the eleventh member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) rather than being an object of various forms of discrimination and violence by people who confess the same nationality.
This choice is easily understood since the people of Aceh no longer feel that the Indonesian National Army (TNI) – its own flesh and blood – can no longer exhibit hospitable attitudes towards them. They assumed this choice as being blessed by the Habibie administrations whose deeds were at odds with what he had promised on March 28, 1999 that gave them a bit of hope.
So what’s next?
My opinion is that the Aceh is problem be resolved by means that do not rely on bullets and authority. Let more civil ways resolve existing differences of perceptions and opinions. This condition is important to restore this problem within a framework of nationalism and that Aceh be given an equal place as part of a country that is built on mutual consensus. Aceh can not be positioned as a conquered area and a region that is always set aside – especially by its brothers in Java – either economically, politically, socially, governmentally and so forth. This condition will reopen an opportunity for a new consciousness to emerge where the people would in fact choose to unite under a choice that offers security, tranquility, orderliness, prosperity and equality towards gaining the best opportunities for their livelihood. if by choosing to live with one means that one will be placed as master of authority whilst the other as slave or a party that is continuously controlled, then truly by no means can this association be justified.
The problem lies on how the Habiebie administration actually deals with this situation clear – mindedly which will then have to be implemented in actual steps to exhibit confidence to the people of Aceh that they are still considered a part of the nation. This action has to be understood and believed by its people as work done whole heartedly and not just a momentary political consumption for certain hidden interests. But unfortunately, the problem has already protracted into a far wider degree, in which any symbol or representation of the government of the Indonesian Republic is seen as manifestation of tyranny, hostility and degradation towards the existence and dignity of the people of Aceh. This is what bases most of the peoples assumption to quickly obtain an opportunity, to decide its own fate through a referendum mechanism.
Problems never handled to completion should be taken up again, including the essence of Aceh’s dissatisfaction, which up to this time has based many resistance movements. This means Jakarta is being asked for its willingness to begin political talks involving components of the community along with the conflicting parties in a negotiating forum that guarantees freedom of speech. The consequence is that any result of these discussions and talks binds the people involved. Hence, the representatives of the participants involved in the discussions and talks should actually be of the existing groups of society in reality.
I see no other way but to quickly complete talks regarding differing perceptions and opinions at this moment. If not, it might be possible that the price we have to pay for the delay and reluctance to enter negotiations will be too expensive; we might even put our country’s existence and integration on the line. This may be the core problem that has to be faced and completely dealt with to end the continuing polemic between separatism and nationalism now shaping the history of the Indonesian nation.
I am convinced that room for this can still be created only if each party is willing to leave some wishes and desires towards a permanent and complete resolution. We still might evade disaster.