Fri, 18 Jul 2003

GAM and martial law

Let me respond to Hilde May's comments (The Jakarta Post, July 15) on my analysis Unspoken protest amid prolonged war in Aceh of July 8.

Hilde May said the "Free Aceh Movement (GAM) ... eventually provoked martial law". It is not so simple as it may seem. If, as even the Indonesian Military has recognized, GAM controlled a large part of Aceh, why would it prefer to live under martial law?

Hilde May reminded us of well-known issues such as "GAM unlawfully collected ID cards" and that "those who refused to obey GAM's orders had to face punishment". Worse and more recent, villagers I met in areas of Bireuen and Pidie have confirmed that GAM was responsible for intimidating village heads and firing on public transportation vehicles; I have written about these incidents elsewhere.

So for May to criticize my article as "one-sided" is unfair. It is also puzzling, as she expects me to explain whether I believe that "GAM would offer better leadership", while she herself wonders "what kind of government (GAM) would like to establish".

Does she really believe that these things are possible under martial law (which was my subject matter)? And why should I explain things which, as I made clear in the article, I did not consider likely and therefore did not even mention?

Let us stick to the subject matter instead of speculating beyond the topic; or else, May should go to Aceh to check the facts herself.