Tue, 15 Jul 2003

On Aceh reporting

I would like to comment on Aboeprijadi Santoso's article titled Unspoken protest amid prolonged war in Aceh (The Jakarta Post, July 8).

The article is a typical example of one-sided and unbalanced reporting. The writer complains that "from students, activists to civil servants, intellectuals and public figures, people tend to be either silent, hide or leave their home ... in response to the war and the consequences of martial law". But he doesn't bother to mention the fact that it was the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) who eventually provoked martial law by insisting on their standpoint that Aceh's independence is a "fixed price" and is therefore an "absolutely non-negotiable matter".

The writer further deplores the brave young Abdullah, who "cried because his beloved mother was among thousands of locals forced to move to the football stadium of Cot Gapu. He could not take her to the capital as she needed to get a new ID card in her district". But the writer doesn't waste a word on the fact that it was GAM who unlawfully collected ID cards from the Acehnese, especially from the villagers. Those who refused to obey GAM's orders had to face punishment.

The writer states that "Aceh lacks new leaders" and that "true leadership can hardly be expected, for neither the corrupt and unpopular local politicians nor the rebels can provide it, as the province is under strict military command".

While it is true that the government has failed to improve law enforcement and people's welfare, the writer does not explain whether he believes that GAM would offer better leadership. The rebels have never publicized what kind of government they would like to establish if Aceh would become independent: A pure Islamic state, a sultanate or a republic?

And so far they have also made no commitments concerning human rights, democracy, freedom of science and teaching, equal rights for women, the right to free and democratic elections and freedom of the press! The writer doesn't even wonder whether, in the absence of such commitments, the Acehnese might possibly be worse off under GAM's rule.

HILDE MAY, Jakarta