Fri, 15 Dec 2000

Serious about unity?

On Dec. 12 I read in The Jakarta Post an article titled Govt to get tough on Aceh rebels, with mixed feelings. Is our government serious, or is this another statement just for propaganda purposes.

It is only logical that I cannot yet accept this statement as the sincere and serious will of the government. Already, several statements from the President himself have confirmed the decisive will of the government to implement the reform era's goal of implementing the principle of supremacy of law, however what we have seen so far is only what is popularly known as NATO (No Action Talk Only).

The President once said that one day, as a president, he would govern according to the Constitution, and yet he promised to attend the Irian Jaya Congress fighting for independence, and on top of that promised to donate one billion rupiah, to allow those people to hoist their Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag. Now he asks the police to free from detention the Irian leader, and will probably fire the Police Chief if he does not obey his order. What a situation.

When he was in America, the President said that he would talk with people who are prepared to talk, but stern action would be taken with those who didn't. The President further said that the integrity of the unitary Republic of Indonesia must be defended at all cost. The President also said, according to the Post of Aug. 8, 2000, that there were no possibilities of a compromise with law violators.

On March 14, 2000 in a televised interview President Abdurrahman Wahid said, among other things: "I told the Minister of Home Affairs and Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security, that if they prepare themselves, organize power and arm themselves, then they must be arrested. The government is very serious about this."

The Post, in its editorial, was critical of the government for arresting leaders of the independence movement in Aceh and Irian Jaya, as they were preaching nonviolent means in their struggle for freedom. This statement by the Post implies that the daily agrees with the independence movement's calls for separation from the Republic, which is against the Constitution. In my opinion, as somebody who has participated in the freedom struggle, the unity of the Indonesian unitary republic cannot be bargained with. That is why the government of Soekarno, without the slightest hesitation, fought the PRRI, PERMESTA and the DI/TII rebellion. Even in a democratic government like Indonesia there are limits about what we can talk about, and the deciding limit is the Constitution.

I personally don't believe that a majority of the people support the rebels. When I was fighting the Tentara Islam Indonesia (Indonesian Islamic Army), of the Darul Islam in West Java, I had the chance to talk with people living in fear and uncertainty. They said: "There is no choice. We have to support the TII, because if we don't they will kill us. But if we don't support the TNI then we are only tortured. We prefer being tortured to being killed."

I sincerely hope that the government will show a strong will and seriously try to find a solution in the shortest possible time. The people in those areas have suffered long enough and it is time they enjoyed a normal, happy life. Let us pray that the government will take the right step and once decided, they stick to it.