This is a reply dated Nov 11 to a reponse to a contribution What can be done for Aceh? in reformasitotal mailing list. (mounted 14-Nov-1999) ________________________________________________
Re: What Can We Do for Aceh?F*Z*, thanks for your response.
No they were not scared. Didn't you know that they fought a guerilla war since the late 1980-s? They were a small minority, but the brutality of the military soon helped them get more and more support from the population.
It is not a question of whether that would be treason or not. And they also do not need Ghadafi's help. The gas and oil revenues alone would make them rich enough.
But wealth is not always a boon, it can also be a curse. Indonesia is one of the richest countries in national resources in the world. Why have we been colonialized for so long? And even if there are no foreigners peering on our wealth, then it is still not necessarily a boon. Mortal enmity between brothers happens more often in very rich families than in very poor families. Why?
The GAM wants to make Aceh a Sultanate like Brunei, with Hasan di Tiro as the next sultan. But Aceh is not Brunei. In Brunei there was only one obvious pretendent to the wealth, the Sultan's family. The greater part of the population were Punans, Dayaks, Ibans, and other ethnic groups with a egalitarian social structures. Also in the emirates and Gulf states, the claim of the respective emir's clan was practically without serious competition, and a large part of the population was made up of semi-nomadic Beduin tribes.
Aceh is different, Aceh has a very long history of a complex social stratification and territorial division with an agriculture with an elaborate system of irrigation, and involvement in trade with many countries near and far. The moment you give Aceh independence, there will immediately be civil war, because Hasan di Tiro would not be the exclusive pretendent to the national wealth like the Sultan of Brunei or an emir of a Gulf state. Furthermore, Aceh has a long history of feud between the clergy (the ulamas) and the aristocracy (the hulubalangs). The Acehnese need the solidarity and support of the larger Islam community of Indonesia to help them avoid revival of the old fight between the ulamas and the hulubalangs. But the moment GAM tries to reinstall the old Sultanate of Aceh, this will lead to war between Achenese and Acehnese. The more wealth they have, they more weapons they can buy to kill each other. Have they not already suffered more than enough?
What the Acehnese want is to be free to live in peace and to use their wealth to build up the country's economy. But here, again, Aceh is not like Brunei or a Gulf state. Aceh is a community with relatively advanced stratification and mercantile culture tradition. When Aceh invests its wealth in its economy, it will immediately produce a large surplus which needs to be marketed. Aceh is too small to absorb its produce. When European countries began to industrialize, they conquered colonies to absorb their surplus production. When the US industrialized, it expanded to the Wild West. But Aceh will not be able to conquer colonies or expand in any direction. However, Aceh has good luck: Aceh is part of Indonesia, and if the Acehnese economy thrives on the wealth from their oil and gas, they can use the whole Indonesian market.
The Acehnese fought very courageously in 1946-1949 to ensure their rights in an independent Indonesia. It is not that Aceh belongs to Indonesia. It is that Indonesia belongs to the Acehnese just as much as it belongs to the Javanese, Buginese, etc., etc. So they have a right to make maximal use of Indonesia when they need it for their export and other trade activities.
The present government has not yet had the chance to do so. But in the very short time since Gus Dur is president, they are doing a very good job, and I trust that they will start prosecuting the criminals immediately.