Friday, August 22, 2014

Aceh and Independence Day: compatible, or still uncomfortable?

Indonesia’s Independence Day on August 17th was marked by lots of ceremonies and celebrations, as has been the case since 1945 when Indonesia declared Independence from Dutch rule (Netherlands recognized it in 1949).  Festivities in Aceh, however, were probably more muted, since Aceh never agreed to be part of Indonesia and always considered itself an independent sultanate.

But that doesn’t stop the media from proclaiming that  millions of Indonesian citizens, from Aceh to Papua, celebrated Independence Day with great pride and joy.”

Reporting on the festivities, the Jakarta Post notes that “following its tough journey of 69 years, Indonesia has emerged as the world’s third-biggest democracy, after India and the US, with Pancasila as the state ideology and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) as the state’s main motto. Though the archipelagic nation is home to the world’s biggest Muslim population, it adheres to pluralism, under which Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and followers of other faiths live in peace and harmony.”

Then why is it that I can’t go to Aceh and be driven by JMD’s staff to see our women cocoa farmers without threat of being arrested and caned for not wearing the hijab and being in a car with a male who is not a relative?

Not that I begrudge the media, or the country, the celebration of everything good and the discreet sweeping under the rug of the more problematic parts of its past (and present).  I mean, I give you the Fourth of July.  E Pluribus Unum, and not a Native American in sight.  So I shouldn’t throw stones.

But still.

If “Unity in Diversity” is going to mean for this new administration that the marginalized of Aceh are going to be even more trampled on, if the profiteering Sharia thugs are going to collude with Big Palm to forcibly prevent any government or community organization’s halting of the destruction of the rainforest, if “Pancasila” becomes less synonymous with Peace and Understanding and more associated with the para-military terrorist organization that took its name and which the government still supports . . . . then the global community better get ready to hold Jokowi’s feet to the fire to insure that in Aceh, anyway, it’s not business as usual.

Because for this province, that means out of business for everyone except the crooks.

What a wonderful segue to tomorrow’s post, in which I let you know what I’ve been up to regarding my attempts to let Bill Clinton know about the seamier side of Aceh (discussed here two weeks ago)—the part of the tsunami “reconstruction” he did not see.

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