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Aceh’s Bloody History Shows Fierce Desire For Independence

Banda Aceh, TAG - Aceh still remembers Tjut Nya Dien, one in a long tradition of heroes who tirelessly fought against the Dutch. But since independence, Acehnese fighters have been more interested in turning their arms against the central government than on any outside force.




Shortly after Indonesia declared independence in 1945, charismatic Muslim leader Teungku Muhammad Daud Beureu’eh declared war on the new government under Sukarno.
He saw the first president as having gone back on his word after Aceh provided valuable financial and military assistance against the Dutch. Beureu’eh wanted to make Aceh a special, autonomous province that would be run as an Islamic theocracy, but at the end of the struggle, autonomy failed to come. 


Beureu’eh and his Darul Islam movement revolted against the young nation to establish an independent Muslim state that recognized Shariah as the only law. They fought the Indonesian Army in a guerilla war that continued until a peace deal granted Aceh autonomy—but not independence — in 1962. 


Fourteen years later, however, another separatist movement headed by another charismatic leader shook Aceh. This time it was former Darul Islam devotee Tengku Hasan Muhammad di Tiro, who gave a speech on Dec. 4, 1976, that launched the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Young Acehnese, inspired by Tiro’s goal of total independence, fought the Indonesian military in the jungles of Sumatra.
Tiro and his followers claimed Jakarta exploited Aceh’s nature resources but gave back little to the Acehnese people. 


More than 25,000 people were killed in the nearly 30-year armed conflict between GAM and the Indonesian military. Tiro himself was injured in 1977 and went abroad, landing in Stockholm, where he stayed for almost 30 years. 


In the first years of Suharto’s New Order, violence seemed to lull in Aceh, but vague reports of increasingly intense conflict between the government and rebels continued to emerge. The province was virtually shut off from the outside as armed conflicts took their toll not only on the lives of many Acehnese, but also on the island’s economy. 


Suharto’s downfall brought change to the province as President BJ Habibie halted military operations. Later, however, President Megawati Sukarnoputri would resort to using the military once more to stamp out smoldering anti-government sentiment in the province. 


It was under Abdurrahman Wahid in 2002 that the central government initiated peace talks with GAM leaders. Former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who was then state minister for people’s welfare, led the negotiations, but made little progress.
While efforts to create peace were under way, a powerful earthquake and tsunami brought Aceh to its knees on Dec. 26, 2004. More than 200,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of others injured. Both sides agreed to a cease-fire to allow humanitarian work. 


As aid poured into the province, Tiro proposed new rounds of talks, to be mediated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, a 2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat who helped end the Kosovo war. Ahtisaari brokered a peace deal that was signed in Finland, and in 2005 Indonesian soldiers left Aceh as independence fighters laid down their weapons.[]
Aceh’s Bloody History Shows Fierce Desire For Independence Aceh’s Bloody History Shows Fierce Desire For Independence Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on February 03, 2010 Rating: 5

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