Peace in our times?
Any news of possible outbreaks of peace are to be welcomed, especially when it's in an area which has suffered for 30 years or so.
I'm referring of course to Aceh, where it looks as if the current round of talks in Helsinki will result in peace at last
.The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) looks set to be allowed to form a political party as part of a peace accord agreed on Sunday between it and the government to end 30 years of separatist fighting in Aceh.
The two sides reached a preliminary peace deal in Finland on Sunday, which they will formalize in a memorandum of understanding on Aug. 15. The two sides have vowed there will be "no substantive changes" to the agreed draft.
It is still unsure, however, whether the eight-page draft stipulated whether the GAM would be allowed to form a local political party as the rebels strongly demanded in the peace talks, or an Aceh-based national party as offered by the government.
As I commented
on Thursday, given Aceh's history of anti-colonialism, whether it was the Dutch or, in more recent times, Soeharto and his Javanese cronies, ceding political control of the province seems eminently fair.
This will upset the centralised political parties here in Jakarta, but then they have done very nicely, thank you, out of the devolvement of local government in other provinces.
In today's Jakarta Post, the chief editor Endy M. Bayuni argues
that regional parties would reflect Indonesia's pluralism.Being a nascent democracy, Indonesia must allow political pluralism to reflect the pluralistic society that it is.
Although at the end of the day, it was the major established parties that won the most seats in the elections, we should not prevent anyone from forming any association (which is constitutionally guaranteed), including forming political parties on whatever platform they choose. In 2004, there were more than 200 registered political parties; 24 contested the elections, and of these about 10 won representation in the House of Representatives.
A small ad in the Post caught my eye on Saturday.
To quote, because the print is really tiny
, a Study Excursion departs every Thursday, presumably from Jakarta, on a 3 day - 2 night visit to Aceh to witness the recovery of some areas devasted by the Tsunamy. Sharing our love and offering hope to our friends there is our objective. Facilitated by PKPU - tel: 786.3774 (9am - 4pm)PKPU
is a foundation to help the families of the teachers. The group raised an initial fund of Rp 50 million from their own resources that was used to open a small office in Depok, West Java. From this office, the foundation has begun an operation to collect data and work out a plan. Focus is given to simple welfare programs relating to helping the families of the teachers.
So, "our friends there" may well be fellow Javanese teachers who have volunteered their services in the wake of the tsunami. I can't be sure about that, but on Saturday evening I did have a long chat with a friend who had just returned from a week in Banda Aceh running a teacher training programme at the university there.
The university has a dire need for 'emergency' English speaking lecturers. The tsunami decimated its ranks; their numbers have been further reduced however by the recovery programme. The new recruits are recent graduates fast-tracked to pass on their (limited) knowledge to students who are, by and large, of the same generation.
Banda Aceh is suffering from 'Aid Culture', with the local economy dominated by the big bucks and 4-wheel drive syndrome. Those Acehnese who have a reasonable command of English have gravitated towards the easy money, and who can blame them?
No-one is unaffected by the tragedy of Dec. 26th. My friend came back having learnt more than he taught. How does one cope with the loss of all one's children and a landscape only familiar from archive photos of the Hiroshima bomb?
One needed, and still does, a travel permit to enter the province. The students had never met a native speaker before so, hey, we can communicate
, was a great confidence boost. Having an element of control over one's destiny is surely an inalienable human right, barring what are euphemistically labelled 'Acts of God'.
The 'little people', the vast majority of the surviving population, are still dependent on handouts and remain uninvolved in the reconstruction process.
The Acehnese have suffered enough. It is only right that they should be enabled.
Jakartass, and Endy Bayuni, hopes that good sense will prevail among the powers-that-be.If our politicians cannot represent the people of Aceh and meet their aspirations, then we don't deserve Aceh. And neither does Aceh deserve our politicians.