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Fight for Independence or Fight for Democracy an Historical Account of Aceh Youth and Student Movements 2

Fight for Independence or Fight for Democracy an Historical Account of Aceh Youth and Student Movements 2

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Published by: alchaidar on Nov 12, 2008
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FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE
OR
FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY?:A Contemporary Historical Account of Radical Acehnese Student and YouthMovements
 Al Chaidar 
University of MalikussalehLhokseumawe, Acehtudent, as a part of their own society, represents a similar ideas with many of the popular movements in every place in this world. Students are also in the position to be influenced and often to be in the dilemma between two camps of choices.
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Student inherits same ideas of nationalism
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with their society and keep the construction of new political agenda back to the glorious past. Student is an enlightened group of their society and when the society facing a hard conflict with other, a hero should be born tosolve the conflict in a sophisticated ways.
3
Student movement were effective to stimulatesocial changes. A change is the base of students political movement. They haveestablished a movement since there were impulses to change situations towards hopefulones, to be a solution of a turmoil or a conflict.
4
There is never an easy solution toconflict which feature ethno-nationalism, and Aceh is certainly no exception to this rule.
5
But the context under which the conflict is now dealt with is changing. To begin with atragic experience of Acehnese in the decade of atrocity and misery in 1989 till 1998, theAceh conflict is now being addressed within an entirely new political landscape —ademocratic Indonesia, which since 1999 has become the world’s third largest democracy.Democracy, which had been established by the student movements in capital city of Indonesia in 1998, is not necessarily a healing anti-dote for complex ethnic disputes, butthis does not absolve the fact that the policy of the present government on Aceh marks adistinct departure from the ways of the past.
S
1
 
See
Taufik Abdullah,
School and Politic: The Kaum Muda Movement in West Sumatra (1927-1933)
, (Ithaca and New York: Cornell Modern Indonesian Project, Monograph Series, 1971).
2
 
See
Benedict R.O.G. Anderson,
 Imagined Community: Reflections on The Origin and Spread of  Nationalism
, (London: Verso, 1983).
3
What I mean with ‘sophisticated way’ is a kind of struggle by using several manipulations andtactics where sometime cultural background of a society (such as religion) put behind and not
vis a vis
thedemocracy.
4
 
See
Philip G. Altbach,
 Politik dan Mahasiswa: Perspektif dan Kecenderungan Masa Kini
, (trans.),(Jakarta: Gramedia, 1988).
5
 
See
Taufik Abdullah, “Islam, Sejarah, dan Politik di Aceh” [Islam, History, and Politic in Aceh], inTaufik Abdullah (ed.),
Sejarah dan Masyarakat [History and Society]
, (Jakarta: LP3ES, 1987).
 
Referendum proposed by Acehnese students embodied within Aceh ReferendumInformation Center (SIRA or Sentra Informasi Referendum Aceh) on January 31, 1999and then consistently fought by them altogether with civilians to be a perpetual goal inspite of getting some intimidations and challenges from Indonesian central governmentand armed forces. Referendum could be a healing antidote for the pain of the society, to be a strong reason to secced. But, referendum also could be a tool to practicingdemocracy, a new ideology of the popular movement. The Students and Acehnese people believe that referendum was the only best solution to solve Aceh problems democraticallyand peacefully the history of referendum idea then became a dilemma for Acehnesestudents: whether they become a part of Aceh Liberation Movement’s (GAM or GerakanAceh Merdeka) struggle for independence or solely become an independent fighter for democracy at all time without being affiliated or subordinated by any other political players in Aceh. Democracy has became a pseudo-religion for new generation of Aceh.Using democracy in every steps and movements will give them a new spirit of fighting. Itis a real in Aceh, at least from students and youth point of view, that using religion was,is and will always be fanatical than as a liberating forces.It is importance to recognize that Indonesia is currently in the midst of thestruggling for its self-preservation to maintain its nationhood and statehood as conceived by the founding father in 1945. Ethnic related dispute with varying degrees of intensityhave sprung up in many parts of Indonesia —in Irian Jaya, Maluku, Riau, etc.
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Arguably,no other nation in the region —perhaps in free world— is facing internal disturbances ina scale, magnitude, and ferocity presently faced by the Indonesian people. Nationalistfeelings are running high within the Indonesian body-politics, and there are differentdegrees of tolerance and patience in dealing with the national and ethno-national’s problems.
Methodology
This study utilizes qualitative methodologies with involves a phenomenological perspective, participant observation and personal reflections whereby my aim tounderstand, report, and evaluated the meaning of events for several student’s and youthorganization in Aceh who had played a distinctive role for democracy or for Aceh’sethno-national interest in particular situations, that is, how their social, economic,educational, and religious world is structured. The focus of these qualitativemethodologies is the ways in which participants (rather than the researcher) interpret their experiences and construct reality. The steps in this qualitative study implies an emphasison process and in-depth understanding of perceived meaning, interpretation, and behaviors, in contrast with the measurement of the quantity, frequency, or intensity of some externally defined variables. I will also use participant observation method which Iam immersed in the action being observed but my role as researcher is not obvious andunstructured interviews.
7
 As a researcher who is using participant observation, I must beaware of the ethical implications of this methodology. In this, the researcher still participates in, as well as observer, the action which requires me as the researcher to
6
 
See
Syamsuddin Haris, et.al.,
 Indonesia di Ambang Perpecahan
, (Jakarta: Erlangga, 1999).
7
Thanks to Zulfikar Salahuddin and Agus Triwaskito for transcripting all the interviews for thisresearch.
2
 
reflect upon, and evaluate, my own experiences, memories, values, and opinions inrelation to a specific issue or topic.
Aceh, The Land and its Lucrative Soil
The northern most tip province of Sumatra, Aceh, inhabited with the populationamounted 4.3 million.
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The best-known province of having abundance of naturalresources —liquefied natural gas, oil, fishing, logging— Aceh, at the northern end of Sumatra, is a lush country of farmers, fishermen, tropical rainforest, and endangeredorangutan. Until the 1970s, cocoa, rubber and coffee plantations dominated the economy,along with rice and tobacco, and timber products like paper pulp and palm oil. All thatchanged with the discovery in 1971 and even greater riches beneath the fertile soil – natural gas and oil in an abundance amount.
9
Because of this abundance of natural gas,oil, fishing, logging and agricultural products and religious base Aceh has concentrated toopen only agricultural, technical, religio-related sciences and economics faculties withinalmost of every universities in the province. The province with huge geographic size — 182,828 square miles— including more than 100 small islands along its western coast,has a historic capital city: Banda Aceh. This city has became a center of all events taken place in the long span history of many movements, including students and the youth.With its beneficial location —on the northernmost tip of the island of Sumatra, across thenorthern inlet of the strait of Malacca from Malaysia— later give its people a strongsentiment and feeling of being a diasporic and distinguished melting-pot character.The Indonesian province of Aceh is situated at the northern tip of Sumatra acrossthe Strait of Malacca from the Malay peninsula. The capital of the province, Banda Aceh(formely Kutaradja), has a population of 250, 000 (before the tsunami disaster)
. Aceh,as the Achenese perceived themselves, is out of the range of Indonesia politically sinceit’s position of 1700 kilometres nortthwest of Jakarta. The industrial centre and the most populated area is around the town of Lhokseumawe. The province’s population is roughly4,1 milion people, mostly Moslem. The language is of Malay origin and the province’scommon language is Bahasa Indonesia. Aceh is rich in oil and natural gas accounting for 13 per cent of Indonesia’s oil production.
The people of this resource-rich Indonesian province of Aceh endured decades of repression under Dutch occupation before Indonesia became an independent country.Unfortunately for the Acehnese, the new rulers have offered little respect from militaryand Aceh people perceive symbols of military as a chain of terror. Indonesia which was aclose friend —or even greater, as a brother of Aceh— in struggling against Collonialrulers has became a gygantic power unreachable by the hand of Acehnese. In Indonesia's
8
This latest data is provided by BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik, Statistical Bureau at Provincial Level) Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam for the year of 2004. Thanks to Tuismadi for assisting me in gathering the mostupdated data after the tsunami catasthrope.
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Bloomberg news reported in December 12, 2001, that the Indonesian government in Jakarta bringsin an estimated US $1.7 billion from the operations in Aceh. With facilities near the northern towns of Lhokseumawe and Lhoksukon, Acehnese operations made Indonesia the world's leading exporter of liquidnatural gas (LNG).
10
After the tsunami, the populations of Banda Aceh are only about 70.000 lives.
11
 Bussiness Week 
, 28 December 1998, an investigate article Indonesia: What Did Mobil Know?About a mass grave dicovered not far from the plant.
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