Destined for Rebellions?

By Beichman, Arnold | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 18, 2001 | Go to article overview

Destined for Rebellions?


Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


I had a buffet breakfast one day last week at the Red Roof Inn here with a man whom Indonesia wants arrested as a criminal. The Indonesian army has asked that Interpol, the international police agency, arrest Hasan Mohammed Tiro, the 70-year-old Prince of Acheh, who has been leading a quarter-century fight against the new colonialism in Southeast Asia. Prince Hasan (the title is hereditary) is self-exiled in Sweden. He has been seeking restoration of the independence of Acheh from the tottering and eternally corrupt governments of Indonesia.

Oil-and-gas-rich Acheh, with a small but highly durable population of 4 million people, is located on the northern tip of Sumatra, an island province of Indonesia. Centuries ago it was a victim of Dutch colonialism, as it is now a victim of Javanese colonialism. The huge Indonesian army has been engaged in what at times appeared to be a genocidal war against the Achenese rebels.

One of the iniquities of Western colonizers was that before surrendering their rule at the end of World War II, they coerced into so-called nation-states different peoples who at best were suspicious of each other and who at worst hated each other either because of clashing religions, cultures, histories, languages, castes or even skin color or appearance.

The colonial powers in the 19th century had fixed the official boundaries of these territorial possessions without regard for history and tradition. With decolonization, these boundaries became sacrosanct for the new ruling elites both in Africa and Asia.

In 1949, thanks to an unthinking Dutch government, the Dutch East Indies became "Indonesia," an archipelago whose 13,000 islands stretch the equivalent distance of London to Teheran. But in actual fact there is no "Indonesia" in history any more than there is a "Nigeria" in history. British blindness to African history led to the Biafran civil war between Yorubas and Ibos in the late 1960s, a war that took a million lives. Belgian blindness to history led to the long and brutal civil war in what had been the Belgian Congo.

In Indonesia, many islanders resent what they call "Javanese imperialism," since the Javanese elites dominate the government and civil institutions. …

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