The Price of Freedom: The Unfinished
by Hasan di Tiro
Source: Indonesia Reports
Books & Biblio Supplement, No. 12, October 1985.
Story Type: Autobiography.
Original Language: English.
These are brief extracts from THE PRICE OF FREEDOM: THE UNFINISHED DIARY OF TENGKU HASAN DI TIRO. Published in 1984, it is literally a diary of his daily activities from September 4, 1976 to March 29, 1979 and covers the period of formation and organization of the National Liberation Front of Acheh Sumatra (NLFAS), or the Free Acheh Movement, which he chairs. The NLFAS continues to function today in Aceh and abroad with much the same outlook reflected in the book. This is a genre of dissent very different from other sorts recounted in the media in that it is profoundly antagonistic to Indonesian nationalism and the Indonesian state. The work is entirely in English was available for US$25 from Open Press
Holdings, 300 Steelcase Road West, #8, Markham, Ontario L3R 2W2, Canada. The excerpts are reproduced here to illustrate the
mindset of a ruthless man who has sent his cadres into Aceh to foment a vain and mindless insurgency for the hidden political
goals enumerated here. Apart from NLFAS' own atrocities, this insurgency has only spurred the Indonesian Army -- self-perceived guardian of Indonesian union and unity -- into an even more ruthless response. The conflict in Aceh has become at its heart one of international terrorists against domestic terrorists with innocent civilians, Acehnese and non-Acehnese, the hapless victims.
Tengku Hasan di Tiro
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM
I write this book in preparation for my death, shaheed--a witness to an idea that had earlier been made sacred by the spilt
blood of my ancestors and recently by the spilt blood of my loyal followers. (Introduction)
To preserve our freedom, our forefathers had suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died. Now is our turn to do no
I have finally decided to do what I have believed all along to be my destiny in life: to lead my people and my country to
freedom. That is my life mission. I will be a failure if I fail to do so. Acquisition of wealth and power has never been my goal in life because I have both in my country. (Preface)
It is plainly not easy to leave your life in Riverdale, New York, with a beautiful wife and child, to go to live in the black forests of Acheh, Sumatra, as a guerrilla leader. (Preface)
I have had a modicum of success in the business world because I had entree to the highest business and governmental circles in many countries: the United States, Europe, Middle East, Africa and not least Southeast Asia, except "Indonesia" of course, which I avoided. As a result, I have close business relationship with top 50 U.S. corporations in the fields of petrochemicals, shipping, construction, aviation, manufacturing and food processing industries. My own company had joint-venture agreements with many of them which I affected, and myself retain a status of consultant to some of them.... But I never mixed my business with my politics. So very few of them knew what I had in mind to do in Acheh Sumatra. This is my private affairs with my people only. I did not solicit anybody else's advise, sympathy, or support. (September 4, 1976)
My boat reached the landing area on the North coast of Acheh on Saturday morning, October 30, 1976, about 8:30 in the morning in the fishermen village of Pasi Lhok.... At about 6 p.m. my small boat enters Kuala Tari to the East of the village of Pasi Lhok. There a group of a dozen men, headed by M. Daud Husin, has been waiting to escort me to the mountain region, that very night--my first night in my homeland after being in exile for 25 years in the United States. No one else know in the country of my arrival. (October 30, 1976)
I have long decided that the new Declaration of Independence of Acheh Sumatra should be made on December 4, for
symbolical and historical reasons because it was the day after the Dutch had shot and killed the last Head of State of independent Acheh Sumatra, Tengku Tjhik Maat di Tiro, in the battlefield of Alue Bhot, Tangse, on December 3, 1911. The Dutch had, therefore, counted December 4, 1911, as the day of the ending of the Achehnese state as a Sovereign entity, and the day of the Dutch final "victory" over the Kingdom of Acheh Sumatra.... That was not true at all because the Achehnese war of resistance did not end with the fall of Tengku Tjhik Maat di Tiro at the Battle of Alue Bhot since the struggle was continued by the survivors of 1911. The State of Acheh Sumatra had never surrendered to Holland! The struggle continues.... Tengku Tjhik Maat di Tiro was my uncle.
Here is the Declaration of Independence of Acheh Sumatra which I penned down at Tjokkan Hill, and declared to the world on December 4, 1976:
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE OF ACHEH SUMATRA
"To the peoples of the world:
"We, the people of Acheh, Sumatra, exercising our right of self-determination, and protecting our historic right of eminent
domain to our fatherland, do hereby declare ourselves free and independent from all political control of the foreign regime of Jakarta and the alien people of the island of Java. Our fatherland, Aceh, Sumatra, had always been a free and independent
Sovereign State since the world begun....
"However, when, after World War II, the Dutch East Indies was supposed to have been liquidated--an empire is not liquidated if its territorial integrity was preserved--our fatherland, Acheh, Sumatra, was not returned to us. Instead, our fatherland was turned over by the Dutch to the
Javanese -- their exmercenaries -- by hasty fiat of former colonial powers. The Javanese are alien and foreign people to us Achehnese Sumatrans. We have no historic, political, cultural, economic or geographic relationship with them....
"During these last thirty years the people of Acheh, Sumatra have witnessed how our fatherland has been exploited and driven into ruinous conditions by the Javanese neo-colonialists: they have stolen our properties; they have robbed us from our livelihood; they have abused the education of our children; they have put our people in chains of tyranny, poverty, and neglect....
"We, the people of Acheh, Sumatra would have no quarrel with the Javanese if they had stayed in their own country, and if they had not tried to lord it over us. From now on we intend to be the masters in our own house: the only way life is worth living; to make our own laws: as we see fit; to become the guarantor of our own freedom and independence: for which we are capable; to become equal with all the peoples of the world: as our forefathers had always been. In short, to become sovereign in our own fatherland!" (December 4, 1976)
By this time we have absolutely established these truths: (1) The people have wholeheartedly accepted the idea of Achehnese
independence as propagated by the NLF (National Liberation Front); (2) The NLF has successfully revived Achehnese historic
consciousness after almost being put out of existence by the Javanese colonialists during these last 35 years of Javanese
Indonesian colonialism; (3) Politically we have won; the only thing separates us from victory is the guns; (4) The people are
now willing to sacrifice everything to achieve their independence; (5) The organization of the NLF has been established all over the country; (6) The Government of the State of Acheh Sumatra has been organized and established throughout the country....
The political challenge against the Javanese Indonesian colonialist occupation authorities is total--short of a shooting
frontal war. Our flags are flown everywhere. Even the enemy would not dare to insult our flag publicly because he knows where
the people's sympathy is. The people's enthusiasm is increasing by the day. When NLFAS activists passed through the countryside, people rushed to embrace them. (February 6, 1977)
Today I decide to give a special lecture in the morning on Achehnese history and about the aims of our Revolution....
"This land is yours only for one reason and for one count: because you are Achehnese! If you denounced that truth by
accepting another false name, like "indonesians"--that Javanese nonsense--then you have forfeited your patrimony.... If these
foreign invaders managed to fool you to believe that you are indeed not Achehnese but "indonesians"--that is tantamount to
accepting that you are not your fathers' and mothers' sons--but merely stupid non-entities.... Any Achehnese who has come to
believe that he is not Achehnese but "indonesian" he is suffering an identity crisis, in fact he has become mad....
"Memorize your history! It has been written, not by ink over the papers, but by your fathers' blood over every inch of our
beautiful valleys and breath-taking heights, beginning from our white sandy beaches to the cloud-covered peaks of Mount Seulawah, Alimon, Geureudong and Abong-Abong. Our heroic good fathers are not dead but merely waiting in their graves, all over this Blessed Land, for the Judgement Day, and in the meantime they are watching you, what you are doing with the rich legacy they had left for you and had sacrificed their lives to secure its safe passage to you. Would you be willing to sacrifice your lives too, in order to secure the safe transmission of this rich legacy to your children and their children's children? This Land of yours is a Holy Land--made Holy by the deed and by the sacrificed blood of your ancestors--it is fit to be worshipped, not to walked upon by the ingrate Javamen." (February 11, 1977)
By this time many prominent leaders of Acheh have trekked to the mountains to meet with me.... Most of them think only about guns. "Where are the guns?!" Without the guns we should not be talking about independence at all! I patiently explained to them: granted, guns are very important and we cannot do without. We will arm ourselves as a national effort in due time. But there are more important and more urgent problems before us that we must solve first--even before the guns: the problem of Achehnese political consciousness, the problem of the crisis of national identity, the problem of the study of Achehnese history, the status of Acheh under International Law, the problem of self-determination and international relations.... All these are not military activities but political, cultural, and educational. They are absolutely necessary to prepare before we can engage in armed struggle. So the gun is neither the first nor the last thing! We lost our chance to regain our independence in 1945 not because of any lack of guns--you knew there were plenty of guns in Acheh at that time--but precisely because of the lack of national political consciousness and correct national political direction at that time. I cannot remember how many thousand times I have had to repeat these explanations! (February 13, 1977) We receive reports that the enemy is stepping up his campaign to picture us internationally as "terrorists," "bandits," "fanatics" and even "communists" to justify his repressive actions against us. Therefore, we decide to reprint our Declaration of Independence of Acheh-Sumatra in the English language as many as possible for distribution abroad. (April 16, 1977)
We are still in the political and preparatory stage of the armed struggle and we want to remain in this stage as long as necessary. Therefore, all our military movements and actions must be subordinated to this strategy. All actions must be conducted within the strict discipline of a defensive guerrilla warfare:
a. The Achehnese Army should always keep to the hills. This will nullify Javanese superiority in armored vehicles, naval and air forces.
b. The Achehnese Army should hover always in the enemy's neighborhood, ambushing him, preventing him from gaining any
permanent base, becoming an illusive but powerful shadow on the horizon, diminishing the "glamor" of the Javanese colonial troops.
c. Time and surprise are the two most vital elements: understand all lines of expectations and lines of surprises. No
attack without surprise!
d. Engagements must be executed at the place and at the time of our choosing, despite enemy provocations.
e. When enemy advances we retreat and harass him when he returns.
f. Engagement with the enemy should only be done when we are sure of winning, that is, of having superior force at the point of engagement.
g. Our present objectives are to cripple the enemy's communications and economy and to destroy his foreign backers'
h. Our safety lies in the secrecy of our movement at all time and in the mobility of our forces. The enemy should never know where our forces are.
i. Our strategy is defensive; our tactic is swift offensive against the enemy whenever an opportunity presents itself.
This strategy and tactics will immunize us from military defeat. (May 16, 1977)
Beginning this month we noticed that the enemy was stepping up his psychological warfare attacks against the National Liberation Front and its leaders. Public meetings were organized all over the country to denounce us. To assure the attendance at such meetings the regime ordered all its functionaries--on pain of losing their jobs if absent--to attend, and at least 10 men from every village must come.... The regime had prepared in advance thousands of posters denouncing us. These posters were made in the Javanese regime's offices for months in advance and then forced upon the people to carry them in the parade and then the paraders are photographed with posters in hands. These photographs are for international consumption as "proof" of the people's supposed opposition against the NLFAS.... At the same time the regime engaged in all sorts of nonsensical defamation attempts against every one of the NLF leaders, to distract the people's attention from the real political and economic issues involved in this conflict between the Javanese Indonesian colonialists and the people of Acheh Sumatra. (June 7, 1977)
The whole world knows that our country has been laid bare by the Javanese colonialists at the feet of multinationals to be raped. Our mineral and forest resources have been put up to the world markets for clearance sale for quick cash for the Javanese generals and their foreign backers. (June 15, 1977)
The enemy begins to make large scale arrests of those he suspected to be members of the NLF or even sympathizers.
Thousands of men and women, even children, were arrested arbitrarily and put in jails without due process of law. When all
the prisons have been filled up concentration camps are established in every place where the enemy garrisons his troops.
Most of the prisoners are tortured or treated inhumanly. A regime that had seized power by murdering 2 million people in 1965 can be expected to be expert in repression.... The leadership and the active members of the NLF cannot be arrested by the Javanese because they are in the liberated territory. So the regime is taking revenge on the people at large. The result, however, was the contrary to the Javanese objectives. The people are now become convinced of the beastly and barbaric nature of the Javanese Indonesian colonialist regime. Even the Dutch had never been that brutal. (June 22, 1977)
August 17 must be marked in Achehnese Sumatran history as the calamitous day that has caused the temporary loss of our
legitimate right to independence, because it was on that day the so-called "indonesia" was declared "independent" by the Javanese in 1945, and was approved by the Dutch on December 27, 1949. It was a joint-stock company of the old colonialism with the neo-colonialism, a joint venture of the two to fabricate the artificial and make-believe nation of "indonesia." ...
Everything about Indonesia is absurd, The declaration of independence of indonesia is easily the most stupid declaration of
independence in the annals of all nations. It was devoid of any ideas, of any political philosophy, or of any thought whatsoever....
If the concept of "decolonization a la indonesia" would have been applied to all other colonial territories in the world, there would have been only 7 (seven)-- instead of 51 (fifty-one) new states established in Africa after World War II, namely, one for each of the foreign colonies of Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Germany....
Decolonization requires liquidation of all colonial empires with specific steps and procedures, but indonesia exists on the
principle of total territorial integity of the colonial empire; and an empire is not liquidated if its territorial integrity is preserved. Thus indonesia is still an un-liquidated and un-declonized colonial empire with Java-men replacing Dutchmen as
colonialists. (August 17, 1977)
Take an old map of Sumatra from some reliable Western map-makers dated before Dutch colonialism arrived in Sumatra. You will find out that the whole island of Suamtra was part of the Kingdom of Acheh, properly a Sumatran power. At that time Acheh was the political name, and Sumatra a geographic name of the same island. And the name of Sumatra itself was also of Achehnese origin, denoting the Samudra District in East Acheh. If you investigated a little further, you will also find out that Malaya, West Borneo, and Banten region of West Java were also under Achehnese sovereignty for a long time....
Take a look at the map of Sumatra at the time of the Dutch declaration of war against Acheh, on March 26, 1873. You will see that the territory of the State of Acheh or Kingdom of Acheh in Sumatra at that time still covered half of Sumatra until Djambi and the Riau Archipelago. Please see the map published by GRAPHIC of London in 1883, in this book. This, therefore, constitutes the minimum legal claim by the present State of Acheh Sumatra on December 4, 1976: a simple return to the status quo ante bellum, to March 26, 1873. In addition, the State of Acheh Sumatra claims back from the Dutch--therefore also from Indonesia--all of Sumatra and surrounding islands as our legitimate historic national territory. (August 20, 1977)
Today we begin the inaugural lectures of the University of Acheh at the Mount Alimon Campus. The lectures are attended by about 50 participants.... Since we have no textbooks available at the Mount Alimon campus, I have to rely solely on my memory. (September 20, 1977)
Today I received a distressing news from Pase Province about an incident that will have an unfortunate international repercussion. An American worker was reportedly killed and another one wounded by stray bullets in the fighting between our forces and the indonesian colonialist forces. This was the sort of thing that we have been trying to avoid for months.... The immediate cause of this incident--which took place yesterday--was the betrayal by the local manager of Mobil Oil Company in Lhok Seumawe, Pase Province of Aceh Suamtra. He was invited by the local commander of the NLFAS for a confidential meeting in a designated place in the area to discuss ways and means to protect the LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) plant in Aron (Arun), Lhok Seumawe, from possible damage from the raging guerrilla warfare around it. He was advised not to inform the indonesian colonialist authorities about the meeting. Unfortunately, however, that was what he exactly did. Not only did he leak the meeting, but he participated in laying ambush against our troops with the indonesian colonialist forces in the area....
There are thousands of Americans and other foreign nationals who are making their opulent living on our troubled soil. Under the present situation our people themselves--the legitimate owners of this land--have no protection from sudden death at the hands of the Javanese-indonesian invaders. How can we protect these foreigners amidst us? How can we be responsible for their safety? The best we can do is to advise them to leave our country for a while until we have liberated ourselves from our oppressors. (December 6, 1977)
The people of Acheh think that the U.S. government is our friend because I had lived in America for 25 years as an exile.... Today, our people must prepare to accept the reality that the U.S. government is not pro-Acheh Sumatra as in the old time, but pro-Javanese-indonesian colonialist regime in Java. And the U.S. policy is to ensure that Javanese colonialist regime stays in power even against our just interest, so that American company like Mobil Oil Corporation can buy and sell us in international market place as you already knew about Aron gas field and our other oil fields.... President Ulysses S. Grant refused to recognize Dutch claim of sovereignty over Acheh, and issued instead a Proclamation of Impartial Neutrality in the war between Holland and Acheh, which was tantamount to the American re-affirmation of recognition of Achehnese independence. (May 1, 1978)
The only thing we need to do now is arming our people, and the Javanese will have to run away from Acheh Sumatra. Essentially we are working for that moment to come now. (July 22, 1978)
This morning I have a leave-taking ceremony with my wonderful comrades-in- arms.... Few of them knew me personally before I
come back from America. They knew me only by reputation. They knew whose son I was. That is saying a great deal in Acheh
Sumatra.... To have survived means to have been given another opportunity to finish the job with more assurance of success.... Only crazy and stupid men will believe that I will not come back. (March 28, 1979)