This is outrageous. Just when I thought I had the monopoly on lifting stories from the Jakarta Post, along comes Indcoup and posts the story before I've had a chance to get it online. What's more, it's also been blogged in bahasa Indonesia.
If you haven't already heard, Aceh's controversial public kissing scandal has an interesting mix of perpetrators: an Indonesian Army General, one of his soldiers and his young girlfriend.
The incident took place in Lhokseumawe last week, during the withdrawal of Indonesian soldiers from Aceh in line with the truce signed in August in Helsinki. Maj. Gen. Supiadin, commander of the Iskandar Muda Headquarters, spotted an Acehnese girl in a corner of the wharf who was weeping uncontrollably.
"What's the matter with you, girl?" Supiadin asked.
Within his presence and that of Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) observers, then Prv. Eko Wahyudi and his red-scarfed girlfriend Yuni committed a blatant and flagrant violation of local decency, a heartfelt kiss, on the mouth, which was duly snapped, recorded and written up by a mob of waiting media.
Anticipating public protests from the devout Acehnese Muslims following repeated TV reports and print media coverage of the passionate kiss, the general made a public apology, saying he was responsible for the romantic – but legally wrong – spectacle.
Supiadin has since promised to do his best to make sure that the soldier and the woman would eventually be able to form a family. In a situation where many commanders seem ambivalent at best about the welfare of their soldiers, the two-star general proved that he really cared. He called the soldier to say goodbye to his crying girlfriend, who he had known for a year, when the soldier's ship was about to embark. And, most importantly, he took responsibility for the kiss.
On Tuesday, dozens of members of the Association of Islamic Students (HMI) demanded the punishment of the 23-year-old Acehnese girl and her dreamed-of soldier. In Jakarta, many other people condemned the couple, especially the woman, because the kiss was conducted in Aceh, which everyone knows is the Veranda of Mecca.
Should the Acehnese woman be punished for expressing her love? Should she be caned or stoned? Under the sharia law, several people who committed minor crimes have already been caned in Aceh. We can certainly say that Yuni has violated sharia. However, when she kissed her soldier, she certainly must never imagined that this would have been the consequence. She was only an ordinary woman acting out of love for a man, who earlier had been ordered by the state to kill as many rebels as possible in Aceh.
Before we leap to punish this woman, it might be a good time to weigh up some sins in this situation; after all, laws should be seen in their wider context. Perhaps we should ask ourselves, who are the bigger sinners: Those who killed or ordered the killing of innocents in Aceh during the war, who raped women and committed crimes against humanity, or this young, naive girl? More blameworthy, surely, are the government officials who stole money that was originally allocated for the victims of the tsunami?
If the police or prosecutors do act in this case and an Acehnese court decides to cane or even stone the woman, the judge might do to remember this wise advice: