Samiaji Bintang is a journalist who is a contributor to the “Pantau” foundation of Aceh. Pantau started its life as a magazine published by the Institute for the Study of the Flow of Information (Institut Studi Arus Informasi – ISAI). Due to funding difficulties, the Institute decided to close the magazine in 2003. In August 2003, the people involved in the magazine decided to create the “Pantau” foundation. The magazine was published again with a politico-cultural focus. Alas, financial difficulties once again forced the magazine to close. Pantau is now an online news site that still focuses on the social, political, and cultural issues that affect Aceh.
What struck me about Pantau is that unlike many other media in the country, their articles are presented in a compelling, story-telling style supported with deep research and a complete knowledge of the Aceh culture. This style, this knowledge is reflected in Samiaji Bintang’s blog…
What I noticed when I first read his blog was the lack of accusations. Samiaji does not write to demonize Indonesia or its Armed Forces, or to champion the cause the Free Aceh Movement, the Indonesian Government or any other political elite vying for power in the province. Samiaji writes to tell stories about the people of Aceh. His post “Coffee plantations, guerillas, and militia”, for instance, is an especially interesting piece about how coffee farmers had no choice but to involve themselves in the armed struggle for, or against, the Free Aceh Movement. Another post titled “Seven Javanese coolies in the land of the Rentjong” deftly reveals the harsh social realities of post-tsunami Aceh, especially for the thousands of migrant workers that arrived to try to make a living out of rebuilding the devastated province.
His posts are long without being tedious. His stories are compelling because he actually know the people and does not write as an outsider looking in. His blog is a pleasure to read and leaves you feeling enlightened, although often depressed, afterward.
All in an, a most excellent blog. A must read for anyone who care, or want to care, about Aceh.