Indonesia in Focus
Indonesians in Focus: Iwan Gayo
A journalist and ambitious encyclopaedia author, Iwan Goyo has embarked on a mission to establish the recognition of the Gayo province in Central Aceh as Soeryo Winoto writes.
Iwan Gayo: An ambitious encyclopedia author
Soeryo Winoto, Jakarta
Iwan Gayo should be taking it easy, enjoying the royalties he has earned from various editions of an Indonesian encyclopedia titled Buku Pintar.
However, Iwan is busy with a struggle for the establishment of Gayo, a new unit separate from Aceh province.
Born in Tanah Gayo 54 years ago, Iwan says he feels obliged to do his best for his motherland: Gayo, located in Central Aceh.
Despite his efforts to promote his wish for the setting up of Gayo province, Iwan has remained faithful to his original habit of writing.
His latest book is Almanak Negara Indonesia — Buku Pintar Master (The Indonesian State Almanac — Master Encyclopedia). “It took me nine years to finish. I had to find photographs of all people mentioned in the book,” Iwan said of the 800-page volume.
Iwan is extremely well-known among Indonesian students for his previous Buku Pintar. This seems to have prompted others to plagiarize his work. In 2003 Iwan reported two men to the Jakarta Police for allegedly violating the copyright he obtained for his Buku Pintar.
Iwan’s first Buku Pintar was printed in 1982. “It was a dictionary for juniors,” he recalled, adding that the book took him almost a year to complete. The book has been reprinted 32 times.
The dictionary for seniors was completed in 1986 and has been reprinted 34 times. The other books Iwan has written are Buku Pintar Nusantara (Nusantara Dictionary), Buku Pintar Haji dan Umrah (Haj and Umrah Encyclopedia), Kamus Pintar (Dictionary), Ensiklopedi Aceh (Aceh Encyclopedia), Atlas Indonesia.
He has authored several political pamphlets, including Hot Issue booklets on (former presidents) Sukarno, Soeharto and Megawati Soekarnoputri, as well as Amien Rais (then speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly).
The father of 13 children has taken on various jobs during his lifetime. His began his career in Jakarta by working with the Ministry of Social Affairs in 1968. He quit two years later.
One year later he decided to become a reporter. Iwan enjoyed his days as reporter before establishing a printing firm in 1982. As a reporter Iwan was given the Adinegoro Award (the highest journalistic award in Indonesia) from the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) in 1981. He quit journalism in 1982.
Supported by groups of indigenous Gayo people, Iwan is very serious about his ambition to establish Gayo province. “We are really determined. I have collected 27,000 signatures from Gayo people who wish to have a new province: We are serious.
That’s why we have invited President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to visit Gayo, to see for himself that we are ready for a new province,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the President has apparently ignored our invitation, despite a claim by an official from the presidential secretariat that the invitation had been sent to Pak Yudhoyono,” he said, showing a copy of the invitation, signed by 10 district heads, underlining the seriousness of the Gayo people’s wish.
According to Iwan, the wish to establish Gayo province was nothing political. “The demand for a new province remains within the context of the unitary state. We just want our own province so that we can exploit our natural resources for the benefit of Gayo people.”
Success in journalism and writing does not subsequently guarantee success in other fields. When it comes to the invitation to the President, Iwan is frustrated and may be losing confidence.
“I have no idea how to cut through all the bureaucratic red tape at the presidential palace,” he said.
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