Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Aiding Aceh

/ aid / carefully /
Allan Nairn, whose brave and brilliant reports from East Timor were instrumental in keeping up world attention to the beleaguered nation and the destruction wrought by Indonesian occupation forces, and who knows Indonesia from up close, has a few important things to say about aiding Aceh, the northern part of Sumatra and hardest hit by the earthquake/tsunami (the casualties are probably near 100,000 in the province), in an interview to Seven Oaks magazine:

[Q]: A number of activist groups in the United States have concerns that the Indonesian government will hamper disaster relief efforts, and also that they will exploit the situation to further repress Acehnese political activists. Do you know of, or see evidence of this taking place in Aceh?

[AN] Well, the Indonesian military is doing that as we speak. They are continuing to attack villages, more than a dozen villages in East Aceh and North Aceh away from the coast, even though General Susilo, the president of Indonesia, announced that they would be lifting the state of siege. He hasn’t actually done it. And an Indonesian military spokesman came out and said, ‘we will keep attacking until the President tells us to stop.’

The military is also impeding the flow of aid. They’ve commandeered a hanger at the Banda Aceh airport, where they are taking control of internationally shipped in supplies. We just got a report this afternoon that the distribution of supplies is being done in some towns and villages only to people who hold the ‘red and white,’ which is a special ID card issued to Acehnese by the Indonesian police. You have to go to a police station to get one of these ID cards, and it is only issued to people who the police certify as not being opponents of the army, not being critics of the government. Of course many people are afraid to go and apply for such a card.

Importantly he goes on to suggest a way to circumvent the Indonesian military's handling of aid:

[Q] You’ve mentioned some problems with the established NGOs working in Indonesia and Aceh. Is there a way that people can contribute to the relief effort, and to efforts to raise awareness about the situation in Aceh more generally?

[AN] Yes, fortunately there is a way around the problem of Indonesian military cooptation of the UN and big mainstream relief channels. And that is to give directly to the grassroots Acehnese groups, which have been working for years with people in the refugee camps and which – even though their people are at risk – can deliver aid directly to the public because they do not have these contractual relationships with the Indonesian government and military. One such group is the People’s Crisis Center (PCC) of Aceh, which for years has been going into the ‘re-education camps,’ which are set up by the Indonesian military – farmers are driven off their land, put into these camps to have their thoughts cleansed by military propagandists. And the children in these camps were often going hungry, not getting clean water, not getting schooling, and people from the PCC would come in and try to aid the children and give some education and some subsistence. And now they’re working on disaster relief. Over the years their organizers were often targeted by the military, but they’ve persisted, they’ve been very brave.
Now the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) of the United States is channeling aid to the PCC and similar on-the-ground Acehnese groups. So if people want to donate, they can go to the ETAN U.S. website.

That last site, has information for American citizens' contributions and refers Europeans to the TAPOL site, which also offers important background information on Aceh and the insurgency there.


Anonymous said...

Aceh has always left me torn between loathing for the Indonesian military (an organization with a long and disgusting history of vicious human rights abuses) and utter lack of enthusiasm for Acehnese independence (in addition to being the most fanatic Muslims in SE Asia, heavily influenced by Wahhabism, the Acehnese also have a reputation across the archipelago for being authoritarian, violent, and just generally hard bastards).

Reminds me a little of Kosovo, and no, I'm not baiting you.

How clean is the PCC, do we know? I assume the Indonesian military would have messed it up if there were obvious guerrilla connections (and might have anyway, even if there weren't), but is there any independent commentary?

-- In other news: I'd mail this direct but I lost your e-address -- sorry:

Cyprus FM: Resumption of talks possible after May 2005

Larnaca, Jan 9 (CNA) --- Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou believes that it is possible for negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem to resume after May 2005.

Iacovou noted that two so-called elections will take place in Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas, one in February and one in May and added that "as usual, until these elections are finished, nothing will happen".

"We have a clear position on that, which was made known to all interested, and that is that we can participate to negotiations for solving the Cyprus problem", he said.

-- I understand why Greek Cypriots must always refer to the "so-called" government of Turkish Cyprus, its "so-called" Prime Minister, and so forth. But "so-called" elections? And "we have a clear position... that we can participate to negotiations". Well, that's super. Do you have a position /in/ the negotiations? (Rhetorical question. He doesn't.)

Anyhow, looks like May at the earliest. As noted, I wouldn't be surprised to see a new referendum late this year or (more likely) early in 2005. I also wouldn't be surprised to see it fail again, but that's getting a little ahead.

Doug M.

Anonymous said...

Grimmer and grimmer...

nonetheless, I hope you have personal joy in your life. And don't get jaded with the blogosphere.

- david tiley

(I linked to the Aceh story - this is a very nasty undercurrent here in Australia, as you can well imagine. We help to train the buggers.)

talos said...

The silver lining over here is the incredible response to the tragedy - approximately 2 Euros / capita were raised for aid to the afflicted areas (a record).

As for Aceh, things are worsening as Indonesia restricts aid work in the area.

Doug: I'm not going overboard on the independence idea either, but surely the Kopasus people are shooting for some sort of brutality award... PCC seems legit (Nairn wouldn't have plugged for it if they weren't and HRW has said a few nice things about them... Whether they're *infiltrated* is another issue - I have no clue...

talos said...

Damn! I had forgotten to actually link to the interview! Corrected now....