/ 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 hasnt 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. Theyve 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] Youve 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 Peoples 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 theyre working on disaster relief. Over the years their organizers were often targeted by the military, but theyve persisted, theyve 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.