Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific

While Indonesia mobilises relief effort, the military continues attacks on

Wednesday 19 January 2005, by Max LANE

Throughout Indonesia, people of all backgrounds and from all islands have been mobilising to collect and send aid to the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Aceh.

In almost every neighbourhood collection depots have been inundated with clothes, blankets and food such as dried noodles. Most of the initial goods that arrived at the Jakarta airport were donations from Indonesians. Community groups, religious centres, government departments and even businesses are sending all they can to the Acehnese.

The generous reaction of most Indonesians and the extension of their solidarity to their fellow country folk is taking pace at a time when many Acehnese, understandably, no longer feel fully Indonesian because of Jakarta’s two decade-long militarisation of Aceh.

In the devastated areas of Aceh, according to reports from activists, almost everybody not injured or traumatised by the disaster is helping out. Crisis and distribution centres or "posko" are being staffed by survivors as well as volunteers from East Aceh and other parts of Indonesia. Soldiers have been mobilised to help clear dead bodies from the main thoroughfares.

TNI breaks cease-fire

The odd ones out in this whole scenario is the leadership of the TNI - the Indonesian Armed Forces. While the rest of Indonesia, itself burdened by poverty and underdevelopment and a corrupt and politically bankrupt political and bureaucratic elite, mobilises the best it can, TNI officers have announced that they will not organise an all-out mobilisation for the relief effort.

Reuters news agency quotes a military spokesperson in Aceh, Lieutenant Colonel Edi Sulistiadi, as saying: "There is no cease fire. The policy is, half of our troops in Aceh will be concentrated on the humanitarian operation, and the rest are still focused on security, in a ‘defensive-active’ mode."

The London-based TAPOL human rights group quotes another senior TNI officer in the Aceh military command, Lt Col Nachrowi, as making it clear that the "calamity will not be seen as way for the military to suspend military operations against GAM". He said that "raids to quell secessionists in Aceh will continue unless the President issues a decree to lift the civil emergency."

With estimates of more than 100,000 dead , tens of thousands more under threat of death from disease and starvation, the TNI’s official policy is "only half". When there is a shortage of labour, drivers, and every kind of human skill and effort, the TNI declares: "only half!" The Yudhoyono government must also accept responsibility for this policy - or change it!

From other media and community group reports, it is clear that the TNI’s "defensive-active" mode includes increasing the number of military operations against villages believed to support GAM, the Free Aceh Movement.

Why is this necessary when GAM has offered a cease-fire?

Meanwhile civilian volunteers are being constantly stopped by TNI officials to have their identity checked, and citizen initiatives to obtain and distribute food are often being blocked. Citizens bringing trucks to gather aid to take and distribute ar ebeingturned away because ‘they don’t have the right papers’.

Ceasefire now!

Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific (ASAP) is calling on the Indonesian government to:

Issue an immediate decree to halt to all military operations, agree to a cease fire and lift the emergency and repressive regulations and policies in Aceh;

A full mobilisation for the relief effort - soldiers should leave the weapons in their barracks.

A guarantee that all local-based NGOs will continue to be allowed back into Aceh without fear of repression against their activists;

* The continued unrestricted access to Aceh of all international aid agencies and organisations; and ASAP expresses its solidarity with the collective effort of the Acehnese and Indonesian peoples, and is committed to working with the Achenese in Australia, Aceh and Indonesia to mobilise community funds in Australia for relief and reconstruction work.

Further, ASAP calls on Australians to apply maximum pressure to the Howard government to:

* continue to increase aid in accordance with need, drawing down on Australia’s wasteful and destructive military budget; and

* insist that the Yudhoyono government cease military operations in Aceh and ensure there is a 100% mobilisation for the relief effort.

January 3, 2005

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