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INDONESIA: Military Offensive Halts Aid

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    INDONESIA: Military Offensive on in Tsunami-Hit Aceh - Critics Sonny Inbaraj IPS January 3, 2005 http://www.ipsnews.net/new_nota.asp?idnews=26885 BANGKOK, Jan
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2005
      INDONESIA: Military Offensive on in Tsunami-Hit Aceh -
      Sonny Inbaraj
      January 3, 2005

      BANGKOK, Jan 3 (IPS) - While volunteers, relief
      workers and families are busy collecting and searching
      for bodies in Indonesia's tsunami-stricken Aceh
      province, Indonesian soldiers are continuing their
      offensive against separatist rebels, critics say.

      This, say international human rights groups, is
      hindering the delivery of badly needed humanitarian
      aid to survivors of the world's worst natural disaster
      in 40 years.

      The groups are also urging the Indonesian government
      not to let politics override the emergency needs of
      the Acehnese people.

      Although some reports say that a de facto ceasefire
      has been in place between the military and separatist
      rebels since the Dec. 26 disaster, there are no signs
      yet that the state of civil emergency, which was
      imposed on the province in 2004 to quell the
      separatist movement, will be lifted.

      `'Delays by the Indonesian government in allowing
      international access to Aceh may have needlessly cost
      precious lives. International and Indonesian
      organisations must have unrestricted access to Aceh,''
      said the U.S.-based Non-Violence International in a

      As many as 100,000 people may have been killed in the
      Indonesian provinces of Aceh and elsewhere in North
      Sumatra as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that
      struck the region. The Indonesian government initially
      kept the international community at bay as it
      apparently debated whether to open Aceh up to

      Aceh has been almost entirely closed to any
      international presence due to military operations
      there against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has
      been fighting for independence since 1976. More than
      10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed
      since then.

      The government put the province under martial law on
      May 19, 2003 before reducing this to a state of civil
      emergency one year later.

      `'Under the civil emergency, the Indonesian military
      continue to play a leading role and there has been no
      cutback in the level of military operations in most of
      the territory,'' said Paul Barber of the Britain-based
      human rights group Tapol.

      `'Lifting the civil emergency would require the
      declaration of a presidential decree but Indonesia's
      President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has shown no
      inclination to move in this direction,'' he added.

      On Sunday Jan Egeland, the U.N.'s emergency relief
      coordinator, told reporters that relief efforts after
      the Asian tsunami disaster was falling behind in
      Indonesia. `'We're able to reach out in all of the
      affected countries except in (Indonesia's) Sumatra and
      Aceh at the moment. That is where we are behind,'' he

      All eyes are on whether the government can or will
      make use of the opportunity for reconciliation
      provided by the Dec. 26 disaster to open up Aceh to
      Indonesians and outsiders, and how its relief efforts
      continue will play a key factor in this.

      Many also concede that the military is the institution
      with the best reach and logistics to help out in times
      of disaster.

      At the same time, news reports from Jakarta said
      hundreds of Indonesian military troops, known by their
      Indonesian acronym TNI, were raiding GAM hideouts
      across East and North Aceh, which had been devastated
      by the tsunami.

      Also, 15,000 extra troops are being rushed to Aceh, on
      top of the 40,000 already there, to help with
      humanitarian activities.

      Lt Col D J Nachrowi told `The Jakarta Post' on
      Thursday that the calamity should not be seen as a way
      for the military to suspend security operations
      against GAM.

      `'We are now carrying out two duties: humanitarian
      work and the security operation,'' he told the daily.
      `'The raids to quell the secessionist movement in Aceh
      will continue unless the president issues a decree to
      lift the civil emergency and assign us to merely play
      a humanitarian role in Aceh.''

      Nachrowi's comments infuriated Nasruddin Abubakar, the
      president of Sentral Informasi Referendum Aceh (SIRA).

      `'The government is still maintaining the civil
      emergency and continuing on with military operations
      in Aceh despite the fact that the death toll now is
      close to 100,000. Is the government not yet satisfied
      with the killing?'' he asked in a phone interview with
      IPS. `'Are Acehnese not citizens of Indonesia?''

      Nasruddin said his group had received news from
      volunteers working in the province's devastated
      capital Banda Aceh that the military was interrogating
      survivors making their way to relief centres,
      suspecting them of being GAM members.

      `'We want to draw everyone's attention to the need to
      save the Acehnese from death,'' he pleaded.

      The New York-based East Timor Action Network (ETAN)
      urged aid organisations and agencies to work as
      closely as possible with local civil society groups
      and to resist Indonesian government and military
      attempts to keep non-governmental local groups out of
      the process.

      `'The high level of corruption in Indonesia,
      especially in Aceh, and the great distrust of Aceh's
      (provincial) government make it crucial that aid
      groups be allowed to distribute urgently needed food,
      medical supplies, and other assistance outside of
      government channels, distributing aid directly and
      through local NGOs,'' said ETAN's Karen Orenstein.

      Tapol's Barber warned that natural disaster such as
      that which struck Aceh a week ago will only serve to
      reinforce the military's role under the cover of
      becoming involved in humanitarian activities.

      `'Following the imposition of martial law in May 2003,
      local NGOs fled from Aceh because of intimidation and
      the threat of violence against their activists,'' said

      `'Even now, Acehnese activists based in Jakarta and
      neighbouring Malaysia know that they would be taking
      great risks if they return to their homeland to help
      provide succour for the stricken population,'' he

      According to Stratfor Global Intelligence, a security
      analysis website, the tsunami disaster could prove to
      be a boon to Jakarta in its campaign against GAM.

      `'(President) Yudhoyono will send more troops into the
      province to rebuild and clean up...If GAM does not
      agree to settle the problem peacefully, Yudhoyono will
      have more troops on hand to clean them out,'' wrote
      the analysts at Stratfor. (END/2005)




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