Thursday, January 13, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ CAGI's Press Release (Update)

Compilation of media coverage of CAGI's press release and calls. Again, I put them in chronological order.


Source: Yahoo! News
Date: 7 Jan 2005

Human rights group warn military impeding relief effort in Aceh

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia's military campaign to crush a long-running rebellion in Aceh and restrictions imposed on aid groups in the remote province are hindering disaster relief efforts, human rights groups warned.

Human Rights Watch called for the military to be stripped of its role in distributing relief supplies and escorting charity groups amid reports of tsunami survivors linked to the rebels being denied aid.

It also urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to revoke a state of emergency imposed in 2003 as part of a fresh military offensive in Aceh that banned non-government organisations and the foreign media from the province.

The restrictions have been loosened in the wake of the December 26 tsunami disaster, which has killed more than 101,000 people in Aceh, to enable relief efforts, but martial law remains in place.

In an open letter to Yudhoyono, Human Rights Watch executive director for Asia, Brad Adams, said many soldiers had performed a vital task in addressing the immediate needs of the survivors with dedication and compassion.

"Human Rights Watch appreciates the commitment of so many in the Indonesian armed forces to provide protection and assistance at this critical time," Adams said.

"However... it is important for duties to be handed over to the appropriate government agencies and experienced, professional aid organisations -- both national and international -- as soon as possible."

Adams said aid groups were capable of delivering supplies in Aceh without the need of military escorts, and that soldiers would be more effective spending their time rebuilding roads.

"These organisations know well how to operate in areas of conflict and should be allowed to get on with their crucial tasks," he said.

"They should be allowed to deliver aid directly to populations in need, without military escort or presence, except where their physical security necessitates a military presence."

Adams referred to reports that aid agencies had been pressured, and occasionally forced, to turn over aid to the military for delivery.

"We urge you to publicly issue instructions that any such practices be halted. There is no justification for agencies to be required to deliver aid via the military."

He said non-government organisations had reported "that some in the army have not distributed humanitarian assistance in an impartial manner, denying help to perceived GAM supporters".

The GAM is the Indonesian acronym for the Free Aceh Movement, the rebel group that has been fighting for independence for the resource-rich province since 1976, with the conflict claiming thousands of lives.

The rebels and government forces both announced ceasefires in the days after the tsunamis struck, but there have been many reports of clashes since, with the military reporting at least three insurgents have been killed.

The military has accused the rebels of attacking aid convoys, an accusation vehemently denied by insurgent leaders who say they are only using their weapons in self-defence.

A coalition of human rights activists in Canada also expressed grave concern over the role of government forces in Aceh.

"It is completely unacceptable that the military is engaged in launching attacks against the civilian population and delivering relief aid at the same time," says Nancy Slamet, of the KAIROS' International Human Rights Program.

Alex Hill, of another Canadian rights group, Alternatives, accused the government of continuing to cover up its military offensive in Aceh.

"The Indonesian military is afraid to allow international aid organisations and journalists free access to the region because the military has been engaged in a dirty war there for many years," Hill said.


Source: Yahoo! Finance UK & Ireland
Date: 7 Jan 2005

Aid groups demand end to Indonesian military role in Aceh quake relief

TORONTO (AFX) - Canada pressed Indonesia to safeguard a ceasefire between its military and separatist rebels in the tsunami-striken region of Aceh, as reports surfaced of fresh fighting.

Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said he had raised the issue with Indonesian counterpart Hasan Wirayuda in Jakarta on Wednesday, becoming the latest of several western political leaders to do so.

'I made it clear that Canada wants that ceasefire to be respected by all parties including the military and the independence movement,' Pettigrew told reporters in a conference call from Phuket, Thailand.

His remarks followed a demand by human rights groups for the withdrawal of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) from emergency relief efforts in the area devastated by the Dec 26 tragedy.

'It is completely unacceptable that the military is engaged in launching attacks against the civilian population and delivering relief aid at the same time,' says Nancy Slamet, of the Canada-based KAIROS' International Human Rights Program.

A TNI spokesman admitted last week that despite the disaster an offensive against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM (Madrid: GAM.MC - news)) was continuing in the region, which saw at least 100,000 people killed in the tsunami tragedy.

But Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yesterday repeated a call to separatist rebels in the tsunami-hit province of Aceh to end the conflict.

An Agence France-Presse reporter in Aceh said yesterday that clashes broke out between soldiers and rebels in Lhok Nga, near a beach still littered with debris from the tragedy.

International human rights groups have accused the Indonesian military of widespread abuses in Aceh. The much smaller GAM force has also been accused of atrocities.

More than 10,000 people died in the province between 1976, when GAM began its independence struggle, and May, 2003, when the military began a fresh offensive against the rebels.

Since then the military says more than 1,000 rebels have died, though rights groups say many of the dead are civilians.

Note: This message also appeared on Interactive Investor website in England on the same day and the same title. Here's the link.


Date: 9 Jan 2005

Indonesia Tsunami Toll Exceeds 104,000

Laksamana.Net - The government says the December 26 earthquake and tsunamis killed at least 104,055 people in northern Sumatra and more than 10,000 are still missing.

The disaster killed about 160,000 people in 13 countries in Asia and Africa. Most of the victims were from Aceh province on the northwestern tip of Sumatra, closest to the epicenter of the 9 magnitude quake.

About 5 million people who survived the disaster are now homeless and in urgent need of help amid growing fears of outbreaks of disease.

Crossfire Concern
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has expressed concern that aid workers in Aceh could be caught in crossfire between the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) and separatist rebels.

He also said Australian aid workers could later be targeted by Muslim extremists as Canberra delivers its $762 million long-term relief package to Indonesia over five years, The Weekend Australian reported.

Downer said it was unlikely that aid workers would be attacked by extremists in the short-term because such action would be condemned by Indonesians, but it was possible they could get caught up in skirmishes between TNI and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

"I don't have any evidence that these people are going to attack Australians in Aceh, I think it would be unlikely, but the insurgents, GAM, might get into some kind of a military exchange with TNI and it's conceivable Australians could end up in the crossfire there," he said.

About 500 Australian military personnel are assisting with relief efforts in Indonesia, while another 300 are now travelling to Aceh on a warship carrying supplies.

‘Don’t Fear Foreigners’
Navy chief Admiral Bernard Kent Sondakh said Friday there was no need for Indonesians to be suspicious about the presence of foreign warships in waters off Aceh coast because they were there on a humanitarian mission.

"We need not worry about the foreign warships although we have to remain alert. Being military units, they entered our waters according to certain standing procedures," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.

He said Indonesia should be grateful for the presence of the foreign warships because Indonesia still lacks sufficient air transportation capable of reaching all of the devastated parts of Aceh.

He said the Navy has sent 28 warships and 10 airplanes to Aceh to help facilitate the evacuation of victims and the distribution of aid.

Legislator Theo Sambuaga, who chairs parliament’s commission on defense, also said it was unnecessary to fear the presence of the foreign soldiers.

"We need their assistance. "The government has coordinated their presence since the first day. I am sure they come not for war but a humanitarian operation," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

Several US vessels, including an aircraft carrier, are among those involved in the relief operations. The US Embassy in Jakarta says American troops are using Seahawk helicopters and Hercules transport planes to deliver food, water and medicine to survivors who have been cut off from off assistance for more than a week.

“Indonesian and American military personnel are cooperating heavily in this operation. Indonesian soldiers, for example, accompany the aircrew on each helicopter in order to help offload the supplies and keep refugees at a safe distance from the helicopters. Additional US military assets continue to be deployed to the region to participate in the relief operation,” the embassy said.

China’s People's Liberation Army has flown hundreds of tons of food, water, blankets, tents and other supplies to Aceh in what has been described as the country's biggest peacetime overseas humanitarian mission.

Japan has also ordered its military to assist with the relief efforts in Aceh. Japanese Defense Minister Yoshinori Ohno ordered about 800 troops, army medical personnel and airlift teams, Navy vessels, and Air Force transport aircraft to be ready to deploy, Reuters reported.

Britain has sent two naval vessels, two helicopters and a Royal Air Force cargo plane to the disaster-affected areas, but Indonesia has reportedly rejected Britain’s offer of 120 Gurkha troops, saying no additional ground troops are needed.

Germany’s military has set up a mobile hospital in Aceh and is reportedly sending more troops to the province.

The Indian Navy has sent a hospital ship to Aceh, while Brunei has said it will send a Black Hawk helicopter carrying food, medical supplies and paramedics to the province.

Canada Calls for Ceasefire
Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said Friday he had urged the Indonesian government to ensure a ceasefire between TNI and GAM to facilitate the relief operations.

Pettigrew said he raised the issue in a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirajuda in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"I made it clear that Canada wants that ceasefire to be respected by all parties including the military and the independence movement," he was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

Canadian human rights groups on Thursday issued a statement demanding that the Indonesian government immediately cease all non-aid related military operations in Aceh.

Following is the statement issued by Canada-based rights group KAIROS, as well as an open letter urging Pettigrew to pressure Indonesia to stop operations against the separatists.

Canadian Coalition Demands Demilitarization of Aid in Aceh, as Indonesian Military Continues Attacks
06 January 2005
For Immediate Release

(Montreal) – An ad hoc coalition of major Canadian civil society and aid organizations is demanding that the Indonesian government immediately cease all non-aid related military operations in Aceh in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster. The organizations condemn the Indonesian military’s failure to adhere to a ceasefire in Aceh province and its role in hindering the delivery of emergency aid.

The coalition includes KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Rights and Democracy, Alternatives and other groups working on human rights and development issues in Indonesia. The demand came on the eve of today’s major summit in Jakarta where senior government officials of donor and tsunami affected countries are discussing relief efforts.

In a letter sent yesterday to the federal ministers responsible for Canada’s response to the tsunami disaster, the coalition asserts that the Indonesian army's leading role in delivering aid is compromising the welfare of the Acehnese people.

“It is completely unacceptable that the military is engaged in launching attacks against the civilian population and delivering relief aid at the same time,” says Nancy Slamet, Coordinator of KAIROS’ International Human Rights Program in Asia who recently traveled to Sumatra.

Despite assurances by Indonesian military chief General Endriartono Sutarto of a ceasefire in Aceh province, the military headquarters general information department has announced the army will continue to launch raids into suspected rebel areas as part of its on-going “security” operations.

“This prevents many tsunami victims from receiving help because they are afraid of being suspected as separatists,” says Alex Hill, Indonesia Program Officer for Alternatives. “Moreover, the Indonesian military is afraid to allow international aid organizations and journalists free access to the region because the military has been engaged in a dirty war there for many years”.

From May 2003 until the tsunami disaster, Indonesia prohibited international journalists and aid organizations from having any access to Aceh.

The coalition is also calling on the Canadian government to:
  • press Indonesian authorities to allow unrestricted access to the entire province by international and Indonesian civil society organizations and journalists;
  • deliver all Canadian government aid as directly as possible to the affected population, with a priority to civil society organizations; and
  • demand the demilitarization of Aceh, under a negotiated peace agreement.

The coalition also includes the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace; Pacific People’s Partnership; Canadians Concerned about Ethnic Violence in Indonesia (CCEVI); West Papua Action Network (WESPAN); Canadian Action for Indonesia and East Timor; Green Lotus International and Mining Watch Canada.

Ongoing Indonesian military operations and the military’s role in the delivery of aid to the tsunami-affected people of Aceh
5 January 2005

The Honourable Pierre Pettigrew, MP, PC, Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Honourable Aileen Carroll, MP, PC, Minister for International Cooperation
The Honourable Bill Graham, MP, PC, Minister for Defense Dear

Mr. Pettigrew, Ms. Carroll, and Mr. Graham:

As organizations that have a long history of supporting human rights, justice and democracy in Indonesia, we are writing to express our grave concern about the ongoing military operation in Aceh and the lead role that the Indonesian military is playing in the region’s relief operation. Based on reports that we have received and information from partner organizations, we would like to draw your attention to Indonesian military policies and actions which severely compromise the well being of the victims of the tsunami-earthquake disaster.
On December 31, the Indonesian military headquarters information centre announced that operations against separatist rebels would continue during this time of humanitarian crisis. Later, military spokesperson, Lieutenant Col. Edi Sulistiadi announced that “… half of our troops in Aceh will be concentrated on the humanitarian operation, and the rest still focused on security, in a ‘defensive-active’ mode.” This is a reversal of the military’s earlier declaration of a cease-fire which would free-up all personnel to carry out relief efforts. In addition to diverting equipment and resources away from responding to this emergency, media and community groups report that the Indonesian military is increasing its operations against civilians and raiding villages believed to support the separatist rebels.

This continued military operation in Aceh - the largest since the invasion of East Timor - is precisely why the army’s leading role in delivering aid is very problematic. Since the beginning of its offensive in May 2003, human rights organizations, including the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, have identified the military as responsible for gross human rights violations against the civilian population. Furthermore, media and local non-governmental organizations are now reporting the systemic misappropriation of aid by the military. We have received accounts of theft of food aid and logistical supplies, and military involvement in the sale of aid to victims in Banda Aceh, Bireun and Meulaboh.

As the international community gathers in Jakarta for tomorrow’s meeting of donors and affected countries, we call on the Canadian government to do the following in order for Canada’s urgently needed assistance to reach the people of Aceh:

  • Press the Indonesian government to unequivocally declare and respect a cease fire, halt all military operations and lift the state of civil emergency in Aceh. These immediate steps should be followed by the demilitarization of Aceh under some form of international guarantee. Law enforcement should be carried out by local police with the support of international police under UN responsibility.
  • Deliver foreign aid as directly as possible to the affected populace. International organizations should be allowed to provide assistance outside of military channels and to distribute aid directly and through local NGOs. Only if the military is disarmed and placed under civilian oversight should it be allowed to carry out humanitarian and reconstruction tasks.
  • Channel all Canadian aid through effective mechanisms with a priority to international, Canadian and local civil society organizations until Aceh is demilitarized.
  • Press the Indonesian government to allow unrestricted access to the entire province by international and Indonesian civil society organizations for an unlimited length of time, and to allow for international monitoring and media reporting on relief efforts and human rights conditions.
  • Take rigourous steps to ensure that corruption by military and government officials do not dissipate aid efforts.
  • Guarantee that Canadian aid is not used for military purposes.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing concerns and request a meeting to discuss these matters further following the Jakarta meeting.

Jean-Louis Roy, President, Rights and Democracy.
Mary Corkery, Executive Director, KAIROS: Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.
Pierre Beaudet, Director General, Alternatives.
Richard Renshaw, Acting Executive Director, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.
Rita Parikh, Executive Director, Pacific People’s Partnership.
Seh Ching Wen, President, Canadians Concerned about Ethnic Violence in Indonesia (CCEVI).
David Webster & Luisa Durante, West Papua Action Network (WESPAN).
Maggie Helwig, Coordinator, Canadian Action for Indonesia and East Timor.
Michael Kerr, Director, Green Lotus International.

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