Monday, January 31, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ Concern over Aid and Military

A compilation of news coverage from growing intolerance towards foreign media, military procurement, unfair distribution of aid by military, transition to civilian led relief efforts, malnutrition amongst children in Aceh, and a call for Acehnese involvement in post-disaster reconstruction.


Source: Reporters sans frontières (RSF),
Date: 27 Jan 2005

Press Release
27 January 2005

Army steps up restrictions on foreign journalists in Aceh

A month after an earthquake and a tsunami devastated Sumatra island, and especially Aceh province, Reporters Without Borders today said it was very worried by signs of growing Indonesian army intolerance towards the foreign news media, in which at least five journalists have been briefly detained or asked to leave Aceh and new rules have restricted press work.

"It would be very regrettable if we returned to the situation prevailingbefore the earthquake, when Aceh province was closed to the foreign media, "the press freedom organisation said. "Journalists must have access to all the affected areas and no special regulations should be applied to either the local or international press."

Reporters Without Borders also called on the authorities to explain why they expelled US freelance journalist William Nessen from Jakarta on 24 January, a day after arresting him as he left Aceh province. The authorities have so far just said he violated a territorial ban imposed on him in August 2003 after his first arrest in Aceh. At that time, he was sentenced to 40 days in prison for violating the immigration laws and was banned from Indonesia for a year. But that ban expired in August 2004.

A photojournalist and regular contributor to The San Francisco Chronicle and The Sydney Morning Herald, Nessen is the only foreign reporter to have covered the Indonesian army's May 2003 offensive against the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM) from the rebel side.

Nessen told Reporters Without Borders he entered Indonesia and Aceh legally on 2 January, and was arrested by immigration officials as he left Aceh on 23 January, apparently at the request of military intelligence. He was interrogated about his activities in Aceh and, before he was expelled, the order banning him from Indonesian territory was extended to August 2005.

Previously, on 7 January, Martin Chulov and Renee Nowytager of The Australian were threatened and asked to leave the area by Indonesian soldiers who had just come under fire from GAM rebels. "Your duty is to observe the disaster and not the war between the army and the GAM," an officer told them.

Michael Lev, a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, and his Indonesian fixer, Handewi Pramesti, were arrested on 29 December by soldiers in Meulaboh (Aceh) and held for 28 hours.

Several hundred foreign journalists have gone to Aceh province since 26 December. Foreign ministry officials in Medan registered about 100 arrivals between 30 December and 15 January. At President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's instigation, the authorities gave the press a great deal of access to the areas hit by the tsunami.

But the Indonesian army announced on 13 January that journalists and humanitarian workers would henceforth have only limited access to the two main cities, Banda Aceh and Meulaboh. And citing security grounds, the authorities threatened to expel journalists who did not inform them of their plans.

Bruno Bonamigo of the state-owned Radio Canada was a few days later prevented by the authorities from going to Sigli, in the north of Aceh province, to follow the work of Doctors Without Borders.

The Aceh press has meanwhile been badly hit by the earthquake and tsunami. Some 20 local journalists have been killed or are missing, and most news media premises have been destroyed. But with international help, newspapers and radio stations such as the daily Serambi reappeared again just a few days after the tsunami.

The declaration of martial law in Aceh in May 2003 allowed the military authorities to impose very restrictive measures on the press and silence journalists who were covering the bloody war against the GAM rebels. Thereafter, the only way for Indonesian and foreign journalists to enter the theatre of operations was to join the press "pools" attached to army units. Aceh's few news media were put under surveillance.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: 29 Jan 2005

Synergies Needed to Build Modern Defense Industry
By Ridwan Max Sijabat - Jakarta

In view of the limited defense budget, the government and the military should form a strong synergy with research centers, universities and financial institutions to build a modern defense industry subordinate to the country's national defense system, military and defense experts say.

According to the experts, the government has to show a strong commitment to gradually raising the defense budget and pursuing self-sufficiency in its arsenal supply, while universities and research centers have to play their own roles in conduct research in developing military technology.

Prof. Said D. Jenie of the Ministry of Research and Technology said that the Indonesian Military (TNI) had listed certain technology and weaponry that needed to be built in cooperation with non-department government agencies (LPNDs) and their research centers.

"The TNI's need for military equipment in strategic intelligence, defense, security and logistical matters is within the domain of LPNDs' capability and, therefore, close cooperation between the relevant parties should be enhanced to achieve self-sufficiency in the defense field," he said in his paper presented during a round-table discussion on the defense industry here on Wednesday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who officially opened the discussion, expressed his commitment to increasing defense spending to between 3percent and 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the current 1 percent in a bid to build a modern defense force.

Jenie explained that the country's LPNDs -- Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), National Aeronautics and Aerospace Agency (Lapan), National Atomic Agency (Batan), National Agency for Research and Application of Technology (BPPT), Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) and TNI's research centers -- had their own fields of expertise in research, development, engineering and operations.

Budhi Santoso, president of state-owned arms manufacturer PT Pindad in Bandung, West Java, said that to be realistic in terms of global weaponry systems development and the country's large territory and potential threats, the time has come for the country to start developing nuclear and missile technology in its defense system through transfer of technology, forward (or classical) engineering, or reverse engineering.

"Research centers, defense industries and universities should form three main groups in developing missile technology. If Indonesia cannot obtain the technology through bilateral cooperation with other countries, we can do it through forward engineering or reverse engineering," he said.

He said that Pindad, state-owned electronic firm PT LEN, Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and the Army have studied rapier missile technology by dismantling a rapier missile.

D. Sasongko, dean of ITB's industrial technology department said ITB, the University of Indonesia in Jakarta and Gadjahmada University in Yogyakarta had qualified human resources that could be involved in conducting research and experiments in developing the modern industry.

ITB, for example has many experts in nuclear technology, aeronautical engineering, biotechnology and remote sensing technology while UI has many experts in defense studies.

I Dewa Putu Rai, deputy chief of the National Planning and Development Board
(Bappenas), called on commercial banks to help finance research programs in military technology and provide credit to defense industries to produce the necessary military equipment and machinery.

"The country should no longer depend on the export credit in arms purchases because such a mechanism is no longer adequate in meeting the demand for military equipment it needs at present," he said.

In addition, the government also plans to regroup all military business entities into a major holding company to make them more profitable in a bid to enable the military to cover its annual routine expenditure and improve its personnel's social welfare, who number 500,000.


Source: The Standard Times
Date: 29 Jan 2005

Indonesia children suffering
U.N. calls tsunami relief inadequate
By Chris Rummitt (Associated Press writer)

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- One in eight children in Indonesia's Aceh province are malnourished, disease still stalks refugee camps and relief deliveries are erratic more than a month after a tsunami devastated the region, U.N. officials said yesterday.

Securing aid deliveries -- as well as how to cement a brittle cease-fire in their three-decade conflict -- were the focus of talks yesterday in Finland between the Indonesian government and Aceh rebel leaders that were spurred by the tsunami. Separately, Tamil Tiger insurgents in tsunami-hit Sri Lanka said they were temporarily putting their separatist struggle on hold to focus on the disaster.

On Thailand's resort island of Phuket, delegates from dozens of countries debated where a regional tsunami warning system should be based and what technology is needed to make it work.

Despite the bleak humanitarian review in Aceh, the overall picture was one of improvement, a senior U.N. official told The Associated Press. Aceh bore the brunt of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami, which killed between 145,000 and 178,000 people in 11 countries and left tens of thousands more missing and feared dead.

"We know there are needs that are not being met," said Bo Asplund, the U.N. representative in Indonesia, speaking in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. But the world body was "no longer worried about (whether) anyone is starving. The schools are reopening. That is a sure sign of recovery."

One U.N. report said unsanitary conditions are appalling in refugee camps along Aceh's west coast -- the closest land to the earthquake's epicenter. Some camps have no latrines, forcing people to defecate in fields or near rivers and ponds where they also bathe.

Asplund acknowledged the conditions, but said the situation was "well onto the path of recovery."

In a separate report, the United Nations said 12.7 percent of children in Banda Aceh are malnourished -- a condition that stunts growth, retards mental development and weakens the immune system. The situation, which UNICEF described as a "critical emergency," could be even worse outside the city, it said.

In Calang, a devastated city on Aceh's west coast, children have dry skin and pale lips, signs of malnutrition, said Dr. Epi, who like some Indonesians uses only one name. They have only rice, crackers and noodles to eat and lack enough protein-rich food such as meat and fish.

Meanwhile, the United Nations said yesterday that although most emergency needs of victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami had been met, the early recovery effort looming ahead still needs millions of dollars.

The United Nations appeal for $977 million for the first six months of emergency tsunami relief work has received pledges of $799 million but funding gaps still exist.

Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the U.N. Development Program, told U.N. members in a briefing yesterday that "only small pledges" have been made for early recovery efforts, such as providing shelter, digging wells, clearing roads, repairing boats, unblocking irrigation canals and distributing tools and seeds.

More than 60 countries have pledged around $7 billion to help the tsunami victims but this includes long-term reconstruction aid.

Brown said the U.N.D.P. needed $175 million, but pledges and commitments only came to $58 million, leaving a funding gap of $117 million. Other agencies had received less than half the money they needed, he said.

He urged donors to convert their generous pledges into contributions, "please as quickly as you can."

He also called on them to remain committed. "Please, please as the cameras start to go away, sustain your interest and commitment in rebuilding even as this terrible disaster leaves the headlines."


Source: The Age (Melbourne)
Date: 30 Jan 2005

Concern Over Aid as Emergency Effort Ends
By Mark Forbes

Banda Aceh - The emergency stage of the relief operation in Indonesia's Aceh is over but chaotic logistics are hindering aid distribution, according to the United Nations.

The UN's top official in Indonesia, Bo Asplund, told The Sunday Age that civilian agencies would soon take over from Australian and other military forces in the tsunami-ravaged province.

He said he was concerned about an aid bottleneck in the town of Calang and the difficulties of delivering supplies to thousands of displaced Indonesians.

When The Sunday Age flew to Calang, mountains of aid supplies overshadowed the beachfront, with large piles of food and clothing exposed to the elements.

Some locals complained that the best quality food had been confiscated by the Indonesian military, which was controlling aid storage in the town.

Mr Asplund said the situation in Calang "doesn't look like a very pretty picture... there's been a large number of drops there and yesterday I saw them sitting in the sun and I wasn't very happy."

Only 800 of 10,000 people survived the 30-metre-high wave that wiped the town, once the second-largest on Aceh's west coast, off the map.

Chris McCann, a World Food Program official in Calang, said it had been a great effort for the aid to arrive in Calang, but some oversupplied items such as clothing were not a priority.

Although aid agencies, not the army, were meant to be controlling the aid, Mr McCann said "the military is the only structure to bring order to the chaos, we have to use them".

Another WFP worker, Tommy Thomson, said it was impossible to distribute the aid as all vehicles in the area had been swept away in the tsunami.

Road rebuilding should enable the distribution of the stockpiles, he said.

Captain Amrul of the Indonesian army said his troops were providing storage and security for the arriving aid. When The Sunday Age began to photograph the aid mountains, he shouted "don't disgrace our country".

Also overseeing the aid for local authorities was wave survivor Amran. "The better food was taken by the army and the worst food was given to the people," he said.

Amran said he was grateful for the aid being sent. "Before the aid came, we didn't eat for five days, now I am not hungry."

Food supplies were now reaching almost all the 400,000 displaced Indonesians on Aceh, Mr Asplund said.

"We are beyond the immediate relief stage, that's quite clear," he said. "We are now worrying about issues like getting kids to school, preventing outbreaks of disease, providing livelihoods to people. The military assetst end to be in the relief stage, then as things move forward, they move away."

The UN had prepared a plan to gradually take over from the military, Mr Asplund said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Cumming, commander of the Australian Engineers in Aceh, agreed that "the emergency part of this operation is over and we are now seeing the support stage, which is often carried out by civilian agencies".

The Australian Government would decide the specifics and timing of the withdrawal from Aceh, he said.


Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Date: 30 Jan 2005

Meagre Food Supply Stunting Tsunami Kids
By Chris Brummitt (The Sun Herald) in Banda Aceh

One in eight children in Indonesia's Aceh province are getting so little food that their growth is threatened, two UN reports say.

And disease stalks refugee camps, with relief deliveries still erratic more than one month after a tsunami devastated the region.

"We know there are needs that are not being met," said Bo Asplund, the UN representative in Indonesia, speaking in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

But the world body was "no longer worried about [whether] anyone is starving", he said. "The schools are reopening. That is a sure sign of recovery".

One UN report said unsanitary conditions were appalling in refugee camps along Aceh's west coast, the closest land to the earthquake's epicentre.

Some camps have no toilets, forcing people to defecate in fields or near rivers and ponds where they also bathe.

Mr Asplund acknowledged the conditions, but said the situation was "well onto the path of recovery".

In a separate report, the UN children's agency said 12.7 per cent ofchildren in Banda Aceh were malnourished - a condition that stunts growth, retards mental development and weakens the immune system.

The situation, which UNICEF said was a "critical emergency", could be even worse outside the city, it said.

"It's a scary finding... unless we improve water and sanitation in the camps where these children are staying, it's going to get worse," said Ali Mokdad, a US researcher in charge of a UNICEF survey team.


Source: Aceh Kita
Date: 31 Jan 2005

AWG (Aceh Working Group) Asks the Government to Study the Special Authority Body
Reporter: AK-25 - Jakarta, 2005-01-31 13:23:22

Jakarta, Acehkita. AWG (Aceh Working Group), asks the government to re-study to form the BOK (Badan Otorita Khusus) - Special Authority Body to handle post-disaster Aceh.

AWG coordinator, Rusdi Marpaung explains the need of the government to wait inputs and readiness from the other cities in Aceh, which do not suffer from the disaster, before taking the direct policy to form the BOK. This step in necessary so that the society will be able to directly involved in rebuilding Aceh.

"Emergency respond, rehabilitation, and reconstruction, is done to guarantee the freedom of civil society to be involved in the planning process, the execution, supervising, and result, Rusdi said in an AWG press conference in Imparsial Office, Menteng, Jakarta on Wednesday (26/1).

According to AWG, the forming of BOK will only open a business opportunity for those with enough capitals. If that happens, they will only put the people of Aceh and Sumatra Utara as an object.

Meanwhile, AWG also sees that the government has not seriously taking care of the truce with GAM. 60 thousands of TNI personnel made the humanity mission does not run well because their status is not clear.

AWG records, that there are 34 weapon contacts, and at least 100 abusive actions in various forms, such as physical contact, intimidating, capturing and detention without clear reasons. Besides, Combined Intelligent operation does nothing but limiting the working rooms for volunteers and concentration of aid falls in military hands.

Only GAM intents to maintain truce, Indonesian government has not officially done that," said Otto Syamsudin Ishak, one of the AWG activists.

This has to do ith the second civil emergency in Aceh, already in the second month. That way, AWG has seen that there are redundancies law and political interests in the recovery process of Aceh. With som many military personel, AWG said that the peace talk with GAM would not run smoothly. Meanwhile, humanity operation needs a peaceful situation to ensure economical, social, cultural, and political rights of a civilian. [dan]

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