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Aceh: Indonesian military sabotage relief work
THE CATASTROPHIC effects of the tsunami in Aceh on the northern edge of Sumatra, Indonesia, have been made worse by a lack of relief coordination, bureaucracy, corruption, and the continued Indonesian 'state of emergency', despite the separatist Free Aceh Movement's (Gam) unilateral ceasefire.
Arne Johansson, Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI, Sweden)
Relief work is being sabotaged by the military's continued hunt for Gam rebels and suspected "infiltrators" in the refugee camps.
Gam's official spokesman, Bakhtiar Abdullah, told Offensiv (weekly paper of the RS) of an incident where some 200 traumatised refugees near Kloeng Raya, who were harassed by the army, fled from a refugee camp leaving the aid behind in the hands of the soldiers.
Gam deplores the provocative entry of new thuggish elements into Aceh. These are the so-called Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who were formed by the generals as a vanguard of thugs and petty criminals against the Indonesian pro-democracy movement in 1998. Also present are elements of the Indonesia Mujahedin Council (MMI), who want to turn Indonesia into a theocratic dictatorship.
According to Bakhtiar, 250 'aid workers' from these organisations were flown into Aceh by military Hercules planes. According to Gam these organisations have no roots in Aceh and are hostile to the tolerant attitudes of Acehnese Muslims.
The arrival of FPI and MMI to Aceh are signs of concern among hardline Indonesian generals about the impact of foreign relief workers, in the up to now closed war zone, in exposing the repressive role of the Indonesian military. The military, after only a few months (in May 2003), succeeded in sabotaging the peace process and ceasefire negotiated in late 2002.
OPEN PREPARATIONS for a public theft operation of foreign aid are taking place. The Jakarta Post (10 January) warned that the government plans to take advantage of the disaster in Aceh to reduce its public spending.
Some optimistic voices have been heard about the possibility of new negotiations between the government and Gam. The Financial Times claims (10 January) that the Swiss Henri Dunant Centre for Hunanitarian Dialogue, which was instrumental in paving the way for the failed agreement of 2002, is now trying to mediate new negotiations.
"We have all the time said that we are prepared to negotiate and fight with peaceful means, but we are not dropping our demand for Aceh independence," Bakhtiar Abdullah told Offensiv.
Gam's demand for independence, however, has no support from either the USA or any of Asia's regional powers. The US 'neo-cons' in the Pentagon are instead trying to lift restrictions on US support to Indonesia's military.
New negotiations are not ruled out, however, nor are new disappointments down that road. Colin Powell during his recent visit to Indonesia never even hinted about the need for Indonesia to lift its state of emergency.
The most important act that Aceh's people can feel strengthened by is the massive solidarity that has been shown from ordinary working people and youth worldwide. Not the least important is the huge solidarity that is now shown by the working people of Indonesia.
The CWI believes that a solidarity struggle with them is needed against both national and class oppression - a struggle that will seek the support of the international working class and anti-imperialists worldwide, and which also must become socialist.
Only together with the oppressed masses of Indonesia, can the ruling elite and its military be defeated. This is also the way to win genuine independence and develop new ways of democratic, equal and voluntary collaboration with other parts of Indonesia, East Timor and the other people throughout the region and globally.
In The Socialist 22 January 2005: