- Jessica Rucell, from the San Francisco Aceh Working Group 415.271.8393
- Warzain, Founder, Acheh Center USA 717.343.1598 [email@example.com]
- Robert Jereski, Coordinator, U.S. Coalition for Earthquake and Tsunami Relief in Aceh (USCETRA) 212.973.1782 [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Demonstration: January 3rd Ralph Bunche Park, 43 St. and 1st Ave. 1pm - 3pm
[New York] Acehnese and U.S. groups called on the United Nations to exercise leadership they declared essential for a coordinated, efficient and impartial relief effort in the tsunami-stricken region of Aceh. Condemning the Indonesian government's haphazard response they urged an international disaster relief operation to avoid a catastrophic increase in the death toll that had already claimed close to 100,000 lives in Aceh, Indonesia.
"The Indonesian civilian government and military is unable or unwilling to quickly distribute aid to all survivors of this disaster. The lack of disaster response coordination among ministries and the military is compounded by notoriously corrupt military and civilian institutions," said Robert Jereski, U.S. Coalition for Earthquake and Tsunami Relief in Aceh. "The Indonesian armed forces are continuing their military operations in Aceh and are frustrating the delivery of aid to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Rather than helping the people, in a number of areas the troops are intimidating villagers, scaring them away from their villages, looting their homes, and stealing food".
In an Associated Press report today, a military spokesman, Col. Ahmad Yani Basuki, acknowledged that operations against the rebels were continuing and that more troops were being sent to Aceh despite President of Indonesia Yudhoyono and Commander of the Indonesian military General Endriartono Sutarto ordering all military operations to cease. "We have to maintain security operations to prevent the rebels from attacking vital installations and relief operations," he said. The pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM) declared a unilateral cease fire on December 27.
"The Indonesian military should immediately implement a cease fire so that aid can flow without restrictions to all effected areas irrespective of any perceived political affiliations. This humanitarian disaster goes beyond political divisions - it is about the survival of those left" Reyza Zain, Acheh Center, USA. "The Indonesian military is not coordinating relief operations; they are frustrating them. It is time for the international community to declare that this emperor has no clothes on."
The demonstrators urged the international community to demand that organizations with greater experience in disaster relief be given logistical authority. They requested that the coordination of relief efforts be overseen by the United Nations.
"Water, food, and medicine must be delivered now instead of being stockpiled by the military. Without adequate nutrition we fear that they will succumb more readily to the mounting threat of disease and water contamination. If the relief effort in Aceh continues to be bottlenecked by administrative inefficiencies and skewed military priorities we could see the death toll rising to a million." said Robert Jereski, U.S. Coalition for Earthquake and Tsunami Relief in Aceh.
As of December 30, the estimated death toll in Aceh has exceeded 90,000, with the UN reporting over 1 million people needing food aid, making the region of Aceh the hardest hit by the tsunami disaster. Yet the Indonesian government has stalled and restricted international aid groups and volunteers from entering affected areas.
Yesterday, the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for People`s Welfare Alwi Shihab admitted that for the first two days after the disaster, his government was at a loss of what to do.
"That's a poor excuse. The international community was requesting access to Aceh from the get-go" said Robert Jereski, Director of the U.S. Coalition for Earthquake and Tsunami Relief in Aceh. "What's the excuse now for the restriction of access and the refusal to deliver food to hungry people outside the refugee camps?"
"We are outraged by the continued fighting, while the people of Aceh are dying from starvation, contaminated water and widespread injuries", said Jessica Rucell, from the San Francisco Aceh Working Group.