The Second Tsunami, exposes not only the failure of the Indonesian government to respond adequately to the tsunami disaster, but how it is using the chaos of post-tsunami to further its political agenda to crush the independence movement in Aceh, an oil rich region in the northern tip of the island of Sumatra.
“Devastated by the military conflict and tsunami, present day Aceh may be one of the most desperate places on earth. One of the greatest fears of the local people is that after the departure of foreign relief agencies and journalists, it will be hermetically sealed again, left to the mercy of the Indonesian military and government officials in Jakarta. There is an acute need for permanent international presence which could monitor human rights abuses and reconstruction efforts,” said Andre Vltchek, a senior fellow at the Oakland Institute and the author of the report. “Behind the facade of pristine beauty of Aceh, there are military and police check-points in every village. And behind the walls of houses – misery and often hunger,” continued Vltchek.
Andre Vltchek travelled to Banda, Desa Siron and villages including Lamteungoh and Keureung Krung in Aceh, and spent time with the local communities worst affected by Tsunami, met with the Aceh Freedom Fighters, and interviewed executives of multinational oil corporations.
Aceh is rich in natural resources. Suharto, a right-wing dictator who was supported by rich countries including the U.S. and Australia, signed several deals with the multi-national companies including Exxon. For him, these deals brought substantial bribes, but people of Aceh gained nothing. If the Acehnese vote for independence, contracts would have to be re-negotiated. This may be one of the main reasons why so far no major foreign power has expressed support for a referendum on sovereignty.
Since 9/11, the Bush Administration has gradually renewed ties by providing aid through new anti-terrorism accounts, resuming joint military exercises, and inviting Indonesian officers to participate in regional military conferences. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently suggested strengthening the American training of Indonesian officers despite continuing reports of human rights abuses committed by the army in Aceh. Late January, the U.S. supplied Indonesia with $1 million worth of spare parts for its aging fleet of C-130 planes, that the U.S. sold to Indonesia over 20 years ago. Some in the administration say that it is possible that the ban on the sale of weapons to Indonesia might be removed as well.
“The U.S. government is forgetting the genocide of East Timor that led Congress to curb ties with the Indonesian military in 1992 and then cut links in September 1999,” said Anuradha Mittal, director of the Oakland Institute. “After a 13 year break, the U.S. is now eager to normalize military ties with Indonesia as a potentially crucial player in the “War on Terrorism. Renewed military aid, as in the past, might be used to suppress independence movements in Papua, Aceh and other hot spots all over the archipelago, and to crush internal opposition and dissent.”
What is certain is that Aceh is injured. It is bleeding, destroyed, confused and tormented by tremendous losses, by uncertainty, and by fear. The report argues that it is essential that the international human rights community intervenes now to stop the ongoing abuses and ensure reconstruction and rehabilitation projects that will rebuild lives of the affected communitie . To read the full report, Aceh Abandoned: The Second Tsunami, Click here.
About the Author: Andre Vltchek, a Senior Fellow at the Oakland Institute, has covered armed conflicts in Peru, Mexico, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, East Timor, Indonesia, Turkey and the Middle East, for Der Spiegel, Asahi Shimbun, ABC News, Lidove Noviny, and many others. A political analyst, journalist, and a filmmaker, Andre, has written several politically charged books (both fiction and non-fiction), such as Western Terror: From Potosi to Baghdad (2004), Exile (2004, with Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Rossie Indira) and Point of No Return (2005). He recently produced a 90-minute documentary film, Terlena – Breaking of a Nation, on the U.S.-supported dictatorship of Suharto. He is currently working with Noam Chomsky on a book about the U.S. involvement in the 1965 military coup in Indonesia. Andre lives in Indonesia and the South Pacific and can be reached at email@example.com.
About the Oakland Institute: The Oakland Institute is a non-partisan think tank utilizing research, analysis and advocacy to promote and ensure public participation and fair debate on critical economic and social policy issues that affect peoples’ lives.