Thursday, September 21, 2006

Aceh troubles continue - IDPs clash with police over distribution of assistance

A media report that circulated on a U.N. e-mail list in the last 24 or so hours:


by Aloysius Wisnuhardana (wisnuhard)

About 1,000 refugees joined Forum Antar Barak (FORAK) in holding a demonstration at the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Board (BRR) since Monday.

Some of their demands, including converting credit into grants for refugees and discharging some BRR workers without reason, are considered impossible for the government to meet.

Other demands include education for tsunami victims' children; development of permanent housing for tsunami victims; restructuring BRR organizations; accelerating construction of school buildings and economic facilities; a 50 percent reduction of BRR workers' salary; and transferring the budget for refugees from BRR's account into FORAK's account.

They pledged that if the Board does not meet their demands, they will come with many more people. They urged Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to disband the BRR.

As of Tuesday night, refugees were still occupying the Board's office, and did not let BRR chairman Kuntoro Mangkusubroto leave. Kuntoro was out of his office for a foreign trip on Monday and returned to find the demonstration on Tuesday. Other BRR workers were allowed to leave, but the protestors vowed to keep Kuntoro there until the BRR meets their demands. They checked each car that left the office to ensure that Kuntoro was not inside.

The number of protestors increased rapidly from Tuesday afternoon to evening, with some pledging to spend the night in the office until the Board answers their demands. They called the BRR and NGO's liars who only make promises without carrying them out.

On Wednesday morning, there were around 500 protesters remaining at the BRR office. Around 10 a.m. the protests turned violent when police tried to oust the demonstrators. According to the latest report, one car was destroyed and a few people were injured in the clash.

The demonstrations reflect the continuing problems with NGOs working in Aceh. On the one hand, the refugees need assistance to recover their lives and to overcome their traumatic experiences from the tsunami of December 2004. A lot of countries and international organizations committed to give assistance to Aceh.

But international donors lack the ability to distribute aid directly to refugees, so NGOs have been taking the lead. Hundreds of local, national, and international NGOs have been carrying out field work in Aceh. Critics charge that instead of distributing assistance directly
and focusing on rebuilding infrastructure, the NGOs have been focused on setting up their offices and staffs, searching for office space and others activities that make the refugees feel neglected.

Kemal Pasya, a lecturer of Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, wrote in a newspaper a year ago that the easiest things to find in Aceh nowadays are luxury cars plying the streets alongside ruins that have not been cleaned up.

Almost two years since the disaster, many NGOs have lost their credibility with Aceh people because of their failure to fulfill their promises. Only a few NGOs were still fully committed to distributing relief properly and to the right people.

Corruption is another problem plaguing relief distribution. In the most recent case, some BRR staff were prosecuted for corruption. Many other NGOs were also involved in corruption but were not exposed publicly as in BRR's case.

The Aceh refugees still need assistance from government entities such as BRR or from NGOs. But the government needs to increase their accountability.

2006/09/20 3:19
(c) 2006 Ohmynews


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