The Asian tsunami hit the Indonesian province of Aceh the hardest, killing at least 80,000 people there. Yet in the midst of this humanitarian disaster, a sinister story is unfolding that has been barely discussed by the media. The Indonesian army is taking advantage of the calamity to escalate its repression of the Acehnese people, who have been fighting for independence since 1976.
The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) is widely supported in Aceh because the Indonesian government is seen as a brutal occupying force. GAM issued a unilateral ceasefire when the tsunami struck. But it was ignored by TNI, the Indonesian military. “We continue to launch raids into suspected GAM areas and our vigilance remains high,” one lieutenant colonel told the press.
Australian journalists report that they were told to keep out and keep quiet by Indonesian special forces: “Your duties here are to observe the disaster, not the conflict between TNI and GAM.”
Aid workers and human rights organisations say that the Indonesian military, which has taken control of aid distribution in Aceh, is preventing it from being distributed properly.
Rather than report this story, our mainstream media has focused on ridiculous and false claims made by the Indonesian military that GAM insurgents are attacking relief workers.
While moist-eyed journalists with rolled-up shirt sleeves stand amid the wreckage of Aceh and talk about “compassion”, few have bothered to mention that Acehnese are suffering from much more than the weather.
March against debt and the G8
As calls to cancel the debts of developing nations in the wake of the tsunami disaster gathered pace, a coalition of British campaign groups announced a national demonstration against global poverty.
The march will take place in Edinburgh on 2 July—the Saturday before the G8 summit of world leaders starts in Gleneagles, Scotland.
It has been called by Make Poverty History, an umbrella group of charities and organisations demanding trade justice, debt cancellation and increased aid to the Third World.
A variety of protests against the summit, including a counter conference, are now being organised by activists—go to www.g8alternatives.org.uk