Indonesia Says Get Out to Aid Workers; Greater Disaster Looms

Posted: Jan 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Indonesia was at the center of the December 26 tsunami that ravaged the South Asia and African coastline, killing more than 170,000 people.  Aid workers now worry that a malaria threat is emerging, due to the poor sanitation and lack of aces to health facilities. An estimated 1 million Indonesians ``could be thrown into poverty by the lingering effects of the tsunami's devastation,'' said a representative from the Asian Development Bank.

The Aceh Province in north Sumatra has been particularly hard hit. Located at epicenter of the scale 9 earthquake that caused the tsunami, the Aceh Province has been devastated. Aid workers had been flying in supplies. Now Indonesian Vice President, Jusuf Kalla, has offered a grim ultimatum to those providing help: get out by March 26. 

The Indonesia army has been trying for three decades to suppress a separatist rebellion in Aceh. In March 2003, the government led a full crackdown on the rebels. Apparently, the Indonesian government is comfortable letting the tsunami finish the job.  They?ve veiled the real motive behind kicking out aid workers behind false optimism. Ahmad Yani Basuki, a national military spokesman, recently told Bloomberg News ``. . . the emergency situation will no longer exist in three months, so there won't be any urgency for the presence of foreign [aid workers].''

No one is fooled! The disaster will linger. Not just for those who are dying, but for the throngs of orphans this scourge threatens to leave in its wake. It is here---with the surviving children-- that the tsunami may have its greatest impact. This influx of orphans will sew child-welfare problems into the social structure for decades to come.

This is the reality facing hundreds of thousands of children in the Aceh Province. Just as they are beginning to truly discover their world, they will be forced to watch those around them die. Most will have to drop out of school in order to support themselves. It is hard to gage the internal numbness of children who must confront death. Couple this trauma with the absence of an emotionally secure environment and a decent education, and one begins to see how this disaster threatens to suffocate even the survivors.

It is the definition of tragedy that an entire generation might become emotionally and intellectually atrophied in the span of time it took a wave to rise up and hit the coastline.

It is the very nature of absurdity that the Indonesian government is using this as an instrument to further suppress the Aceh province. There needs to be outspoken criticism of the Indonesian government for denying aid to Aceh. Their plight needs to be acknowledged, and raised to international consciousness for examination. There are thousands of journalists in Indonesia right now. They can be key in mobilizing public sentiment and encouraging the Indonesian government to pursue a cease fire with Aceh, so that they can work together to provide aid.  We are Aceh?s last guardians. One preys the Indonesian government is listening.