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Indonesian Jesuit says foreigners must not leave Aceh

Although the post-tsunami emergency has ended, the coordinator of the Crisis and Reconciliation Service of the Indonesian Catholic Bishops' Conference has said that greater international efforts are still needed for reconstruction and the resettlement of refugees. reports that Fr Ignazio Ismartono said it is a difficult and complex task demanding the mass presence of international organisations. Quoting the Vatican's Fides news agency, it says displaced persons in Aceh have been calling on foreigners and NGOs present on the field, not to abandon them, but to continue their assistance.

Fr Ismartono has been working with a staff of volunteers in the region of north Sumatra devastated by the Boxing Day disaster.

He said another priority is to repair water pipes, electricity lines, roads to help a return to normality. The role and contribution of the government was essential but humanitarian organisations helped too with the programmes of cooperation, to meet the needs of the people as far as possible.

There are rumours that the government intends to ask foreign aid workers to leave Aceh but the people want them to stay because "if we rely only on government help we will be refugees for years", they say.

The UN and the EU have asked Jakarta to let NGOs continue their assistance. But the army fears that the presence of foreign personnel, banned from Aceh two years ago, will increase support for the separatist movement which has fought for independence since 1976 and which Jakarta is facing with harsh military repression. More than 13,000 have died in the conflict and both sides are accused of violating human rights.

The Indonesian army and police forces have said they will resume their hunt for separatists to guarantee security: but observers fear this will only create more hardship, displaced persons and negative repercussions on civilians

Another widespread fear is that, when foreign groups leave, there will be a greater risk of corruption, bad management of aid.

Foreigners and NGOs must not leave Aceh ( 22/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Bishops Conference of Indonesia
Caritas Australia - Asia Earthquake Appeal - Region Update (10/3/05) | Indonesia fact sheet

Vatican official's assurance that aid agencies don't proselytise (CathNews 2/2/05)

Aceh foreign aid facing doubts (BBC 22/3/05)
Indonesia Eases Visa Rule for Aid Groups Before Aceh Rebuilding (Bloomberg 22/3/05)
People of Aceh win building battle (The Age 22/3/05)

23 Mar 2005