INDONESIA: lndonesian government must not hesitate to grant access to all disaster-affected areas

People along the Indian Ocean coastline are beginning recovery efforts after a giant tidal wave swept their shores on 26 December 2004. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people, are today very vulnerable. Enormous operations are getting under way in many parts to bring survivors the fresh water, food, clothing and medical supplies they need, as well as to clear away dead bodies, and identify them where possible. It is heartening to hear the numerous stories of locals not directly affected by the disaster coming to the aid of others with whatever they have available to give. But in most places, programmes are yet to be drawn up to manage internally displaced people effectively, and re-establish functioning communication and transport links. In the early days, weeks and months, the responsibility for much of this work lies not only with each single country or state, but with the entire international community. The sheer magnitude of the disaster is far beyond anything that one government and its internal agencies can be expected to address, and the show of international solidarity that has come after the devastation is recognition of that fact.

So far the highest number of loss of lives has been recorded in Indonesia, which is over 80,000.  While all of this is going on, disturbing reports have it that the government of Indonesia is still considering whether or not to permit international humanitarian agencies access to the most badly affected areas near the epicentre of the earthquake. People in many parts of Sumatra and Aceh are on the brink of survival. That these places have also been subjected to persistent civil conflict in recent years is well known. However, that the Indonesian government is hesitating over granting full access to others from around the world ready to extend much-needed assistance at this most vital hour is an affront to the victims of this tragedy and an insult to the persons of goodwill offering their support.

Now is absolutely not the time for the Indonesian government to be restricting outsiders’ access to these areas on the grounds of security. It is a time for the authorities to recognise the common humanity of all those affected in their country and throughout the region. It is a time to respond unhesitatingly to offers of international support. To do anything less will be to compound the tragedy already overwhelming the thousands of survivors in Aceh and Sumatra, the likes of which have never been seen in our lifetimes. Accordingly, the Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government of Indonesia to grant all international humanitarian agencies and persons of concern free and unconditional access to all affected areas in Sumatra and Aceh, and to facilitate the granting of visas and other necessary arrangements for them to undertake their crucial work.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-72-2004
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Poverty & adequate standard of living,