29 December 2004
Tsunami Catastrophe in Aceh – Update 29/12/04, 2 p.m. (MET)
Today, December 29th, 2004, the Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla has revoked the status of civil emergency for Aceh. According to information of the Indonesian online news service Kompas Cyber Media (KCM), the Central Government also took over the government authority in the troubled province.
After the breakdown of the peace negotiations between the Central Government and the Free Aceh Movement in May 2003, martial law had been imposed on Aceh. This was downgraded to civil emergency one year later – without any tangible improvements for the population.
In view of the catastrophe, both the GAM leadership in exile in Stockholm and the Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces, General Endriartono Sutarto, had announced a temporary ceasefire. Initially, the fighting continued nevertheless.
Despite the end of the civil emergency status, the Vice President announced that only organisations concerned with humanitarian aid and reconstruction work could enter Aceh. “Political affairs No, social affairs OK,” Kalla is quoted as saying vis-à-vis KCM.
What this means for the access of aid agencies remains to be seen. Aid operations have to be coordinated with the military which still controls access to Aceh. It must be feared that this as well as delays due to bureaucratic procedures will limit aid agencies access to a considerable extent. It furthermore remains unclear what the end of the civil emergency status means for journalists. The world’s attention and concerned citizens’ readiness to give donations heavily depend on pictures and reports from crisis regions.<>