Table of Contents

2007 Jan • Indonesia Peace Team, Aceh

January 16, 2007

Plane cancellations along the way made the trip from Rochester, New York to Medan North Sumatra extra long, leaving January 13th and arriving the 16th and loosing a day at the dateline to boot. Left my power cord at Gate B9 in Rochester. At JFK they wanted $89.95 to replace it! Ah, well.

I found my own way to the moneychanger and bartered a fairly good price for the dollars I had brought; I saved about $200 in the barter. The owner called a motorcycle rickshaw to take me on to Kamagoro on Jl. Gajah Mada, the group car rentals to East Aceh. They rent out mini vans for 50,000 Rph per person for door-to-door service. I rode the five hours to Langsa, East Aceh with six other people and the driver. The driver said all the flooding was because of illegal logging that goes into the international bio-reserve in Langkat.

I asked if the conflict refugees were hit by the flood. He said, “No, there are no conflict refugees anymore. There used to be tsunami refugees, but now they are called flood refugees.” He spoke like these were news seasons, not like they were real people who still exist and don’t just disappear because the media is done with them.

I was greeted warmly at the door by Jufri, Petrus, Rina, Ferry, Nasruddin and Junaidi all waiting at the <b>SHEEP office</b>. His family is in Jogjakarta and he gets to go home every couple of months. He is trying to coach Jufri to take over the office after another year or so. He was so glad that Rina was still there from Jogja as well. Rina has a new baby, Jorie, with Dimas, SHEEP video documenter. Rina is organizing the “People-to-People” exchange with Bob and Helen Clark, which went independent after American Friends Service Committee did not renew their contract. They have tried to keep it alive. Rina will be going to Canada next month for fundraising for People-to-People. Maybe we could meet up there. She wishes to participate in the next round of Alternatives to Violence workshops, so she’s hoping we can work out the schedules to not conflict in April. We talked about the staff of SHEEP in East Aceh and how the office was going.

The first topic of conversation was the human rights violations and how Jufri said that he had been encouraged by so many to get together people to take their case to the courts. When the crack down came and he was smuggled out of Aceh, he remembers that the first day in Jakarta all those people who had encouraged him and thought it was so cool he had risked his life and the lives of the 178 people who he found to go public were too scared to pick him up at the airport. Only the foreigners from Peace Brigades International would come to the airport to pick him up. But they wouldn’t let him sleep at their house. He went to others, but they said, “Who sent you here?” They finally let him stay, but not right away or easily. Then the government offered reparations for dropping the case. Twenty-five million rupiah ($2,800) per person, so they took it. Even the key witnesses were considered victims by the government for having witnessed such atrocities and given money, which they took and left the case. No witnesses, no testimony, no community, no justice. They talked a long time about local activists who are now taking non-governmental (charitable) organizations’ project money and no longer speaking about the human rights abuses or of the villagers, they just talk about mandates, targets and money.

They talked about the meeting they had just been at of international NGOs who talked of all their accomplishments. Nasruddin spoke up and talked about all the things the local NGO had done, the Forum for the Poorest of the Poor, which exceeded even Oxfam and was done with almost no money. He talked about how the voice of the people was not being heard at this meeting. How they were only serving the refugee camps, but what about those who were in their villages trying to clean up with no drinking water and no food. Giving people water and food at the camps keeps them there. But the NGOs said that serving them outside the camps was outside their mandate. They supported refugee camps, not homeless people in their villages. They asked me if I had seven million rupiah each for two machines ad 50,000rph/day per worker for two workers to run the machines so they could clean wells in the villages.

Then Jufri began to lament his own culture and how he was getting sick of working with the Acehnese. In Central Java, when he was in exile and working with SHEEP there, people came out early to meet them and stayed late into the night to ask questions. The Acehnese weren’t doing this. They seemed to have no energy.

Nasruddin had gone to a workshop in Java run by a Vietnamese man. The other participants were excited and engaged and the leader came to the Acehnese and asked them why they were so unengaged. They talked for a long time and then the facilitator realized they’d come from a war zone. He gave them his consulting fee and sent them for a vacation to Bandung. Then found more money and extended their vacation. After awhile, Nasruddin said he began to feel better.

Thirty years of war. The trauma is so deep. Is the lethargy culture or is it trauma? Is it “real” Acehnese culture or one that is a result of years of war? They are concerned about how to approach villages and make any real changes. How do you connect the physical immediate needs to the longer-term principles? How do you not get into the handout-entitlement mentality? How do you do it with people displaced by a war, tsunami and flood? How do you partition time and resources? What will happen when there’s no more funds for the gas to run the water machines and they take them away and no longer distribute water? Why is Oxfam just distributing water and not cleaning wells?

January 17, 2007

Petrus, Rina and I spent the morning talking while we waited for Jufri. They asked if we were considering opening an office here. It was becoming a challenge. If we came twice a year for four or five weeks and there were a few weeks of preparation and a weeks of closure and follow up that was still about four months of the year that someone had to be attending to our needs and concerns nearly full time and for two or three of those months it was numerous people. I understood that we had to do a lot while we were there since we couldn’t do it over the weekends spread out over time. I also have been feeling the pressure of arriving and having o find all the old materials because there is not a particular place to keep things. In the past two years, there has been a tsunami, an 8.9 Richter-scale earthquake and major flooding. People are hard up and there’s not a lot of “extra” around. The Forum for the Poorest of the Poor (FPRM) could use an office on a daily basis and could keep an office up. Then it could be used for the monthly refresher meetings and workshops. They talked about all the people and groups who could use the office. Syarwani already has a position with SHEEP. Putra is working for Aceh People’s Forum/Oxfam, but that’s only temporary. He’s really displaced from Pidie and isn’t stable yet. He needs his own time and focus. That leaves Ferry. He’s been the most dedicated and has the best natural command and understanding of the AVP material. He also works for FPRM, that needs an office. It took awhile to think this all through.

Tengku Syarwani was at the SHEEP office when I arrived and excused himself quickly. The next morning we went to Bagok to the <b>Al-Husni Preschool</b>. It turns out he had rushed home to have the teachers clean up the school. I am so sorry I was not able to see it in its usual state. The teachers are still working for free, so I don’t know how much they are actually teaching. The village seems divided. I asked the teachers how many of the preschool children in the village were coming to the school and they said about half. To me that means half the village is supporting this and half is not. Syarwani has been replaced as the Imam at the pesantren. It seems to be a mutual agreement that he is traveling too much and wants to travel and they need an Imam that will be there more. He got money from the Bureau for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction to build a library in the village. It is very small, but the materials and style of construction are very flashy. It stands out in the village as reeking of money and not belonging. He says they say he must move the preschool off the pesantren grounds within a month. He showed my land he wishes to purchase for 15 million rupiah and then build a school on it for another 30 million or so. I was stunned and did not know what to say. The next day I tried to get contact him, but he was off to Banda Aceh and I was not able to speak to him again before I left. I left him a message that I was not able to support a school in that manner. It needed to belong to the community. They needed to feel moved to give the land to the school, not sell it. I felt he needed to return to his community and build relationships there and seek ways to support his teachers, not support his buildings alone.

In retrospect we did not adhere to any protocol. We did not stop by the village head’s house, although I stayed there for a week the last time I was there. They tried to “hide” me in the car, which is ridiculous since I’m sure the whole town knew I was there.

I met with the teachers. We did training on social development and dramatic play center and how to keep the children’s interest. I used examples of adding a shop, a farm, a sewing area in the living room and more props. I wish I’d suggested a Mosque. We talked about vocabulary with the blocks and painting every day for the developmentally young children. We talked about keeping examples of developmental progress on each kid and posting the stages of development in the centers up high for the teachers. We talked about bringing some of the poster for the kids down to their eye level. We talked about their need for food coloring to make paint and play dough (theirs is dry powder and doesn’t mix well). Dramatic play had the weakest teacher as usual. They have no sand table and virtually no m thought icro play. The teachers themselves have little representational. I told them they must all draw with all the various materials, not as a competition on the outcome but on the feeling of the material. Show up, pay attention, tell the truth and don’t be attached to the outcome.

Others from Simpang Ulim, a town in the far north of East Aceh, were there because they heard that I was coming. They are providing activities for small children and wish they could get training too. Pak Is from JRS was there; he says he wants to learn for Simpang Ulim, but he does not listen. He and Agus want to join SHEEP. If we did some more training we should invite them, especially Agus from Simpang Ulim and Ferry from the Forum of the Poorest of the Poor.

Their supplies provided by Abe Kenmore through Paper and Pencils for All are holding up well and they still have $100 left of the $300. They said their biggest problem was food coloring. They can only get powder and it doesn’t mix well for play dough, paint, and finger paint. The liquid type from Jakarta was much better.

Wiza and Ayub were working with Syarwani. The <b>chicken coup</b> I had left the funds for Ayub to build had not been successful. BRR had come into their community of Idi Cut with lots of money and jobs and taken the labor away. The BRR work will be short lived compared to the chicken coup, but young men were lured away. Disease had also struck the chicken coup a couple of times. Ayub said he would be holding a chicken and it would die right there in his hand. It was spooky. He did not understand and wondered if it was the land or being so close to the sea. So he divided the chickens. One third of them are at the pesantren in Bagok now, some are still in Idi Cut and some went to another one of Ayub’s friends. They are being well cared for, but were not able to provide the young men who get sick at sea a method for long-term employment.

January 19, 2007

The next day Tarmizi, Director of the Aceh People’s Forum (APF), came down from Banda Aceh with his entourage. He is dressed like Sponge Bob, laughs a lot and acts like a child. But he manages large operations and puts lots of former human rights activists to work. I went back to Tamiang with him. We met with Oxfam officials. It seems the Oxfam team changes every time they arrive. They had told the Indonesians that they would only help in the camps, schools and clinics, not in the villages. The Indonesians, including Jufri, Putra and many of our friends were primarily concerned about cleaning the wells in the village. People who went back to clean up and rebuild had no water and the sediment in the wells were hardening up, which would require re-drilling rather than just pumping out the muck. Four of the local NGO staff had been trained along with 28 villagers. They just did not have pumps.

After much misinformation, I found CHF, Community, Habitat and Finance out of New York. They had five pumps in Banda Aceh they could loan. They wrote a contract on the spot and Jufri signed it. We called APF staff in Banda Aceh. They were sending another car down the next day and could bring the pumps. Oxfam, who were funding the local Indonesians to work, protested when they heard. We have five pumps here in that storeroom. I asked why the pumps were not brought out. They would not tell me that they had decided not to work in villages, since there on the ground it was apparent to observers that that was the most needed activity. Their boss said the pumps were electric. So I found them three generators. Once the generators were secured, their second in command said they were not electric. So why were they not released? Well they had a policy not to intrude, so the villagers had to request the pumps and none of them had. In addition, they did not want to spoil the villagers, so they would have to provide their own gasoline. Since they couldn’t do that, the pumps had not been released. I went to the Indonesians, gave them money for the gasoline to run the pumps and told them to request the additional pumps from Oxfam. We therefore got ten pumps running within a couple days.

They told me that Saiful Mahdi of the Aceh Institute, a think tank and research institute in Banda Aceh, had gotten a scholarship to go to graduate school at Cornell University. We talked about wanting to do a memorial writing on a few people who were lost in the tsunami such as Pak Arief and the woman attorney who always came, even in the middle of the night. I was thinking that would be a great job for the Aceh Institute. But there were more immediate matters of the flooding from illegal logging that sees no end in sight. Maybe Saiful would come to QUNO with us.

January 20, 2007

I met Prof. Dr. Syafriruddin, MM in Langsa (0811605087), the former head of public health. He had just resigned because of the corruption. He showed me his school for children who were conflict victims. It is a simple, but beautiful place housing a couple hundred children in middle and high school.

Jufri was taking to Pak Syafri about going to Medan to get an infant incubator for East Aceh Public Health Unit along the northern shoreline. He had heard that they could get one for about $750, but it turned out that it costs more like $1,600. He did have that much money so he was reporting that they did not get one. Pak Syafri confirmed, “Yes, it would cost over $1,500.” I asked about the size of one and wondered whether or not we could find one in the US that I could bring with me when I go sometime. You never know until you try and ask.

He is extremely concerned about the illegal logging of the area. His proposal is that tendering of contracts to large contracts for forest maintenance be halted immediately and villagers be given “rights of use” for national forest land. They would not have “rights of ownership” as the forest would remain nationally owned. They could be given forest tree seedlings, told how to care for them and the size they have to be before they can be harvested. It is easy to patrol and see who has harvested trees that are too small. They would then lose their rights of use for the plot. This could be done on a massive scale through the National Forest Ministry and the Badan Sar Nasional under BAKORNAS and MENKOKESRA. Loeser has tree stock, but no program to distribute them among the people, so Pak Syafri sends people over to get tree stock and to take it out to villagers to plant. I saw them in the morning, even on Sunday morning, arrive at the SHEEP office to coordinate taking tree stock out to villagers to plant. Pak Syafri said that Loeser International is made up of about seven European nations; he thought they included France, Germany, England, and Holland, but could not remember which countries exactly. They patrol the area on elephants. They know what is going on, but do nothing.

I spoke to him about many topics, including ceramics. He has a friend who ran a pottery before the war shut them down. People with skills and kilns still remain and they would certainly like to get up and going again. I told him about Reid Harvey from Alfred University. He had developed a water filter treated with silver nitrate that can clean particles and bacteria out of the water. One filter can be used per household. They were producing the filters in Kenya for about three US dollars. He was very pleased, and kept saying if we could produce it for even ten US dollars that would be great. He has a very strong altruistic streak, but he is still a businessman and increasing the price to “what the market would bear” made sense to him. To me the difference between three and ten dollars for the poorest of the poor is enormous! [I later spoke to Andreas about this in Jogjakarta as well. Andreas and Syafri are acquainted.]

Then I rested. Walking through the muck up in the heat had taken a lot out of me. I took the day to talk with staff at the SHEEP office, buy bags to bring home to offer in exchange for contributions, and to do some laundry. They also took the opportunity to <b>show me an office</b> they would like to rent in Langsa. It is around the corner from the SHEEP office on the main road. It could serve as an office for the Alternatives to Violence workshops and other activities we are doing such as the early childhood development, discussions with the United Nations on illegal logging and arms trading, and the development and expression of conscience. The Forum for the Poorest of the Poor (FPRM) would appreciate sharing and office, but they have no funds. Purtra, Syarwani, Fachlarrazi and other AVP facilitators would like to have an office to gather and work out of as well. They could use if for AVP workshops on a regular basis and other workshops. They have even considered a café in the front, since it is on a main drag. I told them I would have to take this to AVP for the group to consider. It would be ten million rupiah (9,000 to US$1), so that’s just over $1,000 for one year. FPRM says they would take care of all the monthly expense.