Saturday, April 07, 2007

It's A Jungle Out There

Lest we forget, we are in the middle of the Sumatran jungle, now all I need is a good story about an Orangutan.

This is all from a local Aceh newspaper, translated into English from local staff, which if you don't find the articles humorous, you may at least get a chuckle from that.

Maybe this is why my copy for work has been lacking in the grammar department; I'm starting to speak modulated English,...

The elephants problems are reducing; Tigers turned to madness Jeuram - The actions of tigers in several villages in Sub-district of Seunagan, Nagan Raya are getting mad. The Chief of Pante ceureumen village, Sub-district of Seunagan, Nagan Raya, Alfiansyah said that for the last few weeks, the actions of tigers in this area have created the restlessness in the society. "Many villagers' livestocks were eaten by those tigers. We hope to the authorities to handle this matter," he said. Meanwhile, reportedly, wild elephant actions that has create the uncomfortablity among villagers in Bukit Jaya, Aceh Barat had been calmed down after a team from Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Aceh succeed to catch a male elephant. Since a year, the elephant caught by BKSDA team always disturbed villagers. Besides destroying villagers' farm, this elephant also destroyed dozens housed in this village. Apart from an elephant caught by BKSDA, there are still some elephants that have not yet been caught.

Locals caught a python Sigli - Villagers of kampong Panjau, Sub-district of Kembang Tanjung, Aceh Pidie found a python in a duck's cage. Locals who were sitting in a security post heard noise from chicken near the post on Sat (31/3) midnight. Then, they came to where the noise came from and they saw a python was eating chicken and locals immediately caught that snake. T Wahyudin, a local, said that this python has eaten four goats owned by locals. "This snake also has eaten locals' ducks and chickens. We predict this snake has its female pair, but unfortunately, its pair has been escaped," said Wahyuddin.

Friday, April 06, 2007

FORAK 2 - It ain't Woodstock

Last year, a FORAK demonstration at BRR (the local Indonesian government branch responsible for the reconstruction here in Aceh) took place over a two week period in September. With up to 2000 demonstrators, a riot broke out and the FORAK leader was arrested and thrown in jail. He is now out on the streets and will undertake another ‘notified’ demonstration this Monday. That means we’ll be battening down the hatches and not visiting the area near BRR. To give you a little of the drama from last year, here is a news article taken from, (I'd provide the link, but it's all in bahasa Indonesian) September 20, 2006: (Thanks to Salmasteier for actually researching this information; I am doing nothing more than transferring data)

Banda Aceh, about a thousand of people who confessed themselves as tsunami victims last night (19/6) moved into Lueng Bata area. Last night, they even took Kuntoro as ‘hostage’. According to our reporter on the site the riot started when the protesters were forced to pull back by the police from the BRR compound. ‘Intifadha war’ then broke out. Police personnel chased the protesters. The Police were supported by their tactical vehicles equipped with water canon which were was used on the protesters. The Protesters blockaded the road of BRR with rocks and wood logs. People around the area then shut their shops and kiosks as they worried the protester might unload their anger. One car that was parked inside the compound was damaged. Roads were blocked by the police and the mass of people flooded in front of BRR’s office, they included women, children, and teenagers. Information received by Aceh Kita mentioned that it was organized by the Forak, Inter-Barrack Communication Forum, they tried to not allow Kuntoro to go home until their demands were fulfilled. M Yusuf the coordinator of the action said that in principal Forak’s demands were fulfilled by BRR such as: speed-up building houses, economy recovery. The Protesters also wanted the Forak coordinator to be part of BRR plus a financial incentive. According to Yusuf, the letter was signed by Kuntoro, however, they were not satisfied because they want the letter to be signed by both parties. “But BRR are disagree with it and still don’t see any middle way,” he said. “We are still want the letter to be signed by both parties, if its not happening, the crowd will stay and it is possible for mass will get larger” he said.

Banda Aceh, Director of Forak, Dr Raden Panji Utomo, main suspect of the organizer of rioting in BRR Office on Wednesday (19/9) has been reported as being in contact with police through the Chief of Banda Aceh Police mobile phone. In their conversation, Panji asks more time to prepare lawyer, and then hand over himself to police. “He has contacted me through my mobile, he will hand himself to police after he gets a lawyer,” Chief said. Meanwhile, six from eight people whose names are mentioned in the police’s letter has gone to police office for interrogation, as they were involved in the demonstration. Murniati, Darmawan, John Efendi, Pasmi Ilma, M Isa, and M Yusuf. “We’ve been called as the witnesses in that action,” M Yusuf said. However, there were seven supposed to be here, “one letter addressed to Irwandi we have no one named Irwandi but Irwan Jalil. But we don’t know which one is meant by them,” he said. Meanwhile, Chief Police of Banda Aceh, Zulkarnaen said that his side has questioned five people from Forak plus one from BRR. He explained that these people were questioned, as they knew what happened during the riot on the demonstration organized by Forak. Regarding Panji’s request to give time to prepare lawyer, Zulkarnaen told that police would do it based on the procedures. “He is not to be afraid to hand himself over to the police. The police are not going to do anything that people might feel worried about. The main thing is he needs to be responsible for his actions,” he said.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Keep the faith close, no closer, no closer still,...

There is a lot of tension in Aceh after 30 years of being closed off from the world. Many Acehnese are concerned about non Muslims coming into the area and evangelizing. In some instances it has been warranted, one faith-based NGO was kicked out of the area for distributing leaflets. (This happened before we came here). Maybe not such a bad thing; (I’ve contributed to this particular organization in the past), but they were specifically told that while the aid is welcome, the Amens, so to speak, are not.

It has gotten so bad that there are news stories about villagers finding ‘cross-shapes’ on candy and requesting that the distributors of these candies take them back. A bunch of fake Korans were found and confiscated, fearing that some Christian-based foreign group was trying to teach falsehoods. A group of tweeners pillaged their middle school when they found references to Christianity in their history books and requested that these Indonesian, printed in Jakarta (where there happen to be quite a few Christians) books be returned. (I guess history is in the eye of the beholder,..?)

As part of a faith-based organization, we are particularly sensitive to this. CRS, however, does firmly believe that there should be no strings attached to the aid and money that it generously donates. There is no weird flicking of the holy water or slipping a crucifix in the pocket that some might think happens at this Catholic organization.

Some actions CRS takes might be a little too much on the politically correct side (for me), such as CRS not distributing its annual calendar in the office, as it contains a biblical saying and might offend some workers.

Another NGO in the area (not faith based, just not-for-profit) had to put the kibosh on Christmas music being played at worker’s desks because it upset the non Christians.

CRS was also very careful to only put the chairman of the organization (a lay person) on the faceplate for the downtown park, fearing that the religious title of the actual director would be offensive.

So, in light of all this paranoia, this new problem really isn’t such a shocker. It seems that the chairwoman of a local kindergarten called CRS very upset because the design on the top gable of her school building looks like a cross in this year’s school picture. While this is only a gable and is the same color and material as the rest of the wall, the light catches this structure, and, since you know, the CRS name contains ‘Catholic’ and the money used to rebuild the school is from Catholic people, many parents have interpreted that CRS has started to evangelize. To minimize the situation, CRS is immediately helping get pictures back from the students’ families and put a piece of plywood over the gable.

This after the new mayor of the city of Banda complained that the roof of the park’s main building was too pitched, apparently similar to certain other architectural buildings, like, you know, churches. Forget the fact that Acehnese architecture very frequently has steep pitched roofs with gorgeous carved wood.

Well, what do you expect from an area where an ex-GAM member was imprisoned, was able to escaped from his cell after the tsunami and became the province’s new governor?