Wednesday, December 29, 2004

one out of two

this article addresses what i have been wondering about since i first heard of the indonesian earthquake that spawned that indian ocean tsunami. since the beginning news reports mentioned that the quake was off the coast of aceh provence in north-western sumatra. before this week aceh was best known for a long running separatist rebellion. with the huge human tragedy the tsunami has caused all around the indian ocean basin, i was too embarrassed to even ask this one question that nagged at me: what would this mean for the bloody aceh conflict?

the answer, it turns out, is a bit of a silver lining. last week the entire provence was closed to outsiders, blockaded by the indonesian army:
But after the weekend disaster, the rebel Free Aceh Movement ordered a cease-fire so relief agencies could deliver supplies.

The government also loosened restrictions that for years have stopped aid agencies and journalists from operating freely in the province.

"We're holding back," said Lt. Col. Ali Tarunajaya, an Aceh police chief. "We're not going to arrest the rebels. They're looking for members of their families, just like many of our police members are looking for theirs. We're all crying together."
maybe, just maybe, this tragedy will provide an opportunity to end one of asia's longest-running conflicts.

but unfortunately, probably not one of asia's other longest-running conflicts, the tamil rebellion in sri lanka:
Government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels, who have clashed since 1983 over the ethnic minority Tamils' claim for a homeland, refused to work together despite a massive humanitarian crisis.

The Tigers control a vast part of Tamil-majority northeastern Sri Lanka as a virtual independent state with its own administration, police and judiciary. The government controls remaining areas.

A cease-fire between the ethnic Sinhalese majority and the Tamils was brokered by Norway in 2002, but peace talks broke down more than a year ago.

"Ideally a national calamity like this should lead to greater flexibility by both parties to find a common approach to address the humanitarian needs of the people," said Jehan Perera, a political analyst from the National Peace Council.

But a Tamil member of parliament, Joseph Pararajasingham, said government leaders discussing relief efforts "simply were not bothered about the plight of our people."

(via cursor)