Indonesian quake victims to be moved

Indonesians fear they may lose their land after the government announced a mass relocation of up to 150,000 people displaced by December's tsunami in Aceh province.

    Up to 150,000 Indonesians lost their homes in the tsunami

    Thousands of survivors in Aceh will be gradually moved from their current shelter in tented refugee camps to newly built semi-permanent barracks with better sanitation and improved living conditions, beginning on Tuesday.
    But many of the residents have voiced fears that the authorities would use the barracks as a means of controlling people and dispossessing them of their ancestral land.  
    No force pledge

    Mawardi Nurdin, mayor of the provincial capital Banda Aceh, said those currently camping in public buildings would be the first to shift, but pledged the authorities would not forcibly relocate them. 
    "Moving to the barracks is only an option. We will not force them," he said.
    Indonesia is building 803 semi-permanent barracks to accommodate about a quarter of the 400,000 displaced people for up to two years, while homes are being rebuilt. 

    "Moving to the barracks is only an option. We will not force them"

    Mawardi Nurdin,
    mayor of Banda Aceh

    Totok Pri, the Public Works Ministry's director for west Indonesia, said 273 barracks that could house 48,650 people in 10 districts and towns in Aceh were now ready for occupation.
    "Tomorrow will only be the first phase ... the process for the relocations of the [displaced people] will continue until 15 March," he said.
    Human rights warning

    The New York-based Human Rights Watch group warned that the government, which has been accused of abuses during battles against separatists in Aceh, could misuse the camps, particularly if the military becomes involved.
    It feared people may be sent to the barracks without being given a chance to explore other alternatives.
    Some of the displaced community seemed unaware of the relocation plan.
    Abubakar, who is living with relatives in a tent pitched outside Aceh's provincial council building, said he had only read about it in a local newspaper. 
    Staying close

    "Do not move us too far from the city. If we are close to the city, we can easily return to our village to clean and rebuild it," he said, echoing calls made by many others who lived through the disaster. 

    Malaysia's Abdullah (L) promised
    Susilo a delay on the crackdown

    The government has, however, said it will not let people rebuild their homes close to the shoreline, to prevent a repeat of the carnage in the event of another natural disaster.
    Jakarta has raised the number of people dead and missing after the 26 December tsunami by 600, taking it to 234,271. 

    Malaysia delays crackdown

    Meanwhile, neighbouring Malaysia has said it will delay a planned nationwide crackdown on illegal immigrants until the end of the month, in a concession to its poorer neighbour Indonesia, home for most of the illegals. 
    Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made the concession in talks with visiting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, an aide to the Malaysian prime minister said.
    Kuala Lumpur has already delayed the crackdown several times after appeals from Indonesia, which says it is not prepared for an influx of needy people so soon after the tsunami.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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