by Saiful Mahdi
We had to leave very early for Sigli, capital of Pidie district, about
110 km from Banda Aceh. Another People Crisis Center (PCC) post is
opening soon in Pidie. There are IDPs in camps and non-camps that are
under-served there, although the number is not as many as in Banda Aceh
or Meulaboh on the western coast of Aceh. The process of opening another
command post in Pidie will not be as smooth as in Banda Aceh. One of the
main concerns is security. The Indonesian military in Pidie, for
example, has informally said that all humanitarian posts operating there
have to get permission.
A market in Lueng Putu, on the second day of Eid Festival. Pidie
has not suffered much from the quake and tsunami, but there are
pockets of IDP shelters filled with people from the coast line.
There are even more IDP from Banda Aceh and other districts
staying at relatives.
Aceh has to endure “two emergencies” at the same time. It is
under emergency relief work performed by people from all over
the world and is still officially under “civil emergency status”
as a continuation from martial law, where Indonesia military (TNI)
is hunting down the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
By 3pm, I am back in Banda Aceh. Some of my cousins and relatives from
my village in Sigli were already in Banda Aceh to help. To plan what we
were going to do the next days, we went around to see our homes, and
Phi-Beta, the learning center.
Even our destroyed house is looted by scrap and “gold” hunters.
Above was our home when I first arrived. Below is when we
visited it again on 22/1. Looters are looking for cupboards
where Acehnese usually keep their valuables.
Having learned that excavators and other heavy machines were not there
yet to clear up the debris, we decided to concentrate on cleaning the
learning center and leaving our house as it was, hoping that looters had
already had enough and found that our house did not have any valuables.
However, the three corpses were still there. And this worried me a lot.
I had to do something. But what and how? I called evacuation teams that
I know, like from the Red Cross again. They said that they were coming
to our village. But there were only two evacuation teams working during
the Eid festival, the military team and a team from Yogyakarta’s SAR,
and that they were covering other places at that moment.
Yes, of course, the cleaning up was taking places around the central
city, i.e around the grand mosque of Baiturrhman as the President of
Republic Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was visiting Aceh to
celebrate Eid ul ‘Adha yesterday. It is a common “secret” among ordinary
people that anything can be put together to make the higher ranking
officers happy, no matter how difficult things may be. We called it
“ABS, Asal Bapak Senang” or As Long as The Boss Can Be Made Happy. This
is a typical attitude of employees of the Indonesian government. Before
the president came, the cleaning up was so slow, but just before he
came, everything was speeding up. The roads are fairly well cleaned,
some ornamental lamps were installed, and debris was removed more
The third floor of this house was where my surviving sister, her
three kids and husband took refuge from the great wave. The
house is separated by another house in front of our house. One
of the daughters of the house’s owner was found dead on the
second floor after the tsunami as she was too scared to climb up
to the third floor after the quake.
From the “assessment” visit with my team of cousins, I went back to the
command post. On the second day of Eid, a day where in the past we spent
visiting friends and relatives, the post was already busy, though not as
PCC’s bulletin board is still full of postings from people who
are looking for their missing loved ones.
Now I have settled into a more regular schedule. I start the day at PCC,
going out and in from there to camps, houses where IDPs stay,
coordination meetings, my university, and other places until about 8 or
9pm at nights. Then I ask somebody to drop me wherever I will spend that
night. Depending whether there is electricity and dial-up internet
connection, I will be working on my updates or journal until late at