Friday, July 3, 2015

Update on the petition to Jokowi, plus: another agency helping the Rohingya in Aceh?

A few days ago I posted some information on a group called Coalition for Caring for the Rohingya and their petition to President Jokowi asking that Indonesia cut all ties with Myanmar until all Rohingya are acknowledged as citizens and given all rights due them.  JMD additionally reports that a CNN news story in Indonesia stated that the petition also seeks to take Myanmar to International court for crimes against humanity.

The petition was posted to the House of Representative Tuesday, with a copy to the President, and additional admonitions from Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahatir to expel Myanmar from ASEAN, but so far there is no word regarding how the petition was treated, dealt with, or paid attention to.  I did find out a little more abut the Coalition, however, and the man who started it.

Apparently, the Coalition for Caring for the Rohingya was the idea of attorney and Muslim activist Adnin Armas of Jakarta. Pak Adnin is also head of the Indonesian Society for Social Transformation (INSIST) in Jakarta.  One of their web pages is embedded in the Quebec-based Alternatives International site, which states:
INSIST goal is to eliminate all types and forms of injustice by promoting empowerment of groups that have, to this point, been placed in weak, marginalised positions. They must be empowered to become active, critical actors in all processes of social transformation, moving towards the realisation of more just economic, political, and cultural systems, so that they can make a greater contribution to the advancement of civilization and humanity overall.
Okay, great. However, their other web page,, is far more vague and frankly I can’t figure out what their mission is:
Since the late 1980s, there has been a restlessness in seeing the development of many NGOs in Indonesia. After a long process of reflection, supported by many real experiences in the field and critical studies, INSIST (the Institute for Social Transformation) was established in Jogyakarta, 10 December  1997. Since then, much has been done that has put INSIST at the forefront of Indonesian efforts to develop critical discourse, alternative perspectives, and new discourses. INSIST has become a creative, productive supporting system for people’s organizations and social movements in this country.

In other words: yakety-yak-yak-yak.  I do love a good academic discourse.

Likeminded agencies in Jakarta have signed the petition, but it’s still unclear as to which “communities” in Aceh or what members of those communities signed it.  We hear that many Rohingya in the camps signed it, but still don’t know if it was signed by local leaders, community members, or others.  JMD called contacts in Banda Aceh and at the Governor’s office; no on seemed to know much about it.  Which is either a sign that the petition is a flash in the pan (as JMD suspects; there are often “pop up” groups in Aceh responding to political or social events), or indicative of an Aceh bureaucracy still too preoccupied with itself to pay attention to outside issues.  Either way: not so good.

I also came across an interesting group that JMD has never heard of, but who are apparently very good at raising funds to help the Rohingya.  The campaign of the Us-Sunnah Foundation has so far raised $80,000 to provide food and supplies to Rohingya refugees in Indonesia.  The Foundation, stared by Al Camarata of California, is registered in the US (possibly Arizona) and in Indonesia; their office is outside Jakarta in Tangerang.  I am so happy that a faith-based organization has so much good ground support and seems to be directing their funds to those most in need. 


Again, no one we spoke to has ever heard of this foundation,  yet they boast that “We have seen other fundraisers for the refugees online but have not seen any of them on the ground. . . . . we are working in coop[eration] with all organizations on the ground as well as the Indonesian government. . . . we are the only organization . . .  actively seeking funds internationally for these refugee camps.”

Excuse me????

So of course my blood starts to boil and I call my stalwart detectives, who tell me that none of their friends or colleagues know of this foundation either, but further digging reveals that they do support a known entity at the camps, who Robert met, called ACT, (Aksi Cepat Tanggap) a Jakarta based NGO who has built a meeting hall and classroom/study area at the camp in Aceh Utara.

Us-Sunnah also stated that they purchased some land near the camp in Aceh Utara to plant rice to feed the refugees:
Yesterday us-Sunnah (registered nonprofit US and Indonesia) completed the purchase on a 7,500+ sqm (81,000+ sqft) rice field and put the down payment on another about 4,000 sqm (43,000 sqft), both of which can be used immediately and are already prepared for use. This is the first plot for our waqf (endowment) which will harvest several tonnes of rice every 4 to 6 months for hundreds or thousands of years.

But JMD tells me that as far as anyone knows, there has been no purchase and these plans are far from final and that acquiring land from the government could be difficult.  Perhaps it’s just a lease?  Either way, it would be good to know if the refugees can work in this field to grow their own food, or if the government has to provide labor and maintenance.

So I have asked JMD to please get in touch with Mr Camarata from us-Sunnah and introduce ourselves as the ONLY LOCAL agency working in Aceh and the agency that established the Rohingya camp in Aceh Timur in 2009 and perhaps we could conduct some mutual support and information sharing in the future.

They’re doing a nice Ramadan campaign on their Facebook Page,  and if all their proceeds go to the Rohingya I will seek them out and thank them personally myself.

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