The Jakarta Post, January 29, 2003
Graft robs 25,000 Maluku refugees of government aid
Azis Tunny and Octovianus Pinontoan, The Jakarta Post, Ambon, Maluku
More than 25,000 refugees fleeing sectarian clashes in the province of Maluku have never received government aid said a local councillor who claimed this was due to corruption at the local administration level.
Head of the Maluku Provincial Legislative Council, Lucky Wattimury said on Monday that of the 170,590 refugees in the provincial capital of Ambon, 25,262 refugees had never seen government aid.
This aid includes basic foodstuffs and money to buy food and other forms of aid, he said.
"They have not been given their rights as refugees," Lucky told The Jakarta Post.
He could not say how much money the aid amounted to, but said that the number of people affected by the dubious shortfall was based on field surveys.
Jakarta has set aside Rp 500 (about 5.6 U.S. cents) in food money and 100 grams of rice every day for each of the hundreds of thousands of refugees nationwide. That means the 25,262 refugees should have received at least US$1,419 in food money and 252.62 kilograms in rice per day.
But that aid never reached the recipients, for which Lucky blamed corrupt local government officials.
"According to information from the local government, there are several officials who take personal advantage of the refugee problem," he said.
He gave no details, saying only that Ambon Mayor M.J. Papilaja had taken stern action against the officials.
But a different explanation on the food shortfall for the refugees was presented by the head of Ambon's social welfare office, M. A. Namsa.
He said the refugees did not receive aid because they were newcomers who were not present when the government surveyed the number of refugees in 2001.
The number of refugees in Ambon jumped from 145,328 in 2001 to 290,000 in 2002, he claimed.
But there was no explanation behind the surge in refugees given that the level of violence in Maluku had fallen significantly.
More than 300,000 people have fled the raging violence since a riot in Ambon turned into an all-out war between Maluku's Muslim and Christian communities in early 1999.
A peace accord last year helped subdue the warring groups. One third of the refugees have now begun to return to their homes, forced also by the government's decision to cut aid to more than a million refugees nationwide.
All contents copyright © of The Jakarta Post.