Avebury's Aceh Call
6 January 2005
Colin Powell and Jack Straw have missed a trick in their handling of the relief effort in Indonesia, according to the Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Avebury who has long contacts with the devastated Aceh region of Sumarta.
The US Secretary of State and British Foreign Secretary are among world leaders gathering this week in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
"I wrote to Jack Straw as soon as I heard about the tsunami, telling him he must ask the Indonesian government to call a cease-fire to the civil war there," says Eric Avebury, vice-president of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group.
"The rebels have already called for a truce and the government seemed sympathetic but the army is proceeding with the war as usual. In fact, they have asked for more troops.
"Peace is the first essential if relief supplies are going to get through to these places, many of them accessible only by helicopter.
"Colin Powell made no mention of the civil war, possibly because he knew the Indonesian army would pay no attention, but pressure should be put on them to stop the fighting."
Avebury points out that Aceh is one of our oldest allies, having signed a Treaty with James I in 1605, the year of the Gunpowder Plot. In 1873, the Sultan of Aceh appealed to Lord Palmerston to save his people from the Dutch but to no avail.
"Palmerston, who enjoyed sending gunboats, didn't even reply," says Avebury. "Let's hope Jack Straw does a little better."
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