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Another Day in Paradise

sunny

I'd been tardy in checking what times the ferries ran back to Banda and finding them to be either very early or inconveniently late I reluctantly settled for spending another precious day in paradise. It was too late to commit myself to an early departure and the afternoon boat would only land me in overpriced Banda too late to do anything constructive. Though the German guys had opted to go snorkelling once again at a more impressive site the other side of the offshore island, my shredded toes and need to review my gear offered me the excuse for a day of relaxation and writing. The locals were friendly, not least Betty, and I had a very rewarding discussion with an Ozzie NGO guy who filled in a few of the blanks for me regarding the tsunami aid effort. Unfortunately it was a sorry tale of prolific corruption, political opportunism and development opportunities squandered, exacerbated by the firm grip which Islam now possessed here. In the hard won peace treaty sealed in 2005 between GAM (Free Aceh Movement) and Jakarta, the Acehnese had secured the unprecedented right to table regional political parties, also securing a fair whack of the local mineral revenues, and top of every local boys Christmas list, Sharia law. Jakarta had been smart in recognising the regimes ineptitude however, certainly my previous reading about them told of them persecuting their own people just as much as Jakarta ever did, and the general perception was that their ongoing failure to deliver would eventually breed resentment and further unrest. Jakarta would have their excuse to step back into the mix to "restore order". All the more reason to see Aceh now then, it had been off the travellers map for years and might soon leave it again. My interviewee further related that in his capacity as a health worker he had struggled to secure the release of hundreds of political prisoners, labelled as psychiatric cases and tethered in chains, doubtless in harrowing conditions. Islam got short shrift from us both, typified by a false alarm tsunami alert just the previous week, whereby his driver had refused to budge despite the impending doom before receiving a dictat from the Imams. In the confusion the people of Banda had panicked and were stuck in gridlock for 2 hours. In the event of a real tsunami they would have all been wiped out. It was the institutionalised aversion to free thought typical of Islam personified. And whilst rampant high level corruption meant that officials wouldnt even turn up for their own meetings without being suitably "compensated" by the NGOs for example, needy people went consciously unaided and minor crimes were dealt with savagely. My bag became pleasingly lighter that day with the ditching of my airline blanket and the loss of my favourite shirt, which had succumbed to tropic induced rot. My original blue shorts were now also showing the strain and in view of the passport debacle they would now be relegated to swimming wear only.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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