07/10/2006, 00.00
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Java quake survivors say government forgot them

by Mathias Hariyadi

Survivors of the May quake are protesting against delays in the distribution of aid the government pledged and that has never arrived. Local authorities remain deaf to their demands. In Wedi local Catholics are successful in providing aid.

Wedi (AsiaNews) – Corruption and red tape are hindering the distribution of economic aid the government pledged for quake-stricken central Java. Most survivors from the May 27 quake are starting to despair but in Wedi some are smiling again thanks to the intervention by Catholic volunteers.

In Wedi as in Gantiwarno and Bayat (Klaten Regency), people are still stuck in makeshift tents after more than a month. They complain of long delays in receiving government aid packages. Almost half of all the affected villages have not received any aid at all.

Right after the quake, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla promised a financial assistance to meet day-to-day basic needs, but thousands of homeless people are saying that they are still waiting to see any of it.

The assistance package included US$ 2,500 to rehabilitate homes, 10 kg of rice and a monthly grant of US$ 8.

Some 200 homeless people from various villages demonstrated in downtown Klaten last week, expressing their concern over the situation. They complained they had been "forgotten", overwhelmed by fears about the future that awaits them.

"We don't know how we'll rebuild our homes," said Suwardi, a Wedi resident. "Under the circumstances children are the most vulnerable to various diseases."

Samiadji, a local government official who also chairs Klaten's relief aid agency, admits that it was beyond his capacity to give definite answers to questions about aid.

"As far as I know," he said, "plans were made by Jakarta and VP Kalla issued a statement saying that homeless victims would receive financial aid packages from the central government". He added that delays in distribution were due to "technical problems", which in Indonesia usually means red tape.

Out of 386 devastated villages in both Wedi and Gantiwarno sub-districts, 158 villages were still "untouched".

"We have a list of at least 178,440 people who reported receiving no financial relief aid yet. We lack at least 16 billions rupiahs in fresh money," Samiadji explained.

Klaten Mayor Sunarno made the same complaint. "I left for Jakarta and voiced the problem with Central Java governor . . . but alas the money is not there".

In addition to red tape, corruption is another problem that has hindered aid distribution by government agencies.

Hope is however still alive for those who benefited from the intervention of Wedi's Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ Parish Church. Under its leadership, a growing army of volunteers has been providing victims with help every day regardless of religion.

"We are now focusing on providing tools and basic materials such as cement and wood to rebuild houses. Basic needs such as food supply are still on our list. People are happy and grateful," said Francis Xavier Supriyono, the parish priest.

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