Mon, 31 Mar 2003

More organizations pledge to send aids to Iraqis

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Religious organizations, political parties and others have begun gathering humanitarian aid for Iraqis who are suffering the consequences of war.

The Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) have all expressed a pledge to assist the Iraqis with help from the Indonesian government.

The government, meanwhile, said Sunday that it would send the first batch of aid to Iraq sometime this week.

Minister of Social Affairs Bachtiar Chamsyah said on Sunday that the aid would be in the form of medicine and canned food.

"Although we are in our own crisis, that does not mean we cannot express our solidarity with the Iraqis. We will not send any volunteers, but we will send food and medicine," Bachtiar was quoted by Antara as saying on Sunday.

Meanwhile, MUI's Yogyakarta branch has asked all mosques in the province to gather donations from their congregations for the Iraqis.

MUI's Yogyakarta branch chairman Thoha Abdurrahman said on Saturday that cash donations would be collected during Friday's prayers and put into an account to be opened by MUI.

The donations collected by each mosque would then be collected by the Indonesian Mosque Council (DMI), which would then submit the funds to MUI. MUI will then transfer the aid to the government.

PDI Perjuangan, the country's largest political party, also disclosed its plan to send humanitarian aid to Iraq.

"We will send medicine and food supplies to the Iraqis, and we will do it through the government," the party's deputy chairman Roy B.B. Janis said Sunday.

NU -- the country's largest Muslim organization -- and the Muslim-based PKS party also expressed their intention to provide humanitarian aid for the Iraqis.

Earlier, some 400 members of NU's youth wing Ansor, drove to the UN office with two minibuses full of rice. They forced the UN office to accept their donation of 2.5 tons of rice for the Iraqis.

An interfaith group, comprising leaders from different religions, also has plans to support humanitarian assistance for the Iraqis.

All the aid packages would be channeled through the government.

The government said that it would then be distributed using the Red Crescent network in Iraq, Jordan and other countries in the region in cooperation with the Indonesian Red Cross.

As the bombardment of Iraq by the U.S. and its allies continues, more and more Iraqis have been deprived of basic supplies, such as food and water.

In addition, around 300,000 were reported to be stranded in border areas.

Indonesia has strongly criticized the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, calling it a breach of international law that would likely spark a humanitarian crisis.