Sat, 29 Mar 2003

Organizations plan to send aid to Iraq

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Religious organizations are planning to send humanitarian aid to Iraq to ease people's suffering from the attack launched by the United States and its allies.

Solahuddin Wahid, the deputy chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim group, said on Friday that the organization had started to collect donations from its members across the country.

"We will send aid in the form of medicine, which must be badly needed by Iraqis, and canned food. We will probably dispatch medical volunteers there also," Solahuddin said.

The NU has yet to decide on whether to send the aid through the United Nations, the Red Cross or other organizations.

"We will discuss it during an interfaith group meeting on Monday," he said.

Dien Syamsuddin, the secretary-general of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) who is also the deputy chairman of Muhammadiyah, said that the religious body was also planning to collect donations and send humanitarian aid to the Iraqis.

"The aid will be disbursed in the form of goods and cash within the next one or two months," he said.

MUI conducted the same humanitarian mission for Afghanistan, Palestine and Bosnia Herzegovina.

Separately, Rev. A.A. Yewangoe of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) said that the organization was still considering whether to dispatch humanitarian aid to Iraq.

"We are currently focusing on our commitment to urge the United Nations to stop the war in Iraq. We will later send humanitarian assistance to Iraq, although it will not be easy to do that," he said.

Several organizations, including the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Indonesian Red Cross, are also planning to send medical assistance and other relief to Iraq.

In the East Java capital of Surabaya, Navy Chief Adm. Bernard Kent Sondakh said the Navy had opened the possibility of deploying its warships to carry humanitarian relief to Iraq.

"But it depends on military headquarters. So far, we have not received an order to carry out a humanitarian mission," he said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirajuda said that the government would provide assistance to organizations that intended to send humanitarian aid to Iraq.

The government will most likely send the aid through the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has access to Iraq and its neighboring countries of Jordan and Kuwait.

The government earlier said it had no plans to provide humanitarian assistance for the people of Iraq, saying that it was the responsibility of the U.S., which initiated the war.