Indonesia

Indonesia: Tsunami survivors demand return

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Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

Displaced earthquake and tsunami survivors from Aceh and Nias in North Sumatra still residing in shelters rallied Tuesday at the gubernatorial office in Medan demanding they be immediately able to return to their respective villages.

Over 100 protesters from the Horja Pengungsi group said they had been displaced for the last two years due to a lack of government assistance and employment opportunities.

An earthquake survivor from Nias, Diana Harefa, 30, said she and her family were yet to receive government aid since arriving in Medan two years ago.

The government had promised to provide housing assistance to families when they arrived in Medan but this promise is yet to be realized. Most of the evacuees live in rented houses in Medan and other areas in the province and find it difficult to pay their rent.

"Rental prices continue to rise every year in Medan. This year we have to set aside Rp 2.4 million (approximately US$266) for rent which is impossible for us to do because we find it hard to even put food on the table. My husband is just a pedicab driver," Diana told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Diana said she hoped the government would immediately rebuild their house in Sirombu district, Nias regency, which was destroyed in the earthquake in 2005.

She said her extended family wanted to return home because they could no longer stand living in temporary accommodation.

"We hope the government will rebuild our house in Nias and provide us with start-up capital to open a small business. Hopefully the children will also receive free education," the mother of three said.

Sari Jirahuwa, 37, another quake survivor from Nias, said two of her children attending school in Medan were at risk of not being able to sit their exams in June due to unpaid school fees.

"I must pay Rp 285,000 in school fees before June and if I cannot my children who are both in elementary school cannot sit their exams," Sari said, adding that her husband's daily earnings as a pedicab driver are around Rp 5,000.

A tsunami survivor from Aceh, Lily Suheri, said it had been difficult for her family to make ends meet since arriving at a shelter in Medan due to a lack of job opportunities and support from the government.

Rally coordinator Berwaddin said most of the displaced people from Aceh and Nias still living in North Sumatra did not have permanent jobs and mostly worked as construction laborers and pedicab drivers.

Berwaddin said that based on data collected in December last year, 1,074 displaced people were still living in Medan, Binhai, Langkat, Karo and Deli Serdang in North Sumatra.

The province's Vice Governor Sofyan Nasution said the administration would continue to be active in its efforts to help displaced people and would pay attention to their grievances after carrying out the verification process.

"We require exact data on the number of displaced people who are in need of support," Sofyan said.