THREE years after Australians donated $400 million to rebuild Asian lives devastated by the 2004 tsunami, aid groups are under attack for spending much of the money on social and political engineering. A survey by The Australian of the contributions by non-government organisations to the relief effort found the donations had been spent on politically correct projects promoting left-wing Western values over traditional Asian culture. The activities - listed as tsunami relief - include a "travelling Oxfam gender justice show" in Indonesia to change rural male attitudes towards women. Another Oxfam project, reminiscent of the ACTU's Your Rights at Work campaign, instructs Thai workers in Australian-style industrial activism and encourages them to set up trade unions. A World Vision tsunami relief project in the Indonesian province of Aceh includes a lobbying campaign to advance land reform to promote gender equity, as well as educating women in "democratic processes" and encouraging them to enter politics. Also in Aceh, the Catholic aid group Caritas funds an Islamic learning centre to promote "the importance of the Koran". This is seen as recognition of the importance of Islam in a province that has been the scene of a long-running and bloody independence struggle against the secular central Government.And there was at least one person who foresaw the problem. Don D'Cruz of the Institute of Public Affairs (check it out) in Australia:
One critic, Don D'Cruz, wrote at the outset of the relief operation that Indonesian claims of "foreign interference" through Australian NGOs were too often brushed aside. Mr D'Cruz, then a research fellow with the right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, wrote "it would be a mistake to ignore the substance of these claims, especially when it comes to the activities of Western aid groups operating in Indonesia. The trend among aid organisations has been to become more involved in politics, although this activism has been largely masked." Going beyond humanitarian and development aid, he wrote, risked alienating Asian governments, which could deny access.