In Aceh, people collect coins to 'repay' Australian PM

Payback: An activist presents money collected to compensate Australia for aid given after the 2004 tsunami in Banda Aceh on Saturday. The text reads “Coins for Australia”.

People in Aceh are collecting spare change for Tony Abbot following the Australian prime minister's recent comments about a lack of Indonesian gratitude as it readies to execute two Australian drug traffickers.

Organizers said that the money collected would be given to the Australian government to "repay" an estimated A$1 billion worth of aid given to Indonesia after the 2004 Aceh tsunami.

Among initiators of the coin drive are the I Love Aceh community and the Association of Indonesian Muslim University Students (KAMMI), which has set up special posts for people to participate in the drive.

"We are ready to collect coins to be handed over to the Australian government," chairman of KAMMI's Banda Aceh post, Martunus, said.

"We call on the Indonesian government to not be afraid of threats or other forms of intervention in connection to the upcoming executions," he said, calling Abbot's statement hurtful.

Bringing up the humanitarian aid as a bargaining tool was arrogant and showed no respect for the people of Aceh, he said.

"We are ready to collect coins to return their aid," Martunus said.

He said the coins would be collected in various public areas and through different communities in Banda Aceh. He hoped all Acehnese would participate in the drive as the move would help preserve the dignity of the Acehnese as well.

The group said it would hand over the coins to the Australian government through the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf, however, criticised the move, saying that there was no need for the Acehnese to respond to the statement with the same hostility Abbot conveyed.

"When we are criticising Abbot's statement in a harsh way and respond by collecting coins, we are actually hurting the feelings of the Australians who so kindly helped us after the tsunami," Irwandi said.

He said that responding to Abbot's statement by collecting coins was as childish as the prime minister's statement. "It's not the way international relations should be practiced," he said.

Separately, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop tried to clarify the prime minister's comments linking the fate of the two Australians on death row to aid, media reports said Saturday.

Tensions between the two nations have grown after Indonesia confirmed Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine heroin trafficking group, were named among the next group of convicts to face the firing squad.

Abbott has denied threatening Indonesia when he said the country should remember the aid Australia contributed.

Bishop said she called Vice President Jusuf Kalla to clarify Abbott's comments and emphasised Australia's close relationship with Indonesia.

"I have made it quite clear that the prime minister was simply illustrating the point that Australia has been and remains a supporter, a close friend of Indonesia," Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Certainly these comments were not any attempt to threaten Indonesia."