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Observer’s Report on the Special ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on Aftermath of Earthquake and Tsunami 6 January, 2005, Jakarta, Indonesia

Written by Lilianne Fan Participants at the summit included: US, UK, Japan, Australia, China, ASEAN leaders, representatives from the EU, United Nations Secretary-General, OCHA, UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the IMF.





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The conference proceedings were as follows:

  • I. Indonesian President and keynote addresses
  • II. Statements by affected countries
  • III. Open session

Some highlights of proceedings:

I Opening Addresses

  • 1) Opening statement by President of Indonesia Susilo Bambany Yudhyono
  • 2) Keynote speech by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
  • 3) Keynote address by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The SG has asked for US$ 977 million for the United Nations. The United Nations funds and programmes presented their to donor countries through a joint Flash Appeal. The appeal included the following allocations:
  • Food $ 290 million
  • Health $ 120 million
  • Water $ 61 million
  • Shelter $ 220 million
  • Livelihood $ 110 million

The US initiated ‘core group’ of donor nations (including the US, UK, Japan, Australia, and India) will be dissolved and the United Nations will assume leadership of the relief efforts for the immediate 6 month-period.

The immediate humanitarian relief work will be handled by the United Nations, to be coordinated by OCHA. The Secretary General will also appoint a special representative to coordinate efforts among countries.

The long-term of reconstruction and development will be handled by development banks, in consultation with the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), which includes UNDP, WHO, WFP, UNICEF, and UNIFEM.

II Statement by affected countries:

  • 4) Vice President Yusuf Kalla presented a situational analysis of Aceh, and screened a video presentation showing the devastation.
  • 5) Sri Lanka and the Maldives talked about the urgent need for an early warning system. Both countries emphasized that their countries were in poverty even before the tragedy, and therefore besides what was needed was not just debt relief, but also a fairer trading system and better market access. In short, what was important was a fairer international system that supported poor countries, not just a response that resulted in more dependence on aid.

III Open session:

  • 6) The UK Foreign Secretary focused on the need for debt relief to affected countries.
  • 7) US Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that the US would ease restrictions on military aid to Indonesia, in particular to supply spare parts for C-130 aircrafts, which are being used for transporting emergency aid.
  • 8) South Africa, as Chair of the Asia Africa Summit, reminded participants that this meeting was being held on the 50th Anniversary of the Bandung Conference and that the global response should be used to remobilise a commitment internationally to support the long-term development priorities poor countries.
  • 9) Norway stressed that donors needed to remember that communities have been wiped out and utterly destroyed, and that it was therefore of utmost importance to ensure that recovery ensured these communities were supported in recovery and made more resilient.
  • 10) The Vice President of Indonesia, Yusuf Kalla, proposed that the only way to rebuild is to have an ‘export strategy’ which brings in the private sector to invest in the long-term reconstruction.
  • 11) The Indonesian President closed by reiterating 6 key issues:
  • a. the need for massive coordination

    b. the need for a UN Special Representative appointed by the Secretary General to coordinate relief and reconstruction efforts

    c. the development banks will be funding most of the reconstruction work

    d. the need for a regional and global disaster centre with sophisticated and effective early warning systems

    e. the need for a stand-by defense and military system to respond to emergency situations

    f. the establishment of an ASEAN humanitarian centre

Some comments:

The United Nations role appears to be limited to short-term humanitarian relief and recovery, while the development banks will focus on the long-term development efforts. There is concern that this will mean that development efforts will be more focused of large-scale reconstruction projects, rather than people-centred social development programmes aimed at rebuilding human security and capacities.

No public discussion thus far about the dangerous implications of deploying the Indonesian military to conduct relief work in a province where their traditional role has been to conduct counter-insurgency operations. No discussion of the problems of the current aid operation taking place while Aceh remains under the status of civil emergency.

No mechanism so far regarding consultations with local actors, including affected people and communities, and diaspora, in rebuilding their own societies. One concern raised by several Acehnese circles I spoke to here was that the enormous amount of money pledged would be very damaging for locals, especially those directly affected, if not managed in a responsible manner. There appears to be very little thought about the potentially dire implications of large-scale development projects, were they to be misused. Given the history of community marginalization from decision-making processes, and of the hostility of many Acehnese groups, from village associations, to students groups, to GAM, to mega-projects perceived as exploiting, marginalising, and discriminating against local communities.

Meanwhile, contacts from within Aceh continue to report that the TNI is obstructing and complicating the delivery of aid. In Meulaboh, volunteers have reported that TNI are insisting that all aid, including cash, is given over to troops, and cannot distributed directly by volunteers to victims. There are also reports that military and intelligence are trying to monitor the delivery of aid by volunteers.


TNI intensifies deployment in Aceh

Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

The Indonesian Military (TNI) is continuing to reinforce its capacity in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, deploying additional personnel and transportation to accelerate relief efforts.

Spokesman for TNI disaster mitigation operation Col. Ahmad Yani said on Thursday that with the deployment of more aircraft, six planes and three helicopters were now in the province. In addition, the U.S. is deploying 12 helicopters to the province, while Singapore and Malaysia are sending one each.

"All helicopters are always on stand-by at Sultan Iskandar Muda airport in Banda Aceh, while the planes make trips to and from Jakarta, Medan and Aceh," Ahmad told The Jakarta Post.

He added the planes were used to transport aid from Jakarta and Medan to Aceh, and the helicopters distributed the aid to remote areas with limited access to land transportation.

"The TNI has deployed 600 more troops in addition to the 25,000 already there for the security operation," he said.

As for foreign teams on the ground, 23 U.S. personnel -- including 12 military personnel -- 93 Malaysian personnel, 21 Singaporean personnel and 14 South African search and rescue personnel are currently in Aceh, according to Ahmad.

To ensure a coordinated operation, Ahmad said all relief personnel -- Indonesian and foreign -- attended an 8 a.m. briefing on the day's activities, as well as possible obstacles they might face.

The morning briefing, he added, was also intended to prevent a clash or overlap of tasks between national and foreign personnel.

TNI teams are specifically responsible for emergency tasks, such as recovering bodies, relocating refugees, erecting field hospitals and distributing supplies to refugee camps.

Ahmad claimed one obstacle the TNI relief teams were up against was the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM), whose members often disguised themselves as refugees to enter camps.

"Two days ago, we captured two people in Meulaboh who we suspect are GAM members. They invaded the shelters and forced the refugees to hand over their rations," he said.


Govt blasted for hampering relief efforts

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Aid organizations working for humanitarian relief programs in tsunami-hit Aceh complained on Wednesday that instead of providing them with assistance, the government had hampered effective efforts to mitigate the effects of the calamity.

Two Jakarta-based relief organizations, the Humanitarian Emergency Commission and the Aceh Working Group (AWG), said that despite the scale of the devastation the tsunamis inflicted on Aceh, it was business as usual for the government as aid workers had to deal with bureaucratic red tape in their efforts.

National coordinator of the Humanitarian Emergency Commission Faisal Basri said aid workers had to go through complicated procedures imposed by the central and local governments before embarking on a full-fledged humanitarian mission.

He said that one of the biggest hurdles for the relief program was encountered at the Office of the Vice President, which also serves as the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Faisal said that as a result his mission failed to dispatch six helicopters to tsunami-hit regions. "We've asked the vice presidential office to provide barrels to store fuel for our helicopters. But the office failed to meet such a simple demand. Our request may have got stuck somewhere," he said, adding that the helicopters were now sitting idle at Halim Perdanakusuma air base.

Faisal said that due to the complicated bureaucratic procedures, his humanitarian mission was now counting on personal connections with government officials.

"The only reason our mission still prevails is due to close cooperation with an Indonesian Military (TNI) general who helped us bypass all procedures. Such is the way things work," Faisal told The Jakarta Post.

He also suggested that the government install a single official to oversee all relief operations in Aceh, especially one experienced in dealing with logistical problems.

"The destruction in Aceh is similar to that of the Iraq war, so we need someone who is capable of handling massive problems, not just a minister who happens to oversee social affairs," he said, referring to the role of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Alwi Shihab.

Along with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu, Alwi in his capacity as Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare has been appointed by Vice President Jusuf Kalla to coordinate all relief programs in Aceh.

Contacted separately, Ori Rahman of the Aceh Working Group said the disaster mitigation agency which was superimposed on the existing bureaucratic structures complicated the already extensive bureaucratic system.