A South China Morning Post editorial says the Indonesian government’s journalism ban and relief effort restrictions put the interests of Aceh victims on the backburner.
South China Morning Post
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
By all accounts, post-tsunami reconstruction in the Indonesian province of Aceh has only just begun. It is therefore discouraging to see that the relief effort is being put under threat by government moves to restrict aid workers’ access to the region.
The prospect is that by March 26, three months after the Boxing Day disaster, new controls will be introduced to severely limit the presence and operations of the 140 non-governmental organisations now there. Journalists face an outright ban.
Already, foreign aid workers have been required to register with authorities and travel with Indonesian military escorts when leaving Aceh’s two biggest cities. About 800 have been issued visas that expire on March 26 – with no promise of extension.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, now involved in rebuilding villages, has been put on notice that it will no longer be welcome in the province.
The tightened rules hark back to Jakarta’s pre-tsunami emergency rule in war-torn Aceh. Such measures paved the way for a rise in allegations of rights violations and corruption, and helped firm up the Indonesian military’s hold on the region.
But the measures were hardly effective in achieving the ultimate aim of peace and they are not appropriate now, as the focus should remain on rebuilding the schools, homes and businesses that were lost in December.
The presence of foreign aid workers and soldiers in Aceh has always been difficult for Indonesia to accept. But after more than 120,000 Acehnese perished – and hundreds of thousands were left homeless – Jakarta had little choice but to accept outside help.
Foreign troops are mostly gone and all are set to meet the March 26 deadline for their departure. The aid workers, meanwhile, must stay, for several important reasons. The primary one is that their work is not yet done. Humanitarian concerns must take precedence above Jakarta’s political priorities.
A fragile truce since the tsunami has paved the way for a permanent end to the Aceh rebellion, now that autonomous status has been offered and the rebels have indicated a willingness to discuss it. The presence of foreigners can help promote transparency, provide hope and encourage both sides to stick to their pledges.
Closing off the territory and limiting the movement of the agencies could set the stage for a rise in violence. It could also see the emergence of rampant graft that would severely hamper the rebuilding and threaten overseas donations.
Jakarta may well have an unspoken agenda, perhaps to use control over the flow of aid as a bargaining chip in talks with the rebels. Such cynical actions must be avoided. The interests and welfare of the Acehnese must come first. And those interests are best served by allowing the relief efforts to go on as planned.
By By Richel Dursin, Asia Times Online
March 9th, 2005
A government plan to cut down more trees in one of the largest national parks in Indonesia to help rebuild tsunami-ravaged Aceh has drawn opposition from environmentalists and officials in the country’s Forestry Ministry, who claim that the plan could worsen illegal logging in the country.
“We don’t want Gunung Leuser National Park to be cleared as the source of logs for Aceh,” Henri Bastaman, senior adviser to the minister of environment, told Inter Press Service. “Targeting the park as the resource of logs for reconstructing the tsunami-devastated province would completely destroy the area.”
Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry has estimated that about 8.5 million cubic meters of timber is needed to build 123,000 houses for Acehnese who survived the December 26 tsunami disaster. Of the total figure, 6 million cubic meters will be in the form of logs and the remaining 2.5 million cubic meters will be sawn.
The epicenter of the undersea earthquake was near Meulaboh in western Aceh. The tsunamis that resulted from the quake hit the coastlines of a dozen countries in South and Southeast Asia, killing more than 220,000 people. In Aceh, more than 70% of the inhabitants of some coastal villages are reported to have died.
The official death toll in Indonesia has exceeded 120,000, while more than 127,000 others remain missing. The exact number of victims probably will never be known.
According to the Ministry of Environment, the central government in Jakarta is targeting Gunung Leuser National Park, which has been declared a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization because of its complete ecosystem, to be the “supplier” of the logs.
“The government’s argument is that we have the Gunung Leuser in Aceh so we should use it. But we don’t see it as the solution,” Bastaman said.
Instead of clearing the protected forests in Gunung National Park, Bastaman suggested that the government either import wood or ask developed countries to provide timber to construct new homes, schools and fishing boats for tsunami victims.
Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar has rejected the plan to exploit Gunung Leuser, which comprises 850,000 hectares of tropical rainforest, and instead asked other countries and aid agencies to donate logs for the reconstruction of Aceh. So far Sweden has expressed its intention to supply logs for Aceh’s reconstruction.
“The rehabilitation of Aceh must not damage our forests,” Witoelar said. Cutting down trees in Gunung Leuser National Park would lead to other calamities such as floods and landslides, he added.
Gunung Leuser is one of the last places in Indonesia where endangered Sumatran tigers, orangutans, rhinoceros and elephants all exist. Yet even before the tsunami struck Aceh, the national park had been threatened.
The non-governmental Indonesian Forum for the Environment disclosed that one-fifth of the national park has been affected by illegal logging, and the destruction is increasing with the construction of a road network known as the Ladia Galaska project, which cuts through hundreds of kilometers of protected forests in Aceh to link the east and west coasts of the province.
The main section of the Ladia Galaska road will cut through 100 kilometers of protected forests as well as some forest-conservation areas, including the Leuser ecosystem.
The 2.6-million-hectare Leus
er ecosystem, which encloses Gunung Leuser National Park, is known to biologists as the most complete natural laboratory in the world. It is made up of coastal beaches, lowland swamps, degraded lowland rainforest, extensive pristine mountain forest, and isolated alpine meadows and is rich in animal and plant species.
“The Ladia Galaska is a crazy project. Imagine building a road in a very steep and protected forest area,” Longgena Ginting, executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, said in an interview. “The Ladia Galaska road project has opened up the Gunung Leuser National Park all the more to illegal loggers,” Ginting stressed.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment regards the road network project as “illegal” because no feasibility study was conducted before construction began. Moreover, Eko Soebowo, a geologist at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, argued that six of the nine planned roads would cross the Sumatra fault-line and would thus be prone to earthquakes and landslides.
But Indonesia’s Ministry of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure emphasized that the road construction, which started in 2002, would benefit the rural economy in the western part of the province.
Since the tsunami devastated Aceh, supporters of the Ladia Galaska network have been using the catastrophe to legitimize the road construction, which is still ongoing despite strong opposition by environmental groups.
“We’re worried that the tsunami tragedy is being used to affirm the road construction in the province,” Ginting said. “We have to stop the road-construction project and prevent Gunung Leuser National Park as the source of logs.”
According to Forest Watch Indonesia, it would be very risky if all the logs needed for the reconstruction of Aceh would be sourced domestically because this would worsen illegal logging in the country.
Indonesia, home to 10% of the world’s remaining tropical forests, has the world’s highest rate of deforestation, with about 3 million hectares being lost every year. Indonesian police, military and government officials often turn a blind eye to illegal logging and this exacerbates the problem.
Environmental activists have pointed out that the high demand for timber in the growing national and international markets and limited supply cause illegal logging to thrive in the country and result in increasing pressure on Indonesia’s forests.
Forest Watch Indonesia disclosed that only 20% of Indonesia’s total demand can be met by the legitimate cutting of trees. Last year, demand from the local timber industry averaged between 63 million and 80 million cubic meters of logs. But of this amount, only 12 million cubic meters of logs were provided through legitimate cutting.
Togu Manurung, executive officer of Forest Watch Indonesia, pointed out that some of the logs being used to rebuild Aceh were illegally cut from protected forests.
“The government should declare publicly and transparently that some of the logs used for rebuilding Aceh come from illegal logging operations,” Manurung said.
He pointed out that some Acehnese are aware that the logs they are using to rebuild their province were illegally cut, but said, “So far, there was no rejection on the part of the Acehnese because they have no choice.”
“Providing illegally cut logs for the rebuilding of Aceh should not be tolerated as this would induce illegal loggers to continue their operations,” Manurung said. “With the government allowing the use of illegal logs, it is giving incentives to illegal loggers.”
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
By Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh
Hundreds of people from 14 villages in Aceh Besar regency and Banda Aceh municipality gathered in Lam Isiek village here on Tuesday to pledge to rebuild their homes, which were destroyed by the tsunami.
The villagers, who have formed a joint team (udeep beusare), said they would not live in government camps for internally displaced people but seek assistance from other parties.
“The team will collect aid and coordinate the reconstruction project,” Addil, a representative of Kampung Pie hamlet said.
Wardah Hafidz of the Urban Poor Linkage (Uplink), which has offered survivors advice and support, said the villagers, who are mostly fishermen, cannot be relocated far from the sea.
“We will rebuild their houses, bridges and other infrastructure using funds from donors. They are determined to return to their villages as the government is not ready with its blueprint for the reconstruction of Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar. They cannot wait,” she said.
The villages were inhabited by 30,000 people before the disaster, but only around 10 percent of their joint population survived.
A village head, Zulkifli, said rebuilding the villages was a better solution than staying in shelters.
“We are hard workers. We can’t live in shelters. If the government wishes to help us, please give us boats,” he said.
Earlier, acting Aceh governor Azwar Abubakar said that as many tsunami survivors preferred to rebuild their homes the construction of some shelters would be suspended until further notice.
“We made this decision after learning that many residents, particularly fishermen, wish to return to their villages,” Azwar said.
The provincial government has been building 400 temporary shelters for around 56,000 people, only to find that few are willing to stay there. The construction of 200 more shelters will follow.
“Because many shelters remain uninhabited. we have no choice but to ask the public works agency to suspend the construction of some other shelters, otherwise it will be a waste of money,” Azwar said.
The acting governor admitted that limited water supply, electricity and poor sanitary facilities, including lavatories, were other reasons why the displaced people were not keen to move into the shelters.
“We are not going to prevent them from returning to their villages. But they will not receive our assistance until we complete the construction project,” he said.
A shelter has 12 bedrooms and costs Rp 200 million (US$21,500) to build. Five shelters are located within a block, which is equipped with 20 lavatories, five public kitchens and a multi-purpose hall.
The size of each shelter varies from between 36 square meters and 54 square meters. They are made of plywood with a zinc roof and are expected to last for two years.
The public works agency has denied allegations of corruption in the project.
“There was no mark up. The shelters are expensive to build as we have to bring in materials and workers from outside Aceh,” Totok Pri, a public works ministry official, said.
Earlier, the Peaceful Aceh Sans Corruption (ADIK) corruption watch criticized the government for not revealing the source of funds for the shelters. It said the project was prone to corruption as the government could use foreign aid but claim the project was funded by the state budget.
ADIK activists have also reported cracks in the foundations of some shelters, which could mean that an insufficient proportion of cement was used.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
There is a common joke among government officials that attempts to explain the supposedly assertive nature of the Acehnese people: “When 10 Acehnese gather to work out a consensus, they will come up with at least 11 different opinions.” That yarn reflects the impatience, and sometimes the frustration, that central government officials and other outsiders often endure when trying to understand and accommodate the aspirations of the Acehnese.
On the other hand, however, as history has proved, such impatience has often become a major source of discontent among the Acehnese concerning the central government’s attitude: In many cases, if not most, the central government prefers to take a top-down approach in its various development programs — ignoring local demands. And in truth, the rebellious province is not alone. Many other provinces and regions have similar complaints.
Now, after more than two months of relief operations to help the Dec. 26 tsunami victims, the war-torn province is entering a new stage of development — the long-term reconstruction of Aceh. The government has finished drafting a blueprint for the reconstruction of the province, and has started to invite some local people to present their input for the plan.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has decided to establish a special agency to handle the reconstruction efforts and it is quite natural that people in the province want their own men or women to lead it.
The government has received many complaints from the local people who feel that they have been left out of the decision-making process and that therefore the blueprint may not fit their expectations. The government’s patience and wisdom will be tested once again and certainly no one hopes that the current administration will repeat the previous government’s blunders in responding to those demands.
But it is a huge job that will need massive funding. Thanks to the strong support of the international community, the government has received large amounts of aid money to finance the planned projects. This means that the government must be fully accountable for how the budget is spent, and fully mindful that the money comes from those countries’ taxpayers.
There have been reports about many non-Acehnese, who are currently busy lobbying government officials to win lucrative projects. The local people of Aceh, on the other hand, think they have the right to carry out the job, because it concerns the reconstruction of their territory. Moreover, although the projects may be very profitable for contractors, the reconstruction efforts also hold a strong social and humanitarian component.
Since most of the money comes from donations, it would be disgraceful if the social factor is put on the back burner, behind commercial considerations. The Acehnese must be treated as subjects, and not merely objects of the reconstruction efforts. For decades, the people of Aceh have suffered as Jakarta used violence and military methods to silence the outspoken Acehnese.
This is the right time to correct those past mistakes and show the people that, this time, they will be the real subjects of the development efforts. Again and again we need to remind ourselves that Indonesia has earned its international reputation as a notoriously corrupt country. With huge amounts of money now available for the province, it is very natural that those who have donated the funds worry about how their money is spent.
A senior government official who is intensively involved in the relief operations recently disclosed the government’s plan to include foreign donors in a supervisory body, which will be established soon to monitor, from the earliest stage, the implementation of the reconstruction work. It seems indeed a good choice to involve the foreign donors in the job, to ensure accountability, even though many chauvinists may regard that an interference in Indonesia’s domestic affairs.
However, when Indonesians do not even believe that the projects will be free from corruption, is it not much better to invite the donors to participate in the reconstruction work from the very beginning? However, the preparations need to be carried out immediately. The government has little time left to prove that the reconstruction of Aceh will be accountable, both to donors and to the people of Aceh, whose lives have been destroyed by the tsunami.
By Dedy Ardiansyah – Medan, 2005-03-12 12:44:40
A recent meeting of Acehnese civil society, coordinated by the Aceh Recovery Forum (ARF), has put forward a blueprint for a special rehabilitation and reconstruction body in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. The ARF’s proposed special body is markedly different from that recently instituted by the government.
The head of the ARF working group, Ahmad Humam Hamid, a lecturer at the Syah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, met with journalists at the Hotel Polonia, Medan, on Wednesday 9th to outline their proposals.
The meeting lasted three days and produced 10 recommendations to feed into the concept of an overall rehabilitation and reconstruction blueprint that will be put to the National Planning and Development Board (BAPPENAS).
For elements of Acehnese civil society this wasn’t their first endeavour to have some input into their homeland’s future. Previously, Forum LSM (Acehnese NGO Forum) had tried to have a similar meeting, but it was forbidden by the Civil Emergency Authority.
The Civil Emergency Authority refused to grant the request for a meeting by various social groups at the Hotel Renggali, Takengon, Aceh Tengah. The planned meeting of local NGO activists, ulamas, students, and youth groups was scheduled for the 11th-13th of February.
In letter No B/03/II/2005/PDSD/As-I, dated February 9th the Authority said that they were not yet able to grant permission for the meeting. According to the letter this is because the security situation is ‘not yet conducive’.
“When the situation and condition of the province are more conducive, these kinds of activities will be considered,” the letter stated. It was signed by the head of the Civil Emergency Authority, Inspector General of Police, Bahrumsyah SH.
As a consequence of this refusal, civil society had to move the meeting to Medan.
Nonetheless, it was a very productive three days. The recommendation items finally put together were the output of ten working groups (WG): Institutions & Governance; Natural Resources & Environment; Law & Human Rights; Education; Security; Law and Order & Reconciliation; Spacial Planning; Infrastructure; and Funding.
The Special Body
Humam Hamid explained that the special body recommended by the Institutions & Governance working group was noticeably different from the Authority Body recently formed by the government to oversee the rehabilitation and reconstruction process in Aceh.
The differences located in the order
ing of accountability that goes directly to the President. This special body also has to be on the same level as a minister/department/ministry because the coice of authority/competence for coordinating central government institutions while regional and DPRD and international donor institutions together over a period of three to five years. In addition to that, the special body must also be instituted by legal means.
“Our forum’s special body is at the proposal stage only. The mechanisms of the Authority Body proposed by the government are not clearly delineated. This will have an impact on the implementation of its ideas in the field. We would like to counter this lack by setting up another special body that is clearly defined by a legal means such as a law, regulation, or presidential decree. The legal basis is needed to avoid overlaps in reconstruction and rehabilitation activities.
On that note, the body proposed would also include people with strong credibility. “This is particularly important as international donors don’t believe that the government is well able to manage rehabilitation and reconstruction funds,” said Humam.
Meanwhile, Mawardi Ismail, lecturer in law at Syah Kuala University, and head of the Institutions & Governance working group explained that their special body should be the foundation for Aceh’s rehabilitation and reconstruction. It would open up space for Acehnese people and civil society to get directly involved in post-tsunami development.
“The form of the body is the key. Its authority could be held by the governor, but this would be unlikely to be reflected on the ground as the governor’s authority is limited and would not likely involve sufficient coordination with ministers,” said Mawardi.
Because the duties and authority of the special body are broad – because it has to be coordinated by central and regional institutions, as well as international donors – a legal authority must establish the body in order to give it legitimate foundation.
“This would, however, take a long time as it would have to get the agreement of the parliament. The most feasible outcome is a legal product that is on a level with a law, as for example an amendment or regulation, or Presidential Decree,” he added.
Mawardi also explained that the legal foundation must determine the leadership of the body. There are two models that could feed into this: either taking a functional lead from the BPK (National Audit Body), or involving civil society, NGOs, popular leaders and members of parliament in the process.
Also involved is the issue of Indonesia’s relationship with GAM. The NGO Forum meeting recommended a peace map be the single most important priority for both sides. Because of this imperative, policy has to focus on supporting the dialogue process happening in Helsinki in order to achieve a political solution.
In the area of economy and employment short and long term models were put forward. The short term focuses on relocation efforts in line with refugees’ needs, rehabilitation and increasing employment prospects, and restoring markets and fish auctions in order to support the people’s financial recovery.
In the long run, the format for Aceh’s economic development has to be based on popular as formulated in the Duek Pakat Takengon Declaration in September 2003.
Meanwhile, education must concentrate on Islamic principles as well as developing local workforce skills, together with repairing educational infrastructure and staffing.
In the religious arena, ARF recommended that all actions taken in the rebuilding of the province incorporate foundations in line with Islamic principles, as well as Acehnese, Indonesian and universal values.
As a work focus in the field of religion, ARF integrated concepts compatible with a multicultural approach, curriculum development, the establishment of pesantren and the knowledge and thought of ulama that are involved with religious institutions, women’s organisations, NGOs and the general population.
In the field of law and human rights policy there must be legal guarantees around distribution and gathering of evidence of ownership, possessions and documents. In addition basic rights for refugees must be enshrined in law, whether they are living in or outside of the camps.
The ARF recommendations for reconstruction and rehabilitation are all underpinned with an understanding of the Acehnese people’s needs. For example, basic issues such as building houses for victims must incorporate discussions with the victims themselves.
Another critical area is that of spacial planning. The Forum agreed that there needs to be zoning in line with disaster risk management. As is known, the government – through BAPPENAS – has already established several zones, including zones forbidden to population settlements as far as two kilometres from the beach front. But this new spacial planning, according to the ARF, must include people and traditional and customary legal institutions’ needs.
In the area of environment, policy will be directed to the recovery and ordering of livelihoods as well as sustainable resources.
After the three day meeting the final recommendation issued by Acehnese civil society groups was on the question of funding. The Funding working group proposed the arrangement of an Aceh Summit, an international meeting on Aceh, together with the formation of a trust fund by donors for education and health. The funds would be organised through an institution set up by a consortium from donor countries, government and local community leaders.
According to Humam Hamid, the recommendations that came out of the meeting are based on the priorities of the Acehnese people, as well as the Islamic and traditional values that they espouse.
“This natural disaster must be the first step in building a new Aceh based on justice, peace and well-being,” he stated. [cc]
March 14, 2005 – acehkita.com
At a recent discussion (January 6th) on the reconstruction of Aceh organised by Radio 68H, the formation of the Special Authority Body (Badan Otoritas Khusus) with the agreement of the government and the DPR (Lower House) was raised by the author. The current government’s forthcoming five year term will cover the key aspects of the reconstruction of Aceh. The complexity of the reconstruction – not least due to the sheer volume of funds needed – will require comprehensive and unified support; multi-sector coordination; and the involvement of a range of parties from all levels (local, national and international).
There are questions to be asked about the efficiency of the Natural Disaster Response unit at Bakornas given that this body will only be handling the immediate emergency response. This is of particular concern as this role is not consistent with the need to have a unified body to handle the reconstruction process in its entirety. But it seems that there are concerns about Bakornas, led by VP Yusuf Kalla, adding momentum to that doubt, and turning the issue into a political hot potato.
Special Authority Body for Aceh
The key is to articulate clearly the structure and design of this body. In any organisational structure or form there will be risks that may challenge the achievement of stated aims. But even if the organisational structure is complex this is not in itself a reason to fail. Risk can be averted with good institutional design and close supervision at every level of responsibility. The government will be consolidating BOK over the coming two to three months.
Over this period every aspect must be closely watched in order to prevent a structure developing that allows corruption to flourish. It’s better to keep working to find a way to avoid potential problems.
I imagine the new body can become an institution that will lift the Acehnese to the same levels of well-being as the rest of the nation, not simply as a body that merely accommodates the people of Aceh. If there is a credible governor, he will be able to lead the institution in collaboration with other Acehnese leaders. As the ex-officio head of this development body he will be endowed with the same level of authority as a minister. The body can incorporate anyone whose support is needed. Given that the current Governor of NAD, Abdullah Puteh, has been recently convicted of misuse of public funds and fraud, the Acehnese need a leader with credibility and support, at the same time as ensuring discussions include a wide range of parties and stakeholders.
With BOK being portrayed as ‘owned’ by the Acehnese, its credibility – as well as its impact – has to be maximised by working closely with the Acehnese. This is critical in both design and day to day implementation. There is a perception that the engagement of the Acehnese people has been weakened by the disaster, and that therefore everything has to be organised by outsiders first, to get things up and running. This was the original thought when the question of Acehnese ownership of and involvement in the process came up, but this line of reasoning must not be manipulated in order to postpone or diminish their involvement.
The aim of developing is not just to see the objectives as ends in themselves, but also to develop feelings of ownership with the beneficiaries, and to strengthen their socio-cultural capital. The population’s role working with the institution will be a very positive one if the body is able to manage itself well, and prevent corruption and other abuses. These needs require that a general system of cooperation and the specific steps this requires must be clearly marked out from the outset.
We can see the true scope of the initiative and energy shown by people far outside Aceh that wish to help. When we talk about the role of the people its potential must be estimated. BOK Aceh has a duty to form a transparent way of working that can be tracked, achieved, made accessible by a variety of initiatives and approaches, and ultimately achieving fair distribution.
The Body is also expected to provide and promote services that can operate in synergy with cooperative initiatives and approaches. There is a duty to construct a social market to put Aceh in touch with the outside world, to unite them with the obvious initiatives and needs of Aceh.
Developing people, not just homes
The government is planning to construct barracks in 24 different locations for some 30,000 refugees. There are a number of parties wishing to assist with the building of free housing for disaster victims in new locations. But buildings valued at hundreds of billions of rupiah are a huge waste of money, and they uproot the Acehnese people from their lands and home communities. A short term approach such as this will only generate longer term problems and fresh victims.
It also looks disturbingly like the opportunity has already passed to include facilitating the economic and psychological rehabilitation of the tsunami victims into the recovery process. The chance for people to build their own homes, for example, is already receding. The provision of housing has also opened up a new pathway for corruption by increasing the use of contractors that – with excuses about the emergency nature of the situation – have received contracts without submitting to a tender process.
The movement of victims from their home lands and communities to barracks will undoubtedly increase complications arising from issues of land rights and ownership, particularly given the likelihood of illegal occupations since victims fled and abandoned their homes. The eradication of visual land markers, as well as the loss of title deeds and other documentation will make disputes with land squatters very difficult to resolve. Illegal land occupations may involve the government, where private parties have bribed officials. Additionally, the movement of people from their own communities to barracks that do not necessarily correspond to their personal and geographical origins may further exacerbate inefficiency in the wake of the tsunami.
The latest report said that only a few of the 24 designated locations were ready. I don’t hold information about the specifics of these new receiving centres. Maybe this sort of information isn’t deemed to be important as the strategy is seen as a stop-gap. But it is very doubtful that the initial timeframe projected for completion will be met. Prefabricated housing isn’t as fast to put up as people imagine, because the factory or contractor that is newly involved will make the required components after the order is clarified. Transport costs were not calculated in initial projections. And there are, furthermore, questions around mark-ups by contractors.
How long will the refugees have to wait for the barracks to be constructed, all the while being mere passive observers? Why isn’t there support for the Acehnese to build their own houses on the sites of their old, destroyed homes?
If the government were to support the self-build, participative approach they would have to prepare building materials and trade tools, as well as wages that would be paid in instalments. But building materials damaged in the disaster can – and should be – recycled. Strategies such as these have been proved to speed up reconstruction and ensure less waste because what is built has guaranteed occupancy and permanence. There will also be greater diversity in accordance with the needs of people in any given location, with attendant sensitivity to location-specific conditions. At the same time, there are efficiency benefits where people feel ownership over their home, community and city.
This was the experience of Kutch in the state of Gujurat, India after the mammoth earthquake of January 2001 that claimed almost 20,000 lives, and destroyed 338,000 homes. Sandeep Virmani from Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan discussed the experience with the Emergency Humanitarian Commission for Aceh and North Sumatra’s Reconstruction Team on January 16th.
The Kutch experience shaped the strategy on the East coast of India in the wake of the tsunami. By the second half of January there were already some 2000 families building houses in line with the self-help model. By choosing a model that had been shown to be appropriate to people’s needs it was implemented swiftly, precluding time-wasting on debate or around competing interests. No developers or contractors exist that can match this timeliness. Because there are tens of thousands – or, in the case of Aceh, hundreds of thousands – of victims that are able to build their own houses, they should be helped with the provision of materials, tools and other forms of su
There are a number of benefits in using this self-help approach. Firstly, as the houses are built on sites chosen by the victims there is a greater likelihood that it will be a permanent dwelling. There is also a smaller chance that there will be wastage of materials, or that impermanent dwellings will come to form slums. Additionally, with resettlement on their own land there will be reduced incidence of land ownership disputes.
Gujurat also showed us that building activities allow people to feel they have a useful role in the recovery process. Many of the Acehnese tsunami victims have made it clear that they do not want to be organised by others. Rebuilding their own homes facilitates their desire to redevelop their social capital. The expertise and skills required would be enriched by this process and would be a source of future self-sufficiency. Those that build others’ houses can also receive a suitable payment for doing so.
We now know that some 600,000 Acehnese have lost their homes. If even one quarter of that figure are adults then there are 150,000 people that can actively contribute to building their own homes. The issue is whether this can be rolled out, and whether momentum on this course can be sustained until the finish.
The first step is to organise people into building groups. Local leaders and institutions – whether grassroots or elite – must engage with the project. At the moment the government, together with donors and NGOs must coordinate the distribution of aid, whatever the development approach taken. But with the self-help model, there is a different kind of aid distribution.
In this model there is a greater need for building materials and tools than for cash or prefabricated housing. The level of coordination needed is undoubtedly high but it is a worthwhile exercise in the longer run, as the abilities and capital developed will be an asset to draw on should another disaster come.
In villages or kampungs people generally have the know-how to build their own houses. Conversely, in cities this knowledge has often been lost so support would be needed. Training centres, as well as depots holding and distributing building materials, can be rapidly established to fill these gaps. Deploying people skilled in these areas can ensure that technical and quality advice is given without interfering with people’s autonomy. Voluntary delivery can achieved with good, clear management.
The nature of the approach to rebuilding taken will determine the size of costs incurred. The costs of involving the people in rebuilding their homes will have different outcomes to those requiring contracted builders with the people merely acting as passive observers.
There remains a further mystery for me as someone endeavouring to calculate the precise costs of reconstruction. There are a number of predictions that have to be made, that are inherently difficult, and that don’t seem to have been addressed yet. For example, how can we estimate the cost of cement in four months time if we don’t even know yet how sufficient quantities will be transported to hard to reach locations? Moreover, these estimates will have to be projected over the five to ten year period that the reconstruction period is estimated to require.
But these questions all build upon a further, more basic yet question as to what is included in our understanding of ‘reconstruction’? Is it only rebuilding the physical aspects that were destroyed by the quake and tsunami? Where does social, cultural and economic reconstruction – including that of institutions – fit into the process? Have calculations about the restoration of the arts and cultural fora of Aceh been made or even considered? Additionally, have these estimates included planning processes and stages to ensure that actions are timely and robust?
There are two key elements to physical construction within the reconstruction process if we look at what choosing self-help rebuilding programs has to offer. Firstly, the strategy would encourage collective effort and inter-territorial cooperation of incalculable value. This could even include small scale infrastructure contributions such as rebuilding small roads at the community level.
The second benefit derives from the knowledge that, whether doing it themselves or in groups, people have their own strategies for reducing the cost of building themselves a home. The question of cost thus becomes increasingly relative as they have the advantage of being able to use their own labour. This has not been taken into account in the overall estimates and calculations of disaster recovery.
If the government really means to take a reconstruction route that seriously involves people, the dynamics of all arrangements must have breadth. This option requires huge flexibility, with clear recognition that this be maximised and sustained as far as possible. We can see, in the example of schools, how this can work. School buildings are generally built by the government, but they have also been cooperatively built by the people with funding supplied by the government.
But even with self-help rebuilding programs, there are already questions around whether the government has included operational and longer-term costs in the reconstruction figures. Have they, for example, included running costs such as staff wages, compiling libraries and other critical resources into their budgets for ‘rebuilding’ schools – or are the numbers simply about the physical needs?
Again, I don’t know what the answer is. Largely because since the disaster the media has repeatedly chosen to focus on the projected costs of the reconstruction, without analysing those costs and alternatives such as bottom-up reconstruction by the people. There has been little said about what could be done by the people themselves to make the ‘plan’ into a comprehensive, participative redevelopment process. [cc]
March 16, 2005
Tsunami Victims Fear Foreigners’ Exit
Mulia, Indonesia (AP) — When Sofyan Mahdi needed crushed cars removed from his tsunami-devastated neighborhood last month, he called the United Nations, which quickly took care of the problem. By contrast, it took 10 trips to Indonesia’s state utility to get electricity, and he is still waiting for local officials to fix the water system.
The slow and often inconsistent response of the local government is nothing new in the province of Aceh. But with the government planning to scale back the role of foreigners by March 26, the 40-year-old teacher worries he and his family will be left to fend for themselves.
“This neighborhood will recover, but only with the help of foreigners,” said Mahdi, walking past demolished homes and yards still awash with sea water three months after the Dec. 26 tsunami. “If we are forced to depend on our own government, it could take years.”
Welfare Minister Alwi Shihab announced last week that the government plans to limit the number of foreign aid groups and require those not affiliated with donor countries or the United Nations to reregister with authorities.
The European Union has called on Jakarta to let all groups remain in the province.
But the military and some nationalist politicians fear that foreigners — who were largely banned from Aceh before the tsunami — could increase international awareness and sympathy for the region’s separatist movement.
Rebels have been fighting since 1976 for independence for the province on Sumatra island’s northern tip. More than 13,000 hav
e been killed in the conflict and both sides have been accused of rights abuses.
Aid groups have largely remained silent about the new policy, which is expected to hit small charities hardest, partly over concerns that that protest could attract unwanted attention from authorities.
Indonesia’s Aceh province was hardest hit by the tsunami, with more than 126,000 people killed and more than 90,000 missing and presumed dead. A majority of villages along the northwest coast were wiped out and many neighborhoods in the provincial capital Banda Aceh were reduced to rubble.
Local governments in Indonesia were paralyzed by the disaster, with hundreds of offices damaged or destroyed and at least 10,000 of the nearly 50,000 employees either dead, missing or left homeless, according to the World Bank. Hospitals and health clinics have faced shortages of doctors, nurses and medicine.
The scale of the disaster and the limits of local authorities prompted the government to welcome foreign troops and foreign aid groups. Together with the Indonesian army, they were credited with averting a humanitarian crisis.
The problem, activists and diplomats say, is that the government is not equipped to rebuild the province without significant foreign support. Acehnese government agencies are among the most corrupt in Indonesia — the provincial government is on trial for graft — and most have not begun to recover from the disaster.
“There are no plans from the government, and there is no guidance despite their promises to do something,” said Azwar Hasan, an Acehnese activist working with local governments.
Without a strong foreign presence, activists say the government could pocket much of the billions of dollars in aid money or force unpopular, poorly planned policies on the Acehnese.
Shihab, who has overseen the government’s relief operation, insisted that despite the new policy a strong foreign presence would be welcome in the months to come.
“We can understand the complaints,” he said. “We have learned lessons that we have to be more patient and get a full understanding of the situation of our brothers and sisters in Aceh who suffered from this disaster. We have to listen to them.”
Indonesia Government Vies To Control Tsunami Funds;
Donors Are Wary of Misuse
By Timothy Mapes
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
March 21, 2005; Page A15
Jakarta, Indonesia — As Indonesia embarks on a massive effort to rebuild swaths of Aceh province wiped out by the Dec. 26 tsunami, government officials say coordination is being complicated by foreign agencies’ focus on shielding their aid from corruption.
The international effort to assist Asian countries hit by the disaster now needs to concentrate on rebuilding, and shift away from providing immediate relief for survivors, Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda said Friday. He was speaking at a meeting of aid and government officials in Manila attended by officials from the worst-hit Asian countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and the Maldives.
“At this stage, the most crucial point is how to utilize wisely those already-committed resources,” Mr. Kuroda said, stressing that donors need to avoid overlap with other agencies and work closely with local governments to ensure donations are well spent.
But in Aceh, a province at the northern tip of Sumatra island that suffered the worst damage in the region, the rebuilding effort is being slowed in part by those very efforts at coordination, as well as by the sheer scale of the disaster. Almost a quarter of a million people are dead or missing out of the province’s population of 4.2 million, and volunteers recover and bury hundreds of dead bodies every day as they clear away mud and debris.
Indonesian officials are working on a master plan that will attempt to set out who will rebuild what and where. The World Bank estimates it will cost at least $4.5 billion over the next several years to replace the hundreds of schools, miles of roads, dozens of health clinics and other facilities destroyed by the tsunami and the powerful earthquake that spawned it.
The master plan is due to be released by Saturday. But the senior official in charge of drafting it warns that her work is being disrupted by the refusal of many foreign donors — including the U.S., Japanese and Australian governments — to mix their funds into Indonesia’s budget because of concerns about corruption.
“I am worried that the well-motivated desire by so many donors to plan their own programs is overwhelming the staff of our government agencies, and even delaying our preparation for the future,” Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s minister for planning and development, said in a speech submitted this month to the Paris Club, a group of donor nations. “If we are serious about harmonization, then donors should channel a higher share of their funds through the government budget, and the government must demonstrate that it is worthy of this trust.”
In an interview, Ms. Mulyani added that she wants more donors to contribute to trust funds set up by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, instead of running their own projects. Those funds, she said, are better placed to work with planning officials in developing key projects. Jakarta hopes the bulk of the rebuilding can be financed by foreign donors.
By contrast, many of the smaller aid agencies that have flocked to Aceh often have complex procedures for the release of funds, which officials say hinder their integration into broader plans. The government has said it will scrutinize the work of smaller agencies to see whether they can make a real contribution to the rebuilding effort; those that can’t may be asked to leave.
Yet many aid agencies have deep misgivings about dealing with the government in Indonesia, a country with a history of graft. A survey this month of Asia-based executives by the Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy, for example, ranked Indonesia as the most corrupt country in Asia. In Aceh, the province’s governor is on trial charged with siphoning off state funds for his own use. The governor has denied the charges.
Foreign-based charities also are coming under increasing pressure in their home countries to account for how their funds are spent. They expect to face special scrutiny in Indonesia because of its history of bureaucratic graft and waste.
While Ms. Mulyani acknowledged that corruption is a problem in Indonesia, she also noted that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government repeatedly has promised to crack down on the problem since it came to power in October. She added that new monitoring systems have been set up to oversee the use of tsunami-related donations, including the appointment of an independent auditor.
The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have hailed their trust funds as a good solution for independent donors to contribute. Both institutions recently created special funds — expected to total several hundred million dollars apiece — to pool donations for projects identified in consultation with the government.
But some aid agencies fault the World Bank and ADB for agreeing to turn over the money to the government. The U.S. Agency for International Development is one of many that inst
ead insists on dealing directly with local partner organizations. “We’re just continuing to work as we have always worked in Indonesia, which is directly with local partners,” said Betina Moreira, Usaid’s director of communications in Indonesia.
She noted that the agency has already spent about $50 million on projects in Aceh, and hopes to receive a substantial portion of the $950 million in funds that the U.S. government has pledged to the Asian countries hit by the tsunami disaster.
Josef Leitmann, who will manage the World Bank’s special fund for Aceh and North Sumatra, counters that his fund will apply all of the World Bank’s standard procedures on funds disbursement. “This will not be a blank check,” he said, adding that the fund could be an easy way for smaller groups without their own auditing systems to take advantage of the World Bank’s experience in monitoring its spending in Indonesia.
Write to Timothy Mapes at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Acehnese want foreign volunteers to stay
By Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh
Three months after the tsunami hit Aceh on Dec. 26, many Acehnese dread the departure of foreign aid workers, as they are not yet confident of making it on their own.
Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Alwi Shihab, who heads the relief effort, previously set a deadline for non-relevant foreign aid groups to leave the province by March 26, as reconstruction work would then start.
However, this month the government extended the deadline for all foreign humanitarian aid agencies to continue their relief work in Aceh by up to 60 days, with April 27 set as the deadline for agencies to register, as well as to outline their plans and the details of their financial support.
“We still need foreigners’ assistance,” Ramlah, a 45-year-old Acehnese man, who has been staying in Lamkruet village, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
He said displaced people lacked a reliable clean water supply and enough doctors, as well as other assistance.
“They, the foreigners, treat us better than the government has done,” Ramlah said.
He said he had been cared for in a makeshift hospital, set up in tents by foreign medical teams, and compared to community health centers or Zainoel Abidin General Hospital there had been much less red tape.
Many survivors are not convinced of the government’s capabilities in assisting Aceh.
“When the Australian army was overseeing the clean water supply, the water was really good. But now, it’s being run by the Indonesian Red Cross, it smells of chlorine,” complained 37-year-old Nazariah, a Lamlagang village resident, who regularly collects water from the setup in Jembatan Pante Pirak area, Banda Aceh.
Some survivors at Lhok Nga’s camp 85 had seen the foreigners as their protectors. They felt that the foreigners’ presence meant Indonesian Military soldiers could not just “do as they liked” while searching for Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels.
Government efforts to assist tsunami survivors have taken many forms, but having endured conflict in the province for years, many Acehnese are more willing to trust foreigners.
“We like the foreign volunteers, they help us — and Aceh — with all their hearts,” said a man living in a displaced persons camp.
Head of Lamteungoh village in Peukan Bada district, Baharuddin, requested that the foreign volunteers stay, and that financial aid be directly distributed to the people, not through the government. “We still need your (foreign volunteers) help, don’t leave us,” he said.
Such calls were recognized by United Nations (UN) special envoy Erskine Bowles, who pledged that the UN would not leave until reconstruction of the tsunami-hit areas was complete.
The UN deputy special envoy for tsunami recovery, who arrived in Aceh on Thursday before leaving on Friday, toured the devastated west coast area via helicopter, meeting survivors as well as foreign aid workers.
Bowles said he could understand the government’s decision on the presence of foreign volunteers or agencies in Aceh.
“It makes sense that all foreigners can stay until April 26, 2005. In a month’s time, the government will register those agencies that have good working programs,” he said.
He said he would monitor the distribution of relief funds in Aceh to ensure transparency and accountability, so that the money would reach those most in need.
Bowles praised the enormous progress made over the last three months, saying that the UN and donor countries had not lost their enthusiasm to help.
“Yes, there have been glitches; yes, there have been mistakes; yes, we have taken two steps back, four steps forward — that is going to happen in a disaster of this magnitude. But we have accomplished a great deal.”
Saturday, March 26 2005
Tsunami relief faces Indonesian crackdown
By Shawn Donnan
Three months after the Asian tsunami disaster left Indonesia’s Aceh province in ruins, Jakarta has begun a crackdown on foreign aid groups operating there.
The UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, this week said it was pulling its staff out of Aceh amid government pressure to do so, leaving the fate of $33m ($25.5m, £17.6m) raised to fund reconstruction projects up in the air. The government also has begun a review of aid groups operating in the province, the area hit hardest by the December 26 tsunami, giving them up to 60 days to justify their presence there.
Indonesia has for years restricted access to Aceh because of a long-running separatist conflict there that has given rise to allegations of human rights abuses against the Indonesian military and rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
Jakarta lifted those restrictions soon after the tsunami which left more than 200,000 either dead or missing in Aceh and has insisted since that it would allow international aid workers to remain as long as they were needed.
But as the focus turns from the initial emergency response to reconstruction, Indonesia has begun imposing additional restrictions. Last week it extended by up to 60 days a deadline due to fall today, the three-month anniversary of the disaster, for foreign aid groups to register their activities, arguing that was needed to improve co-ordination.
Aid workers agree, given the presence of many under-funded groups and hangers-on in Aceh. But the deadline has also raised fears they might be forced to leave.
“It does cause a lot of unnecessary angst,” said one aid worker. “There’s a lot of lights burning late into the night with people making phone calls to Jakarta to try to make sure that they are allowed to stay.”
Those fears have been heightened by the UNHCR’s decision to leave after it was told it would not be allowed to take part in reconstruction despite having more than $33m earmarked for exactly that in its accounts.
“We haven’t received anything in writing and we haven’t been told in blunt terms, ‘get out’. But in the discussions that we’ve had the government has made it clear that… they don’t see us having a role in the reconstruction phase,” said Robert Ashe, the UNHCR’s regional representative in Jakarta.
An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman insist
ed the UN agency’s departure was voluntary. But a spokeswoman for Alwi Shihab, the minister overseeing relief efforts, said the ministry had been eager to see the UNHCR leave.
The agency has had a difficult relationship with Indonesia. Three of its staffers were killed in Indonesian West Timor in 2000 after militiamen linked to the military attacked their office. The agency has also been a loud advocate for Acehnese refugees seeking asylum in neighbouring Malaysia.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Blueprint completed, Aceh reconstruction set to start
By Rendi A. Witular, Jakarta
The reconstruction of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and the surrounding tsunami-stricken areas will be able to start in the immediate future now that the government has completed the final draft of its blueprint for rehabilitation in the province.
The blueprint, to be enshrined in a presidential regulation, should pave the way for donor countries to start disbursing their pledges to money to help finance the program.
State Minister for National Development Planning Sri Mulyani Indrawati said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had agreed to the blueprint and tasked Vice President Jusuf Kalla to fly to Aceh on March 26 to make the necessary preparations.
“The blueprint will act as our guidelines for redeveloping Aceh. The government is now preparing the necessary legal framework to make the blueprint workable,” said Mulyani during a press briefing after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
To ensure coordination during the implementation stage, Mulyani said, the government would soon issue a presidential regulation on the establishment of a special executive agency for Aceh. The members of the agency are currently being selected by the government.
The blueprint consists of 12 books — one covering the reconstruction master plan and the remaining 11 setting out the details of the individual programs.
All in all, the blueprint provides a comprehensive, wide-ranging redevelopment program, with four important sectors being prioritized — the community, economy, infrastructure, and administrative institutions.
In addition, it will also provide guidelines regarding the disbursement of the funds and accountability, with the state budget, and donor countries and agencies being the main sources of the funds.
“Based on the blueprint, funding assistance from foreign donors is subject for government approval aside from a letter of notice. The government will put a number of systems in place for the executive process,” said Mulyani.
The donors can put their money into trust funds managed by committees of trustees consisting of representatives of the government and the donors, who have to approve the disbursement and use of funds.
The donors can also directly disburse funds for reconstruction programs with the government’s approval.
Mulyani said that assistance funds would need to be first registered with the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), before being collected by the Ministry of Finance and channeled to executive agency.
Aside from the Rp 4.6 trillion (US$494 million) spent by foreign donors during the relief program, donor countries and agencies had pledged to disburse a total of Rp 66.2 trillion to assist with reconstruction. Most of the pledges have yet to be disbursed, pending the completion of the blueprint.
The costs of reconstruction, according to the blueprint, will reach an estimated Rp 41.1 trillion over the next five years, Mulyani said. This is lower than the Rp 45 trillion estimated earlier.
“The estimated cost is not definite yet. It is still subject to changes in the immediate future,” she said.
To help ensure accountability, another independent agency or a board would be established to oversee and monitor the whole process.
“We are soon going to set up an agency or a board tasked with overseeing the reconstruction process so that remains free of corruption.”
“Members of the agency will include state auditors as well as independent auditors,” said Mulyani.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Acehnese women begin rebuilding lives
Women play a prominent role in society, especially in the family. Yet, their existence is often neglected by many, including the government. The Jakarta Post’s Nani Afrida has been looking into roles that women can play to sustain the lives of their families and community in Aceh in the wake of the tsunami.
“Home sweet home.” This motto explains the desire of tsunami victims to return to their homes, even if they been leveled. Many people from the coastal areas of Banda Aceh have chose to return to their homes after living for two months in refugee camps or government barracks.
Fatimah, 50, and Nurhayati, 54, residents of Tuha subdistrict, Aceh Besar regency, were two of the people who have been motivated by the motto.
After returning home, the two women joined hands with other residents in the subdistrict to build modest 4 by 6 meter barrack blocks. Each barrack block houses between four and six women.
The weather in the subdistrict is hot and humid. Almost all the trees were swept away by the tidal wave. The situation is made worse by the fact that rubble from buildings is scattered everywhere, making the air dusty. It would take at least one week to clear up the rubble.
A total of 40 people were killed in the subdistrict. But, only Fatimah, Nurhayati and 10 other women have opted to return home. The other women refused to return home and now live in government barracks in safe areas or with relatives in inland areas not affected by the tsunami.
“We have no relatives outside the subdistrict, so we had no choice,” said Nurhayati.
Nurhayati recalled that she survived the tsunami as she and her husband were out of the subdistrict it happened. Nurhayati believes that most of her family and children died in the disaster.
As she entered the subdistrict for the first time after the disaster, her eyes glistened with tears. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing except rubble and debris.
“Our subdistrict used to be a densely populated area,” said Nurhayati.
According to local statistics, the subdistrict used to be inhabited by over 1,800 residents. After the tsunami disaster, only 232 people were left, 40 of whom are women.
The women said that they would resume their roles in the community, although they were short in number.
“We have no problem with it. The main problem will be for the men as they have will have to look for wives outside the subdistrict,” said Fatimah.
Returning to one’s home is always eagerly anticipated, but many problems now face the women. They expressed concerns about the security situation arising out of the war between the Indonesian Military and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
Tuha subdistrict is not far from the Ujung Pancu highlands, which are a GAM stronghold. As the area is a GAM base, the Indonesian Military (TNI) is also active there. The area was once heavily bombed by OV-10 Bronco planes when the TNI launched a major offensive on GAM bases in May 2003.
At first, Fatimah and Nurhayati had hopes that the tsunami would change the situation and lead to an end to the conflict, but this hope has turned
out to be false. “Until today, TNI soldiers are still often patrolling around our neighborhood. They often visit Ujung Pancu in search of GAM members and, of course, they pass by our neighborhood,” said Nurhayati.
According to Nurhayati, none of residents in Tuha subdistrict were GAM members. GAM members in the area were normally residents from the neighboring subdistrict of Lamteungoh.
GAM members often descended from the highlands to Tuha subdistrict to visit relatives or seek food. The Tuha residents cannot not turn them away even if it means they become the targets of TNI troops. The residents are frequently interrogated and a good number of them are traumatized by the experience.
“Until now, I still tremble when I see people in military uniforms. I think that it would be better dealing with the tsunami disaster than be interrogated by soldiers,” said Nurhayati.
Despite the mounting challenges — ranging from hot weather to security — returning home is a crucial step on the road to building a new life, said Nurhayati.
Tsunami-hit nations slow to spend grants
Only a fraction of Japan’s 24.6 billion yen in aid to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives has been used to help them recover from the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The aid was handed over on Jan. 19. Since then, only Sri Lanka has dipped into the funds by spending 4.5 million yen to buy nine used trucks to clean septic tanks.
Officials speculated the funds had not been used because the governments of those countries had limited experience in dealing with an influx of emergency aid following such an unprecedented natural disaster.
U.N. organizations distributed grants almost immediately as the scale of the disaster became apparent. Tokyo waited three weeks, and its grants were probably put on the back burner, officials said.
The three governments are free to decide how to use the funds. Japan will give final approval on procedures and projects.
So far, Jakarta has earmarked a portion of its 14.6 billion yen in grants to purchase medicine, medical equipment, construction materials and equipment for radio broadcast stations. It is still calling for tenders.
Sri Lanka received 8 billion yen, the bulk of which remains unspent. However, it plans to also buy 11 water trucks and 100 power generators.
The Maldives has informed ministry officials in Tokyo that it intends to spend its 2 billion yen in grant aid on equipment to restore coastal fishing operations, which were wiped out in the quake-induced tsunami.
Japan’s emergency assistance was the largest offered by the international community. More than 300,000 people perished in the disaster.
Some countries offered emergency aid to be distributed by international organizations or via mid- and long-term loans.
With the first phase of relief efforts soon expected to end, Foreign Ministry officials say they hope the remaining funds will be spent on large-scale reconstruction work in the second stage.