Indonesia’s blueprint for rebuilding Aceh

INTERVIEW WITH V-P JUSUF KALLA

Straits Times Indonesia Bureau Chief Derwin Pereira interviewed Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla on the impact of the deadly tsunami and the government’s plans to rebuild Aceh. Below are excerpts of the interview:

How does Indonesia plan to rebuild Aceh? Have you established a timeline for reconstruction?

There are three steps. The first is emergency relief. The simple philosophy is to give life to survivors. This we can do by giving food, health and temporary shelter. This phase will last one to three years. We will have to feed them during that period.

The next phase is rehabilitation which will last for a year and a half.

The third stage is reconstruction. We will start in the middle of this year. We will have to build all infrastructure, houses, schools, hospitals. Everything. It will last at least five years.

All three phases will run concurrently.

The big challenge is to build a new capital. This involves replanning.

In fact, all the big cities need replanning – Meulaboh, Calang. All these are coastal towns.

If we rebuild, we have to take into account the possibility that the tsunami could strike again in 20 years or 50 years.

So we will have to build these towns further inland, 2km to 3km.

How much money will be needed to rebuild Aceh? Will Indonesia be drawing exclusively from foreign aid for the rebuilding?

Since the rebuilding will involve massive reconstruction programmes, how will tenders be allocated?

We need US$2 billion to US$3 billion (S$5 billion) for infrastructure and housing, electricity and power, seaport, bridges, roads, hospitals and schools.

At the Asean Summit, thanks to Singapore which initiated the meeting, many countries have pledged to support us.

The Indonesian government will set aside US$1 billion for Aceh’s development. We hope to get US$2 billion to US$3 billion from foreign donors.

We will allow local contractors to handle the smaller projects in Aceh. We need to create jobs for the people.

But for big projects, like power and electricity and seaports, we will give it to big foreign investors.

How will rebuilding Aceh impact the Indonesian economy?

There will definitely be an effect. But because the US$1 billion we are setting aside for Aceh is spread out over five years, the effect will be minimal.

I don’t think the tsunami will affect the tourist industry in Indonesia. In fact, many on holiday in the affected areas were rerouted to Bali.

What is your response to criticism reported in the local media that the Indonesian relief agency has not been effective?

Bakornas is a coordination team. It was set up to handle disasters on a much smaller scale, like 100 to 200 dead. But here we have more than 100,000 dead. It cannot handle a disaster of that magnitude.

Since we are entering the phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction, we will need to create a new organisation – it will involve the National Planning Board, Public Works, local agencies, the military.

Some people have been critical that we were too slow to respond to the disaster in the first week. There is a reason for this.

All the local systems in place in Aceh collapsed. Many of the officials had died, many stayed with their families. This includes the military and police. They were not in a position to react on the ground because many of them had died.

What are the major obstacles you face in coordinating relief operations?

One of the main problems was transportation. Many of the areas are inaccessible. There was a shortage of fuel in the area.

But now we have some 60 helicopters from different countries to access these areas. We are also using smaller ships and ferries to distribute the aid.

The disaster presents an opportunity for Indonesia to work closely with its neighbours and other countries like Australia and the US to rebuild Aceh. Do you think this would lead to better relations?

Yes, of course. I anticipate cooperation with the countries will increase.

Cooperation with Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, these are our three nearest neighbours who came to our help immediately when disaster struck. It will surely influence other facets of our ties, political and especially economic links, in the long run.

Are you happy with the American response to the disaster? What will be the likely outcome of this disaster on Indonesia-US relations?

I am happy with the Americans although their response was slow. They needed some public pressure to act. America demonstrated its ability to deploy its forces for peaceful missions.

What do you think of Singapore’s efforts in the rescue and relief operations in Aceh? What else can Singapore do to help Aceh?

Singapore was one of the first countries to enter Aceh. The SAF was very helpful and very generous in aid. They were very effective.

Singapore was also the key for initiating the Asean summit.

We need Singapore’s expertise for town planning. Singapore is an island state. We need to draw on their experience to build the coastal towns.

Other than that, we will be looking for logistics aid, air transport, medical aid.

Will the changed situation in Aceh present the Indonesian government and GAM a chance to reach a peace accord? What are your views on the attitudes of GAM leaders in Aceh and Sweden?

There is a big chance for peace in Aceh. We are now meeting each other to explore the possibilities of working together.

We will offer them incentives. We will give political amnesty …

There will not be any development without peace. Just imagine, if GAM shoots down a helicopter carrying food aid, or attacks UN workers, there will be more problems for us. The strategy is to engage them.

‘Singapore was one of the first countries to enter Aceh. The SAF was very helpful and very generous in aid. They were veryeffective. Singapore was also the key for initiating the Asean summit. We need Singapore’s expertise for town planning. We need to draw on their experience to build the coastal towns. Other than that, we will be looking for logistics aid, air transport, medical aid.’
– INDONESIAN VICE-PRESIDENT JUSUF KALLA (above)

NEIGHBOURS HELPED

‘Cooperation with Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, these are our three nearest neighbours who came to our help immediately when disaster struck. It will surely influence other facets of our ties, political and especially economic links in the long run.’
– VICE-PRESIDENT JUSUF KALLA

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