Wednesday, January 05, 2005


From one of my Australian correspondents in Indonesia:

New Year's eve in Jakarta was very humble with the locals doing more praying than partying. However it is hard to believe it has been only 10 days since the disasters. President ad V-P Kalla have each made two trips to Aceh (Jakarta-Aceh is like Canberra-Cairns) as have most of the cabinet. Aceh has already been opened up to foreign aid agencies (50 of them so far!), foreign journalists and even the Australian air force and US marines are on the ground. The Aceh provincial government was virtually wiped out so too the local administrations of Bandah Aceh and the West coast regencies, the regional police lost half their men (and families) and old-time control freaks in the central government and army are, momentarily, sidelined.

Australia and the US are controlling air traffic at Banda Aceh airport, trucks are moving in from Medan and the east coast ports are chockers. Unfortunately the earthquake/tsunamis double whack destroyed roads and bridges into the west side where all the suffering is. What this means is there are mighty log jams which are preventing even more aid and personnel being shifted around quickly at this stage. Despite the cruelty of the thought, transportation and engineering specialists are needed first. Once the logistics are sorted out over the next few days I am sure the medical people will be streaming in. I am more concerned with the long-term capacity problem of local, useful institutions like the Indonesian Red Cross (which is getting a pittance of the charity money raised world wide) once the internationals move on to the next big show (or abuse their welcome) . and also the, to date unaddressed, need to get thousands of Acehnese out of the province until infrastructure can be restored (as done in Darwin in 1974).

Everyone is aware of the swift Australian support and our defence force team in Aceh is doing a great job in transportation and infrastructure. The latest news from the Australian Government of an extra $500 million to help rebuild the devastated areas is amazing.


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