Indonesia tells foreign aid workers to go home
I had to happen sooner or later that Indonesia would tire of NGO foreign aid workers, many of whom are do-gooders and other questionable charities making themselves feel good. MM wrote about them here. Much of the reason is pride, also elections are in the offing and it is not a good look if government can’t handle its own strife. Nevertheless, Indonesia’s hand will remain outstretched for large sums of cash. Like so many times before, the money never reaches the poor bastards that lose everything in the disaster. Now perhaps, all those do-gooders that rushed to Indonesia to feel good could rush back to Australia and see how they can help the locals deal with the drought? Don’t hold your breath!
Indonesia has ordered independent foreign aid workers to leave the quake zone and said foreign groups with staff in the disaster area on Sulawesi island should pull them out. The official death toll in Sulawesi stands at 1,948, with most of the fatalities in Palu, a small city that bore the brunt of the disaster. No-one knows how many people are missing, especially in areas of southern Palu devastated by soil liquefaction, but it could be as high as 5,000, the national disaster agency said. About 70,000 people have been displaced.
Indonesia tells independent foreign aid workers to leave quake zone
Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as relying on outside help to cope with disasters, and the Government shunned foreign aid this year when earthquakes struck the island of Lombok.
But it has accepted help from abroad to cope with the aftermath of a magnitude-7.5 quake and tsunami that hit the west coast of Sulawesi on September 28.
Despite that, some foreign groups say they have faced difficulties getting entry permits to bring in staff and equipment, and there has been confusion about the rules.
There have long been restrictions on the activity of foreign aid workers, and the national disaster agency, in a notice posted on Twitter, set the rules out for foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Foreign groups are not allowed to “go directly to the field” but must conduct all activities “in partnership with local partners”, it said.
“Foreign citizens who are working with foreign NGOs are not allowed to conduct any activity on the sites affected,” the agency said in its English-language notice.
“Foreign NGOs who have deployed its foreign personnel are advised to retrieve their personnel immediately.”
Satellite images reveal damage
The full extent of the damage suffered by the tsunami-hit Indonesian city of Palu is clear to see in new satellite images.
The ABC has also seen a copy of a letter from Indonesian authorities addressed to NGOs.
“We appreciate the kind heart and solidarity. However, based on the decision from the Government of Indonesia … support in the area of search and rescue as well as health and medical services is not needed,” the letter reads.
The Australian Council for International Development’s chief, Marc Purcell, said he had never seen a letter like it.
“The latest information that we have is that the Government of Indonesia had offers of humanitarian assistance from 29 countries and a 102 international NGO’s … not just from Australia but from a total of 17 countries, so it quickly becomes a really big logistical exercise for a government,” he said.
Mr Purcell said Australia should respect the country’s decision.
A few foreign aid workers have been in the disaster zone, including some searching for survivors in the ruins of collapsed buildings in Palu, 1,500 kilometres north-east of the capital, Jakarta. A German group brought in a water-purification system.
‘There are political sensitivities … an election coming up’
As well as being concerned to show it can manage disasters on its own, Indonesian governments are wary of being too open to outside help because they could face criticism from political opponents.
There is particular resistance to the presence of foreign military personnel as it could be seen as an infringement of sovereignty.
“There are political sensitivities, especially with an election coming up, and sovereignty is another issue,” said Keith Loveard, senior analyst with advisory and risk firm Concord Consulting, referring to polls due in Muslim-majority Indonesia next year.
Many countries regulate the activity of foreign aid groups but restrictions are sometimes set aside after major disasters.
Many of the displaced in Sulawesi are living in basic shelters in Palu and surrounding hills.
A plan to relocate communities is being drawn up, the agency said.
The Government has allocated 560 billion rupiah ($51.9 million) for quake relief and has said some 20 countries have offered help.
In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
Foreign governments and aid groups played a big role in the emergency response and recovery efforts in 2004.