Community-centred reconstruction needed

Down to Earth No 64  March 2005

For many tsunami survivors whose homes and livelihoods were totally swept away in the early hours of December 26th, rebuilding their lives means starting from scratch. What lies ahead for these shattered communities and who will decide what happens next?

Acehnese civil society organisations are highlighting the overriding need for participation by the affected communities in the reconstruction and recovery processes and for transparency and accountability in the use of funds. They want protection of human rights - including rights to land and natural resources; the rights of tsunami victims to return home to rebuild their lives; the lifting of Aceh's civil emergency status and involvement of civil society in negotiations to end the years of conflict in Aceh.

At the January meeting of Indonesia's creditor grouping, the CGI, planning minister Indrawati said the major focus areas of the reconstruction strategy included restoring people's lives and livelihoods, restoring the economy and infrastructure, and restoring local government. "We need to provide new infrastructure, new houses, education, medical services, and new jobs - urgently" she said. (Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs Press Release Jan/05).

This echoed the recommendations in Bappenas' preliminary damage assessment (PDLA - see previous article), which said the priorities for reconstruction must lie in ways to rebuild livelihoods and the social fabric of the devastated communities, including housing and shelter, generating enterprise, commerce and income creation; rebuilding rural livelihoods - agriculture and fisheries - providing public services, and assisting the newly vulnerable - single mothers and orphans.

Accordingly, a government blueprint for reconstruction is under preparation, along with a World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessment of financing needs, due in March.

On 1 March 2005, Aceh governor Azwar Abubakar formally opened the public consultation process on the so-called reconstruction blueprint. The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the results of nine days of consultations by ten thematic groups would be forwarded to the central authorities in Jakarta, with a finalised blueprint expected by mid-March. UNDP and the World Bank are financing this process and providing expertise (OCHA Situation Report 31, 1/Mar/05).



However, the view from the ground is that so far, the government's emergency response and reconstruction planning has been top-down and dominated by security interests, rather than making space for community-led initiatives.

Civil society organisations involved in discussions about reconstruction have raised a number of concerns over the immediate and longer term future for the tsunami victims. Some of these are highlighted below.


  • Community consultation and participation

    The Bappenas report said that decision-makers should focus on the needs of the local population in its reconstruction strategy and that community consultation "is imperative to devising the plan for reconstructing Aceh and North Sumatra." It points to a 'vision for a National Recovery and Reconstruction Strategy' consisting of six key principles outlined by the Government, including a 'people-centered and participative process'.

    The call for community-led decision-making - not just consultation or participation - has been a central demand of civil society organisations. The question now is how to provide the tens of thousands of tsunami survivors with time and space to consider and participate meaningfully in decisions about their futures, when the government is already pressing ahead with short-term actions that will have long term impacts on survivor communities.


  • Corruption

    NGOs have called for transparency and accountability in the management of aid, but the expectation is that at least 30% of assistance will be corrupted. Aceh is already ranked as one of most corrupt provinces in Indonesia and Indonesia was recently ranked the fifth most corrupt country by Transparency International (see also debt article).

    Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, Alwi Shihab, has said the government will set up a number of supervisory bodies to monitor reconstruction projects, which will include members of NGOs and donors' representatives. He also committed the government to making monthly official announcements of financial aid already received and what had been spent (icwweb 24/Jan/05).

    A number of NGOs have already been requested to monitor aid, setting them against powerful vested interests. The environmental NGO Telapak has highlighted the case of Farid Faqih, a civil society movement activist and Government Watch (GOWA) coordinator who was assaulted by military (TNI) officers at the Indonesian Air Force Base in Blang Bintang, Aceh. The TNI accused Farid Faqih of stealing aid supplies. His group, GOWA, and Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) had received a formal request from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to monitor corruption in the distribution of aid supplies for tsunami relief in Aceh. Farid Faqih had made a public statement on false reporting of tsunami victims' numbers in Aceh (Telapak statement, 27/Jan/05).


Aceh CSOs join together to participate in reconstruction plans

Around Acehnese 100 civil society organisations gathered for the first time since the earthquake and tsunami disasters to come up with plans for reconstruction in Aceh, from the point of view of the Acehnese themselves. The Duek Pakat, or meeting, was held in Medan, after the original plan to hold it in Takengon, Central Aceh, was cancelled by the police for 'security' reasons.

The meeting was organised to meet the February 14th deadline for registration in the provincial government's working groups which will prepare a blue-print for the redevelopment of Aceh.

The timeframe is extremely tight: Bappenas will submit the Aceh and North Sumatra People's Rehabilitation and Reconstruction plan to the President in the third week of March, less than three weeks from the registration deadline.

"There has not yet been any public consultation which has involved the Acehnese themselves in discussions on reconstruction and rehabilitation in the province," said a press release, following the meeting.

The meeting ended with an agreement to form the Komite Bersama Aceh Baru - the New Aceh Joint Committee.

The committee has the mandate to ensure that the people's voice is heard at provincial, national and international levels. Different parts of Acehnese society have complained that they haven't been told about plans and activities of national and international agencies involved in rehabilitation work. Meanwhile, international and national agencies often find it difficult to identify partners in the field to channel aid and work on programmes that are appropriate, useful and which directly address people's needs.

The meeting, which was supported by 13 international and national donors, agreed that the most urgent priority was to secure the withdrawal of Aceh's civil emergency status, so that Acehnese would be free to participate in planning for rehabilitation and reconstruction work in future.

The Duek Pakat also pressed for:

  • Acehnese, including women and indigenous peoples, to be fully involved in reconstruction planning;
  • legal guarantees for the survivors' rights, including in land disputes;
  • development in Aceh not to be financed by domestic or foreign debt;
  • Acehnese to be involved in rebuilding their own houses;
  • participation for Acehnese in monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of aid;
  • women to have full decision-making participation in each rehabilitation and reconstruction planning process;
  • inclusion of civil society components so that peace negotiations are conducted by three parties - the military, GAM and civil society.
The New Aceh Joint Committee consists of 11 elements including women, religious leaders, youth organisations, NGOs, peoples organisations, professionals, farmers, and fisherfolk.

(Press Release forwarded by Yayasan Tifa, 14/Feb/05)


  • Human rights

    Amnesty International has stressed the need to adhere to human rights principles in both the emergency relief and reconstruction effort. The concern is that violations against suspected GAM sympathisers and human rights defenders are continuing in post-tsunami Aceh, and may be stepped up once the media spotlight has faded and the international emergency relief presence is scaled down.

    There have already been reports of GAM suspects being targeted by the military in IDP camps (see 3rd box, first article). The reluctance of many survivors to register with the authorities reflects the widespread fear of victimisation by the military and police. Registration for relocation into shelters for up to 2 years, began on January 30th (see also resettlement and housing sections, below). According to military planning, military forces will be involved in surveying numbers and locations of displaced people as well as relocation planning and preparations (HRW/HRF press release 7/Feb/05).

  • Indigenous peoples

    Indonesia's indigenous peoples alliance, AMAN, also expressed concern about military control of relief and reconstruction programmes. AMAN also warned that the involvement of international investors could harm the interests of Aceh's indigenous peoples by putting pressure on land and other customary rights (see AMAN's press statement).

    The regional indigenous peoples' organisation suffered a severe blow with the disappearance and presumed loss of Pak Keuchik Jailani Hasan, local indigenous leader and council member of AMAN (see obituary).


  • Women

    Reconstruction planning needs to make gender justice a major consideration, if women are not to be marginalised from decision-making about their future. As Amnesty International notes, women have already suffered inordinately under the years of conflict in Aceh, due to a "long established pattern of rape and other crimes of sexual violence against women by the security forces in the villages..." (see also DTE 63). Amnesty also reports that the risk of gender-based violence is greatly increased by the displacement of large sections of the population and that specific efforts are needed to protect women IDPs. From this embattled starting point, women will need special attention to ensure that their inputs are sought out and accommodated in reconstruction planning.

    The Bappenas report warns that the "subordinate position of women in society…makes them targets for physical attacks and abuse, blocks avenues for acquiring necessary skills, and limits their access to resources and power structures", and that "given the current security situation, these challenges may be amplified".

    "In many camps, women have little say in the allocation of resources. As reconstruction efforts begin, this lack of voice may translate into poor representation in resettlement planning and an inability to express retraining and financing needs." (PDLA, p 82).


  • Land and resettlement

    The tsunami has made 20% of the Acehnese population homeless (Bappenas, Jan 2005). Some of these people have literally lost their land as the tsunami washed away parts of the land, permanently changing the shape of the coastline. Others could find it hard to define their plots in the devastated landscape and even less will have any proof that the land is theirs.

    "Land control and ownership will become a critical issue, in agricultural areas as individuals try to return to land or settle elsewhere, and in urban areas as individuals try to rebuild on smaller plots," predicts Bappenas. According to data in the January 2005 report, most households in Aceh lived in self-owned houses and less than 10% of homes were rented. Eighty eight per cent had some sort of documentation for their house, but only 9% had land certificates. "Today much of the documentation has been destroyed and the issue of ownership claims may soon become a source of tension in the area".

Rumours that the government was planning large resettlement schemes for tsunami victims began to circulate soon after the tsunami hit, prompting fears of social engineering along the lines of the much-critiqued transmigration resettlement programme, or an attempt to control GAM sympathisers' activities. There was a concern too, that hurried relocation would take advantage of communities' fear of the sea, before they had had time to assess how long-lasting these fears were.

A forestry department press release outlined one relocation scheme. It proposes swapping land on the coast with inland areas controlled by the forestry department, in order to rehabilitate mangroves and so strengthen coastal defences. The release said the rehabilitation efforts would not be easy because, among other reasons, the plans would have to be 'socialised' to communities who would need to relocate. It said approaches would be made to communities previously living in coastal areas to exchange these areas for forest areas. "It is hoped that the communities will not go back to live on the coast, and can live, instead in forest areas which will be prepared by the Forestry Department, so that, in future, they will be free of the risk of experiencing a similar disaster" (Press Release S. 32/II/PIK-1/2004, 13/Jan/05).

Such schemes appear to leave little room for community-led planning and may exclude the best solutions both for livelihoods and sustainable coastlines. They may also ignore the customary rights of indigenous communities over inland forest areas, where these lands are officially classified as production forest - thus creating more potential for conflict over land in future.

Depending on how these schemes are carried through, there is a strong possibility that they will also violate human rights. Amnesty International is calling on the Indonesian government to assist people to recover their land and property where possible, and to adhere to the UN Guiding Principles of Internal Displacement. These and other international standards state that IDPs have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose their residence. They have the right to be protected from arbitrary or forcible displacement. "Donors should demand that..there is an absolute prohibition on acts by the security forces or other officials which result in forcible displacement, resettlement or relocation. The free and informed consent of IDPs should be sought at all times" (AI, January 2005).

Acehnese NGOs have also highlighted the right to land in their discussions and demands (see box, above).


The protection of land rights - key issues:

  • Many people have no proof of their identity, let alone their ownership of land and or property, as they lost all their personal documents in the disaster. It will take some time to replace these.
  • Many people - especially in traditional communities in urban and rural areas - did not have any certification or proof of land ownership.
  • The physical landscape has changed along extended part of the coastal strip. Reoccupation is impossible where dry land has become part of the seabed or muddy swamps.
  • Natural markers which traditional communities use to demarcate their land - such as certain trees, streams or rocks - have been totally swept away or changed.
  • The impact of the quake-tsunami in some places has been so severe that everything has been flattened and there are no traces of even concrete and brick buildings. Elsewhere, foundations have been bulldozed to clear mud and wreckage.
  • In urban areas, there is some evidence of land speculation where people are buying up or claiming to own land where the real owners are dead, in order to get compensation from the authorities during the reconstruction phase.
  • Some records held by local land agency offices or village administrators have been destroyed. Duplicates should be held in Jakarta, but it is not known how efficient the bureaucracy is.
  • There is the potential for land conflict, especially where land is left empty because the original land owners have died or left the area on a temporary or permanent basis.
  • Where survivors want to stay inland, rather than return, there will be more pressure on land and natural resources and again a greater risk of conflict as they seek 'empty' land to farm or build homes.
  • Many people do not want to report to the authorities in areas which the government considers GAM strongholds, because of past experiences of violence, intimidation, extortion, arrests, disappearances and destruction of property.
  • The government has set up 10 teams to draw up land-use plans for the affected areas. An overall 'Blueprint' for redevelopment' originally due in mid-February will not be announced until mid-March. There has been next to no public consultation in this process.
  • The government is trying to move all refugees into temporary accommodation - in barracks or with other families - rather than encouraging or even allowing them to go home.
  • The military has already claimed land in certain places as bases for emergency relief operations and to rebuild its own bases and command posts. Local people dare not complain that their land has been seized.
  • People's land is also being taken over by the civil authorities for relocation centres, new roads and government depots. The government says all land for relocation centres has been rented or purchased. There is some evidence of village officials giving consent on behalf of landowners, without any discussion.
  • Various government spokesmen and international agencies have announced the need for a coastal safety zone where no settlements will be rebuilt. They are proposing a 'Green Line', at least part of which will be planted with mangroves to reduce the impact of any future tsunamis.


  • Housing

    The reconstruction of housing for tsunami survivors requires full community participation and environmental impact assessment, if schemes - even the short-medium term projects - are to be socially and environmentally sustainable.

    The Bappenas report suggests that:

  • Local housing programmes need to be based on public and participatory planning;
  • Repairing and reconstructing homes could be carried out at the local community level to save costs and generate income at the local level;
  • This could be labour-intensive to provide employment and immediate income to those who lost jobs and livelihoods;
  • Experience in other countries shows that temporary shelter can become permanent in the absence of further reconstruction efforts. Short-cuts in reconstruction need to be avoided.


Yet government plans for rehousing tsunami survivors, including the building of semi-permanent, barracks-style shelters, are already being implemented in ways that go against these recommendations. The lack of consultation and the involvement of the military in setting up the new camps has spread alarm. In early February the US-based NGOs Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Human Rights First (HRF) said that the government's plans to register and relocate more than 100,000 displaced people to semi-permanent camps threatened their right to return home. The NGOs expressed concern that the camps could be misused by the military as a way of controlling the population, unless human rights safeguards were put in place.

"...Given the military's poor human rights record in Aceh, its prominent role in the transport of thousands of Acehnese from spontaneous camps to the barracks sites, involvement in camp management, and aid distribution within barracks would invariably create fear among the displaced population. This could prevent displaced persons from making a free and informed choice on relocation, including the option of returning to their place of origin...."(HRW/HRF press release 7/Feb/05).

In early February, minister Alwi Shihab said that nobody would be forced to move to the resettlement barracks. A report by AFP said there had been protests by some survivors who do not want to be herded into cramped barracks, but want separate houses instead, however small (AFP 2/Feb/05).

According to HRW and HRF, at least a third of people displaced by the tsunami were living in spontaneous camps in early February, while others were staying in public buildings or with friends or relatives. The government promised a monthly allowance for people living with host families, but no clear commitment had emerged to support those who chose to return to their places of origin immediately. The organisations raised concerns that the government was registering displaced people for relocation, without first offering them adequate information on alternatives.

A report by the Urban Poor Linkage Information Center (Uplink), said that the first relocation of IDPs into the first barracks was attempted on February 15th. "The majority of the IDPs..refused to move into the barracks...the major issue has been [the] gap between the government policy, i.e. to house people in temporary barracks and later relocate them to new residential sites far away from their original settlements, and the people's wish to go back to their original kampungs as soon as possible" (Uplink 23/Feb/05). A later UN report indicated that local government and Jakarta officials from the ministry of public works had agreed that IDPs who wish to stay and rebuild on their former home sites should be allowed to do so.

Only 75 of the 273 barracks planned for the first phase of relocating of displaced people were ready by the 15th February deadline ( 15/Feb/05)

According to national coordination body, BAKORNAS, 397 barracks, officially called Temporary Location Centres (TLCs), had been completed by late February and displaced people had occupied 142 of them. The Government has increased the number of planned barracks to 997, with each designed to house 60 people (OCHA Situation Report 31, 1/Mar/05).

The Urban Poor Consortium is working with others to counter plans issued by the Department of Public Works to relocate communities away from the coast in the city of Banda Aceh and create two new cities outside the current location. An alternative plan, allowing people to move back to their original plots and create "escape" hills, or areas of higher ground where people can take refuge in future, is being promoted (Uplink 23/Feb/05).


"I would like to appeal for your assistance in this case. Kindly inform the public in your countries and your government and persuade them to hold their donation unless the government/military agrees to put he people at the centre in the reconstruction process, as the primary actors and decision makers, and to use the momentum created by the disaster for peace and welfare of the people."

(Urban Poor Linkage Information Center, 5/Feb/05)


  • Environmental sustainability

    The Bappenas report, which contains a short section on mainstreaming and restoring the environment, recommends that environmental issues should be considered in all sectoral reconstruction planning and actions. This includes the selection of locations for temporary housing and resettlement camps which "should be done in considering potential longer time environmental implications." However, the report also mentions that EIAs (environmental impact assessments) should be conducted "in a swift manner" so that the planned reconstruction projects do not experience delays in implementation.

    Currently, Indonesia's EIA system is not given much credit by environmental organisations or communities throughout the country whose livelihoods have been ruined by pollution. The fact is that it is not possible to do an EIA swiftly if public participation is to be meaningful and if the final decision is to take all views into consideration.


  • Timber supply for reconstruction

    Reconstruction - specifically the demand for timber for building materials - looks set to exact a heavy toll on Aceh's already depleted forest resources. The forests of Aceh, North Sumatra and the islands off the west coast of Sumatra, including Siberut, are still extensive and rich in biodiversity. They are also the easiest, quickest and cheapest source of timber for future housing and development needs.

    WWF Indonesia predicts that at least 300,000 new homes will need to be built for tsunami survivors. Forestry NGO network, SKEPHI, reported in January that soon after the disaster struck, district leaders in Aceh were requesting central government permission to fell timber in their areas to help in the construction effort.

    Now, according to the environment ministry, central government is targeting Aceh's Gunung Leuser National Park as a source of timber. The park was declared a World Heritage Site last year by UNESCO because of its unique biodiversity value. Environment minister, Rachmat Witoelar is reported to have rejected the plan to log Leuser and has asked for log donations from other countries instead (Asia Times 5/Mar/05).

    SKEPHI and other NGOs predict that stripping timber from Sumatra's remaining forests will bring further tragedy in the form of landslides and flooding. In late 2003 around 200 people were killed when flash floods swept through the North Sumatran village of Bukit Lawang. The disaster was blamed on rampant logging within the Gunung Leuser Ecosystem, a 2.6 million hectare area, which includes the national park and which spans the North Sumatra and Aceh border (see DTE 59). In May last year, further flooding killed another villager over the border in Aceh and forced thousands to leave their flooded homes (see DTE 62).

    The forestry minister has estimated the demand for timber at 8.5 million cubic metres for the construction of around 123,000 new homes. The recently-installed minister, Malam Sambat Kalam, said 6 million m3 would be logs and 2.5million m3 sawn wood. In late January, he said the ministry was considering giving special permits to forestry concessionaires in Aceh to allow them to meet this demand.

    He also said confiscated timber (from illegal logging) and timber that had been rejected by exporters could be used. Officials were still compiling inventories of quantities and locations or such timber in late January (Antara/Jakarta Post 25/Jan/05).

    The 8.5 million cubic metre estimate is far more than this year's logging quota of 5.45 million m3 for the whole country. It means that the minister's proposal to dramatically increase the allowable cut to 20 - 30million m3 is likely to be agreed (Jakarta Post 7/Jan/05).

    Destructive logging in Aceh is tearing out the forests at a rates of 270,000 hectares per year despite a moratorium on logging concessions imposed since 2001. It is carried out by both licensed and unlicensed businesses, and supported by a corrupt network of government officials, entrepreneurs and military personnel. Indigenous peoples' rights to forests and forest resources have been pushed aside. Logs and processed wood are smuggled out of Aceh from locations on the west and east coasts to Malaysia, China and other countries, causing tens of millions of dollars in losses to state revenues. The military's deep involvement in the logging industry has led activists to conclude that the war against GAM will be perpetuated as long as there are still profits to be had in Aceh's forests. (See Aceh: Logging a conflict zone for more background on deforestation in Aceh.)

    Back in post-tsunami Aceh, the increased demand for wood is highly likely to make this dire situation even worse. "There's quite a strong likelihood that any tree left standing is going to get grabbed," Moray McLeish of US-based conservation organisation, The Nature Conservancy, told the Wall Street Journal. "The danger is that people will go after the timber in the national parks…Those are pretty much the only sources left in Sumatra" (WSJ 17/Jan/05).


  • Roads - Ladia Galaska

    Closely connected to the problem of deforestation will be the decision-making around the future transport infrastructure, and in particular the roads. Much of the western coastal road was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami waves, cutting off villages from much-needed medical assistance and food and water supplies. These need to be rebuilt, but NGOs fear that the post-tsunami focus of road-building could move inland. Governor Abdullah Puteh (currently suspended from his post and under investigation for corruption) has been pushing for the construction of the trans-Aceh Ladia Galaska road, despite the potential for triggering more fatal flooding and landslides that this brings with it. The partly-constructed Ladia Galaska network cuts through the Leuser Ecosystem, and is widely believed to serve the interests of the local logging mafia networks, rather than any rational transport plan. Activists opposing the project have already been targeted by the police and military authorities. One well-known indigenous campaigner, Bestari Raden, is now serving a two and a half year sentence for his vocal opposition to destructive logging in Aceh. He was arrested while taking part in a government-sponsored mission to review sections of Ladia Galaska. (See DTE 63DTE62 and Aceh: logging a conflict zone for background.)

    NGOs opposing the road network are now concerned that the tsunami will be used as a rationale to accelerate construction of the road, as, it will be argued, this overland route will not be susceptible to future damage from the sea. The authorities have decided that this disaster clearly demonstrates the need for better overland access to the west coast from the east. One option in the most recent plans is for Tapak Tuan to become the main centre for development and population on the west coast. Any new roads to the north and west will go straight through the forests of the Leuser Ecosystem. This presents opportunities for local politicians and entrepreneurs to create a small fortune from felling commercially valuable timber along the roads' route and granting plantation permits. Documents made available to DTE show that the government is requesting funding from the World Bank for construction of roads in this protected area.

    The Indonesian authorities say that the road network already exists and just needs upgrading. This is not entirely true. Some roads are little more than dirt tracks extending a few kilometres into the forest from main roads in the east and the west. The Ladia Galaska scheme will join these up and provide a hard surface so that large trucks can cut right across the forest. For example, during February, 75 km of asphalt was laid on the Takengon to Meulaboh route. (

    Yet the price of pushing ahead with Ladia Galaska could be very high indeed. A survey conducted by the EU-funded Leuser Management Unit, predicted that the Ladia Galaska road network construction would double the size of destroyed forest to 40% of the Leuser Ecosystem by 2010 and would risk losses of Rp168.7 trillion (US$19.8 billion) in predicted natural disasters caused by the forest destruction, not including the possible loss of lives (Jakarta Post 3/Dec/03).


    "We're worried that the tsunami tragedy is being used to affirm the [Ladia Galaska] road construction...We have to stop the road-construction project and prevent Gunung Leuser National Park as the source of logs"

    (Longgena Ginting, WALHI, in Asia Times 5/Mar/05)


    Aceh: logging a conflict zone

    Eye on Aceh report 2004, prepared by Down to Earth The report is online at Printed copies available from DTE. A German translation of the report can be sent via email. Contact for details.


  • Involvement of private sector

    The role of the World Bank and the IMF in calculating the financing needs for reconstruction has been questioned by Binny Buchori, former director of the International Forum on Indonesian Development. In an article for the UK-based NGO, Bretton Woods Project, she points to these institutions' role in Indonesia of promoting privatisation, economic liberalisation and directing infrastructure development towards energy and transportation mega-projects. "What guarantee do we have that these institutions will not put the mega-projects as the priority of infrastructure reconstruction in Aceh and North Sumatra?" (BWP 26/Jan/05).

    The concern is that large projects will sideline community-based projects and will also channel reconstruction funding to foreign companies. Aceh's experience with foreign multinationals has been less than happy. US-based oil multinational, ExxonMobil, has been the most prominent player for many years. The company is facing legal action over its involvement in human rights abuses by its military security guards, which include using company facilities for torturing and disappearing GAM suspects (see DTE 50).

    According to welfare minister Alwi Shihab, who also heads Indonesia's disaster mitigation team, the emphasis should be on building up local capacity. He said local and international donors would be given opportunities to be involved in the reconstruction efforts, but would have to give priority to Acehnese workers. "Don't get workers from abroad or even from Jakarta. We must empower the Acehnese to show that this is all about them and their homeland" (icwweb 24/Jan/05).

    The view from the ground is that local businesses are being sidelined. A report in Serambi said that local businesses were complaining to the Acehnese authorities that they were being completely overlooked in the reconstruction efforts. National or Jakarta-based companies were selected for contracts rather than local businesses, according to Let Bugeh, the owner of one Achenese company. "We are not even invited for consultations, let alone given any support, although we've lost so much. We are just observers, left on the sidelines of Aceh's redevelopment", he complained (Serambi 28/Feb/05).

    Disaster response becomes a political football

    The Indonesian press has made much of tensions between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and his deputy, the powerful businessman and head of the GOLKAR party, Jusuf Kalla. SBY had placed great political store in fulfilling his promise to the electorate of real action within his first 100 days of office. As the weeks passed into months, some political commentators were questioning whether anything had changed when the quake-tsunami struck. SBY was characterised as indecisive and slow to act compared with his dynamic deputy. So it was inevitable that the government's response to the disaster would become part of Jakarta's political in-fighting.

    Ironically, SBY was in West Papua over Christmas, boosting his political capital by visiting the victims of November's quake in Nabire. He had visited Aceh precisely one month before. Kalla was quick off the mark. People were impressed by the way that he arrived in Banda Aceh the day after the disaster. The way that he then issued instructions to government ministers to visit Aceh and set up measures to be taken to tackle the response was received less favourably. Kalla established a new national agency, under the National Agency for Disaster Management, with himself as head. Some MPs said it was unconstitutional for the vice-president to issue decrees, rather than the president, in the event of a national emergency. Others were affronted that parliament was not recalled or even consulted.

    The disaster opened up new possibilities for negotiations with GAM and even before he became vice-president, Kalla had been tasked to work behind the scenes on an Aceh peace settlement. Hence it was Kalla, not the foreign minister who went to Helsinki to meet GAM representatives at the end of January.

    Both the president and vice-present have, in public, played down any rivalry between them. "Everything Kalla does, is on my instruction", said SBY. Nevertheless, some political observers see this as just the start of Kalla's campaign to become president of Indonesia in 2009.

    (Source: Tempo 23/Jan, 6/Feb/05)