January 19, 2005
TSUNAMI: JAKARTA'S 'IMPUDENT' RESTRICTIONS REFLECT SOVEREIGNTY WORRY
** Critics say Jakarta's statements make clear it is "indifferent" to the fate of Aceh survivors.
** Indonesian dailies note a "growing feeling of xenophobia."
** A few papers say Indonesia's orders "should be respected" given religious concerns.
** Relief effort skeptics perceive a "hidden agenda" behind U.S. charity.
'Fear they could lose control' over Aceh-- Papers assailed the "potentates in Jakarta" for their "short-sighted and morally indefensible" comments regarding limitations on foreign aid workers in Aceh. Holland's influential NRC Handelsblad said Indonesian officials are making a "tragic mistake" by seeking to "reassert their authority" instead of prioritizing aid to victims. Germany's center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung blasted Jakarta's "hunger for power and greed for money," adding that the Indonesian military is "not interested in peace." Hong Kong and Malaysian writers agreed that "restricting the movement of foreign disaster relief personnel can only hinder" reconstruction.
The foreigner issue 'must be handled seriously'-- Writers in Indonesia split over restrictions on the "foreign presence" in Aceh. Moderate papers said that Indonesians "ought to be grateful" for the aid. Independent Suara Pembaruan urged politicians to be "honest that we are not able to resolve" the crisis "alone" and independent Media Indonesia labeled the proposal that foreign volunteers leave within two months "beyond our imagination." But other writers, fearing "political dependency," judged the "restrictive" orders "actually make sense" Independent Jawa Pos concluded, "the sooner the foreign military volunteers return home, the better for the security and sovereignty of this country."
'Never let foreign powers intervene'-- Citing religious reasons, some papers defended Jakarta's limits on foreign activity. Malaysia's government-influenced Berita Harian held that "Acehnese people are Muslims, and traditionally...do not welcome...foreign forces." Other media noted concern that the foreign presence "might harm Indonesia's sovereignty"; Singapore's pro-government Straits Times concluded that "nationalism remains an issue." An Austrian daily interpreted the restrictions as a justifiable attempt to "pacify the Muslim activists" angered by reported plots to "turn Muslims to Christianity on the pretext of relief efforts." Several dubbed it "wild speculation" that the U.S. seeks to "de-Islamize" victims.
'A new round of military penetration in Asia'-- Several Asian papers alleged that the U.S. military's role stemmed from a "profound strategic calculation" that the Asia-Pacific area is a "new American strategic focus." Pro-PRC Macau Daily News stated the "large-scale U.S. relief effort is designed to lay the groundwork" for further U.S. deployments; Seoul's conservative Chosun Ilbo agreed that the U.S. is treating the disaster "as an opportunity to station its troops in...an area with a weak American military presence." Thailand's sensationalist Phujatkarn accused the U.S. of having a "hidden agenda to take over" Aceh.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 36 reports from 12 countries over 12 - 19 January 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
GERMANY: "Tsunami Victims"
Center-right Mindener Tageblatt of Minden said (1/13): "Even international relief efforts for the tsunami victims in Aceh...is now to be distributed only with the approval by and under the eyes of the military. The fact that the central government in Jakarta is using emergency relief as an instrument must reluctantly be accepted by the international public. But the government in Jakarta is now demanding a moratorium for its international debt and will need long-term reconstruction assistance. This is the means of pressure, which the aiding nations should not give easily away. Debt relief and long-term support should be linked to conditions which Indonesia must meet before it can get binding promises by the international community."
"The Greed Of The Generals"
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich opined (1/13): "The Indonesian generals are now showing their true colors. It is an ugly face distorted by the hunger for power and greed for money. Sympathy in view of the hundreds of thousands of people who died in the tsunamis is obviously strange to them. The only thing they are worried about is the fear they could lose control over the Aceh province. The dirty war, which the Indonesian military is waging against the separatist guerilla forces there, is a lucrative deal. The armed forces are not interested in peace and a troop withdrawal, and they are indifferent to the fate of the people in Aceh.... The international community cannot simply idly watch these rabid activities. It wants to help the victims in Aceh, nationalists and separatists. Indonesia's President Yudhoyono knows this. There was a reason why he hesitated to allow foreigners to enter the crisis region. The reputation, which his government enjoys worldwide, is now at risk. Aceh is not an isolated conflict at the fringes of the Indonesian empire of islands. The entire people will have have to bear the consequences if the government in Jakarta proves incapable and unwilling to master the crisis. It would be the bankruptcy of the young democracy. Former general Yudhoyono must decide on which side he stands."
"Impudence Will Lose"
Clemens Wergin argued in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (1/13): "In view of the global solidarity with the tsunami victims the demand [of the Indonesian government] is impudent. International helpers, who at least risk their health, should not allow anyone to treat them like that. The behavior of the government in Jakarta shows the arrogance of the powers-that-be.... And obviously the leaders in politics and the military are also irritated that states and organizations want to help on the spot and do not want to transfer their donations to the Indonesian government because they are afraid of the notorious corruption. The global sympathy includes the western donors to bring along their standards of transparency. It is time that the Indonesian government adjusts to this fact - in the interest of the victims and all other Indonesians who have a right to transparent conditions."
"In The Way"
Center-right Saechsische Zeitung of Dresden held (1/13): "The generals obviously want to restore their power, which was literally swept away by the water, as quickly as possible. And international helpers with and without uniform, let alone journalists, are in their way. In the future they are supposed to account to them for their activities in Aceh. While the world is focusing exclusively on the tsunami victims without showing any religious or political reservations, a few of the powers-that-be in Jakarta have nothing more important to do that thinking about safeguarding their power."
AUSTRIA: "Djakarta Draws The Line"
Markus Bernath opined in independent Der Standard (1/14): “From Djakarta’s point of view, the conditions imposed upon the international helpers in the province of Aceh and the deadline for the foreign troops make sense. Three months are probably a provisional deadline named by Vice President Yussuf Kalla to pacify the Muslim activists in the state, which has a population size of 230 million. After all, Indonesia has a long-standing history of political violence that threatens the unity of the archipelago.... If it is not to the disadvantage of the needy people in Aceh, Djakarta’s 'political’ limitation of the international aid initiatives in the province is the more bearable option. Otherwise the way is paved for Islamic preachers. According to them, the flood was a punishment of God, they say, and with the West’s help there will be Christian missions.”
"At The Pillory"
Foreign editor Ernst Heinrich commented in mass-circulation provincial Kleine Zeitung (1/14): “In Aceh, rebels have been fighting for years for independence from the central government. It is a brutal battle, both on the side of the rebels and on that of the army. Then the great flood came. However, instead of making an attempt at reconciliation, the government is actually profiting from the ensuing chaos. For now they have the chance to actually starve the rebels out. Foreign aid workers are only in the way and therefore obstacles are being put in their way wherever possible. And that is a scandal for which the potentates in Jakarta ought to be pilloried.”
"What Remains Is Disillusionment"
Hans Kronspiess observed in centrist Die Presse (1/13): “Now the Indonesian Vice President has stated clearly and unmistakably that Djakarta will accept foreign troops in the province of Aceh that has been destroyed by the tsunami only until the end of March. However, the Vice-President does not only want to send away the Americans, whom the Indonesians suspect to be power-hungry, but also Swiss soldiers, for instance. Since it is not to be assumed that the Swiss have more than a limited interest in political influence in South East Asia, the question remains of what Indonesia’s government wants? Perhaps it does not want to be disturbed in its persecution of the separatists in Aceh? This is possible. Just as it is possible that the government of Sri Lanka neglects regions where Tamils are active in its distribution of aid resources. What remains after the first enthusiasm of reconciliation is disillusionment. And a sad question: How big does a catastrophe have to be for peace expectations not to be disappointed?
NETHERLANDS: "Fading Hopes"
Influential independent NRC Handelsblad maintained (1/14): "The monumental devastation and suffering in strife-torn Sri Lanka and Aceh initially led to an unprecedented display of solidarity and even collaboration between the same government and rebel forces that were archenemies not so long ago.... But hopes of a longer-lasting ceasefire are rapidly fading, as Jakarta and Colombo take advantage of the humanitarian tragedy to reassert their authority in the rebel-dominated areas and manoeuvre their armies into stronger positions.... This is a tragic mistake.... The presidents of Sri Lanka and Indonesia are unfit for their jobs if they don't at least try to take advantage of the opportunities created by the tsunami--in terms of collaboration, dialogue and, possibly, a peace deal. The outside world must make them see the error of their ways, if only as part of the overall emergency relief effort."
CHINA: "International Aid Influences International Relations"
Lin Xiaoguang commented in official international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (1/17): "In the Tsunami disaster relief work, western countries’ roles and influence are waning. Some western countries’ intent to lead in the relief work has been aborted.... Developed countries’ political intentions have been manifested very clearly.... Japanese military experts indicate that the U.S. intends to show its strength.... Powell also expressed that ‘disaster relief is an investment in U.S. security'.... The U.S. also hopes to improve its image among Muslims.... Japan has found an opportunity in the Straits of Malacca. In comparison, the achievements of developing countries have been recognized by the international community.... Developing countries have begun to shed their images as poor countries that only receive assistance. They have played a positive role and have weakened the leading role of developed countries.... Although developed countries occupy an advantageous position in the international relations setup, the positive role of developing countries in international aid will definitely play an important and far-reaching influence in the development of international relations.”
"Indonesia Asks Foreign Armies To Withdraw"
Guan Kejiang noted in official international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (1/14): "On January 12, Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla said that foreign relief brigades in Indonesia should finish their work and withdraw from Aceh within three months.... His words show the Indonesian government’s embarrassing position in regard to the Aceh relief work.... Foreign armies have requested that the scope for larger relief activities be enlarged, but some Indonesian personnel are requesting greater restrictions on foreigners’ behavior. The pressure is getting heavier.... Western diplomats indicate that the Indonesian government is worrying that the foreign militaries’ presence might harm Indonesia’s sovereignty.... Aceh is a place where Islam is deep-seated. The entrance of a great number of foreign military and non-Muslim personnel has made religious extremists very uneasy. The hidden security trouble in Aceh is increasing.... The U.S. White House spokesman said that the U.S. requested an explanation from Indonesia. ...The U.S. will stay there for a rather long time. It is a long-term task.... It seems that the U.S. is unwilling to leave anytime soon. Meanwhile an anonymous rumor is spreading in Jakarta: ‘will Indonesia become the U.S. next target after Iraq?’”
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "U.S. Military Uses Relief Work To Strategically Penetrate Asia"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (1/17): "Since the tsunami wreaked havoc in the Indian Ocean, U.S. moves to send troops to the frontline and carry out relief work has attracted international attention. To date, more than 13,000 U.S. soldiers have been sent to the disaster areas. This has been the largest scale deployment of U.S. military in Asia since the end of the Vietnamese war. It shows that the U.S. is using relief work to start a new round of military penetration in Asia.... Through the relief work, the U.S. can expand its military influence in that area. Before the tsunami, U.S. aircraft carriers could never enter Indonesian waters. And it was beyond anyone's imagination that U.S. marines would work together with the armies of Muslim countries. Since last year, the U.S. has made major adjustments in its military deployment, and the Asia-Pacific region has become a new American strategic focus. In Asia, U.S. military is focusing on the Pacific and Indian Oceans.... Now, the U.S. military and its aircraft carriers can enter this sensitive area. It is clear that the large-scale U.S. relief effort is designed to lay the groundwork for further U.S. movements in the Indian Ocean and Asian Pacific region in the future."
"People Must Come Before Politics In Aceh"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (1/14): "There are now some 60 different aid organizations operating in Aceh. Soldiers from Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. are helping with the relief effort. Spanish troops are on the way. This is precisely the response the people of Aceh needed. There is no hope of rebuilding their shattered lives unless that international presence is maintained over the long-term--and unless it is given the freedom it needs to get on with the job. But the Indonesian government has other political concerns. The arrival of so many foreigners in Aceh has loosened the military control over the province. It has not been able to keep up the pressure on the rebels. It is also possible that previous rights abuses by troops will be exposed. These considerations should not be allowed to hinder the aid effort. There is only one priority--to help the suffering victims and rebuild Aceh. But less than three weeks after the disaster, there have been clear signals that the military is beginning to tighten its grip again.... All that matters now is bringing relief to the people of Aceh. The Indonesian government must take the lead. It should put an end to its short-sighted and morally indefensible attempts to reassert control over Aceh. It should negotiate with the rebels and allow the aid operation to continue unhindered."
JAPAN: "An Opportunity For Indonesia"
The liberal, English-language Japan Times opined (1/19): "The tragedy is a humanitarian disaster and providing relief is a formidable challenge for newly elected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. But there is also an opportunity. The need to get relief to hard-hit Aceh province provides the Jakarta government with an opening to hold talks with guerrillas fighting for independence in that region as well as a chance to repair its relations with Western governments concerned about human rights violations.... Local resentment of the Indonesian government remains high. The rebels immediately declared a ceasefire in the aftermath of the quake and it has been extended throughout the relief effort. It has largely held.... The peace has allowed relief crews to work.... That presence rankles Indonesians, and especially the military. The deployment is implicit recognition that Indonesia cannot do the job itself. Indonesians are fiercely protective of their sovereignty--understandably so--and the deployments, though well intended, raise hackles. There are reportedly already grumblings in Jakarta about the large foreign presence in Indonesia. That the U.S. is playing a leading role also inspires wild speculation by conspiracy-minded Muslims in the region. Those sensitivities explain Jakarta's recent announcements that relief workers would have to declare all travel and be accompanied by armed escorts, and that all foreign militaries should be out of the country within three months.... The new rules could create delivery bottlenecks.... Jakarta's readiness to wage peace in Aceh and its willingness to embrace greater transparency in dealing with the province could pay huge dividends. Settling the festering sore in Aceh will give President Yudhoyono a boost and enhance his legitimacy and credibility.... The choice seems clear."
"Expansion Of SDF International Role A Significant Move"
Top-circulation moderate Yomiuri editorialized (1/18): "Ongoing relief efforts by Japan's self-defense forces in tsunami-hit nations demonstrate the expansion of the SDF's international role.... Most nations struck by the tsunami last month, including Indonesia and Sri Lanka, are located in the 'Arc of Instability.' Along with emergency food and medical aid, long-term assistance is necessary to assist such countries in rebuilding because regional stability is vital for the security of Japan and the rest of the world.... Ensuring that chaos does not arise is said to be one reason behind U.S. relief efforts. Japanese cooperation with the U.N. and the U.S. in carrying out aid operations is significant because regional stability is indispensable for Japan's own peace and security."
INDONESIA: "Controversy Of World Help"
Bandung-based economic-political Pikiran Rakyat declared (1/19): "The issue of religion is still sensitive in this country. One of the controversies under the national spotlight has been the report by The Washington Post, saying that about 300 children from Aceh have been taken away by WorldHelp and placed in orphanages and houses belonging to fundamentalist Christians in Jakarta.... Our question is: Is it true that there has been an attempt to de-Islamize the 300 children, who are victims of the disaster in Aceh?"
Muslim-intellectual Republika commented (1/19): "We should praise Indonesia for opening itself up for assistance from around the world. There is no restriction to enter all areas in Aceh, which desperately needs help, especially in dealing with the devastating disaster.... Of course there is concern in the hearts of many Indonesian people; that’s why President SBY set a timeline to show flexibility towards the military presence in Aceh, especially the U.S. military. Again, so long as their presence is purely to help the disaster victims, we should maintain that flexibility.... Thus, the best thing is, for sure, to use the assistance to strengthen relations among nations. While for countries that need help, they should show their openness to everyone. Yet, there is one unchanged condition that the assistance must be given with full sincerity.”
"The Apostasy Of Acehnese Children Taints Humanitarian Mission"
Nationalist Medan-based Waspada stated (1/19): "It’s not enough to only denounce the taking of hundreds of Acehnese children out of Aceh by a U.S.-based missionary group. Criticism comes from ulemas and Muslim groups in Indonesia.... We hope the government will take firm measures by returning those Acehnese children taken from Aceh. We must save those children, who are now orphans. Otherwise their culture and faith could be converted, and that would be a hard blow for Muslims, especially the Acehnese, as the province now has implemented Islamic law. ”
"A Thought Triggered By Paul Wolfowitz’s Comment"
Leading independent Kompas commented (1/18): "The tsunami disaster has disclosed various problems we face, among other things, how old and limited the TNI equipment is. The fact seems to be in great contrast when we see warships, aircraft, helicopters, and other modern and big equipment of other countries.... The facts stay with our position when we read press statements from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who said that the tsunami disaster shows the importance of Indonesia-U.S. military cooperation.... The old and outdated TNI equipment is due to the fall of the national economy and the stance of the supplying countries, such as the U.S. However, especially for the TNI’s self-existence, we, as a nation, must take a stance.... Earthquake and tsunami disasters created momentum full of courage, spirit, direction, and togetherness. Let’s be smarter and more modest to find out all our benefits.”
"Disaster Situation Has Not Left Aceh"
Leading independent Kompas declared (1/14): "Minister Alwi Shihab’s statement that foreign workers working in Aceh must register with the Foreign Ministry sounds natural. But it is also natural that the changed policy made just 17 days after the disaster has raised questions and new interpretations.... Minister Shihab argued that it was not about a political issue but about the responsibility of the Indonesian government for the safety of foreign guests in Indonesia. The government would also be concerned if something happens to the foreign guests working in Aceh.... Frankly, we are concerned with this situation because the issue has shifted from the original. The disaster and the humanitarian issues have been replaced by the political issue. In fact, we must say that Aceh has not fully recovered from the disaster conditions. Although three weeks have passed, Aceh has been fully under control.... Therefore, we call on every party to exercise restraints. Let us concentrate first on the efforts to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. We must first clean up all the affected areas in order to remove the disaster trauma and the disease threats so that rehabilitation could soon be carried out.”
"Foreign Volunteers In Aceh"
Independent Media Indonesia stated (1/14): "Despite the toughness of our domestic volunteers and the improving coordination by the government after the tsunami disaster, the situation today and even six months ahead will still be very difficult. It is beyond our imagination that the foreign volunteers and all their equipment should be pulled out within two months from now. We have to learn to think conceptually rather than reactively. This way we will not plunge into a thinking pattern in which we take difficult issues easily and complicate issues that are actually easy.”
"Political Motives Amid Disaster”
Jeffrie Geovanie wrote in independent Suara Pembaruan (1/13): "On television we can see how U.S. troops--together with other volunteers--determinedly help evacuate victims and distribute aid. However, it’s natural if there are parties who question the motives behind this humanitarian mission. There are some cases that prove that the assistance--especially large-scale ones--will create political dependency from the parties who receive assistance.... So long as the assistance does not disadvantage or even give more benefits to the people, we should better extend our sympathy rather than insulting those who participate in this humanitarian mission.”
Semarang-based economic-political Suara Merdeka held (1/13): "How horrible the disaster is! It has aroused international solidarity. But, why must we be suspicious about the humanitarian missions in Aceh? Can't we differentiate between political and humanitarian issues? This is the reality, and this nation has indeed become a low trust society."
"Don't Be Suspicious"
Leading independent Kompas maintained (1/13): "President Yudhoyono has warned every element of the Indonesian nation not to
be suspicious about the presence of thousands of troops from friendly countries in Aceh. They have come here for a humanitarian mission and to rehabilitate and reconstruct Aceh. Instead, we ought to be grateful."
"Foreign Nationals Restricted"
Independent Suara Pembaruan said (1/13): "We recognize that the role of the foreign workers and forces in helping the victims of the tsunami is by no means small. Thanks to the foreign media that reported the magnitude of the suffering of the Indonesian people, the world has been encouraged to provide their help.... And the foreign forces have been very skilful in helping the victims and in opening access to the affected areas. In fact, they are very professional and skilled in managing disaster. But that does not mean that we cannot do anything by ourselves. Our military is also efficient.... We [only] hope that the government would be more prudent in issuing regulations that restrict the movement of the foreign nationals in Aceh because we are dealing with a humanitarian issue. And we have to be honest that we are not able to resolve it alone.”
"Sooner The Better"
Surabaya-based independent Jawa Pos advised (1/13): " The presence of foreign volunteers in Aceh, both military and civilian, must be handled seriously by the Indonesian government. Indonesia is not Iraq or Palestine, which requires military volunteers.... The sooner the foreign military volunteers return home, the better for the security and sovereignty of this country."
"Xenophobia Thicker Than Humanity"
The independent English-language Jakarta Post editorialized (1/13): "It is obviously a good move by the TNI Chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto to say he wants to ensure the safety of some 2,000 foreign civilians, who are now working on the humanitarian mission in the tsunami-devastated province.... Although it seems restrictive, the general's decision to require the volunteers to be escorted by TNI soldiers during trips outside of Banda Aceh actually makes sense because there is still a war going on. With seemingly little fear of the many risks inherent, the volunteers have come here out of a strong sense of compassion for the suffering victims and have been motivated to help the Acehnese build a totally new life.... So, why then did Gen. Endriartono make such a controversial decision, while thousands of guests are now in Aceh to help us? Most of them likely realize the dangers during their humanitarian mission, but still they have come. Why? Because of a sense of humanity; that is the only answer for their readiness to take a risk. A risk that may be in the form of armed gunmen, another earthquake aftershock or malaria. We should thank the hard-working guests because without their help, the suffering of the victims of the natural disaster would be much worse.... Despite the radio listeners’ responses, it has become all too evident from local media reports that there is a growing feeling of xenophobia here, at least in certain parts of society. We accept the foreigners' relief, but at the same time we are suspicious of them and do not appreciate what they have done. From television reports, it has become abundantly clear that the Acehnese have welcomed the foreigners, including American soldiers. People who live far away from these appreciative victims still question the foreign presence, while for victims, they are saviors… Of course, we also hope the foreign guests realize that they are guests in Aceh, regardless of how much we need their help. Guests are expected to adapt to the conditions of their hosts.... We do hope that the negative statements, xenophobia and a lack of appreciation shown by some members of society, will not discourage our Samaritan friends. We also hope they realize that the nation needs and truly appreciates their help.”
Malay-language government-influenced Utusan Malaysia declared (1/18): "The key to the deadlock in Aceh in fact depends on the willingness of the leadership of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Unfortunately, both GAM, which has acted wrongly, and the Indonesian government, which has failed to act effectively, have so far failed to resolve the existing deadlock.... It is indeed true that the original goal of GAM is independence for Aceh but in the current situation, the survival of Acehnese people is more urgent.... What is important is to never let foreign powers intervene. The Aceh issue needs to be resolved in a family way."
"Indonesia Has The Right To Ask Foreign Troops To Exit"
Malay-language government-influenced Berita Harian editorialized (1/14): "The call by the Indonesian government that foreign troops assisting the tsunami victims in Aceh leave the country soon should be respected because it has the right to do so.... We ought to understand the pressures faced by the government of the republic because the majority of the Acehnese people are Muslims, and traditionally they do not welcome the arrival of foreign forces, particularly US and Australian troops."
"All-out Efforts For Disaster Relief Are An Urgent Priority"
Y.K. Choo opined in Petaling Jaya-based Chinese-language government-influenced Sin Chew Jit Poh (1/13): "If the Indonesian government and rebel forces want to win public support, they should not continue to engage in a senseless dispute, but comprehensively coordinate with foreign armies and foreign disaster relief personnel, in order to enable more disaster victims to receive aid promptly, and restore normal life soon. Disputes and restricting the movements of foreign disaster relief personnel can only hinder the aid work, and is also the same as stabbing a knife into the disaster victims again."
SINGAPORE: "Aid Workers Wade Through Minefield Of Nationalism"
John Mcbeth opined in the pro-government Straits Times (1/18): "Nationalism, often tinged with conspiracy theories and a measure of xenophobia, is never far from the surface in Indonesia.... Several Indonesian journalists are apparently convinced that American involvement in the international relief operation in tsunami-ravaged Aceh province was driven more by non-humanitarian motives than anything else. That same nationalism--and the need to demonstrate that Indonesia is in charge--also appears to have been the reason for the government's decision to impose a three-month deadline on thousands of foreign troops. On the surface, it gave the impression the authorities were ungrateful for their assistance, but Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono has just 'clarified' that 'March 26 is not a deadline.... After initially saying he wanted all foreign forces out by March 26 or 'the sooner the better', Vice-President Jusuf Kalla later informed Western diplomats that the deadline was in fact flexible.... But the most interesting reaction came from the Indonesian Armed Forces, which has often been cast as the institution most uncomfortable about the presence of foreign military forces. 'We need the foreign troops badly,' military commander, General Endriartono Sutarto, said.... Although the Jakarta government has talked of sending thousands of troop reinforcements to Aceh to help in the clean up--and perhaps give the appearance of reinforcing national sovereignty--Gen Sutarto startled observers on Jan 12 by saying that he could not deploy even three battalions because of cost considerations and worries that it would disturb security in other parts of the country.... The key to the success of the aid and recovery operation so far was probably getting the Indonesian military to take control.... Still, nationalism remains an issue--particularly with the Muslim-orientated Justice and Welfare Party--part of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's ruling coalition--and other Islamic groups.... International and Indonesian officials are reluctant to point a finger over why ship-borne US marines were forced to scale back their presence on shore to address Indonesian sensitivities and security concerns. The US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln that serves as a key base for relief operations had to leave Indonesian territorial waters, reportedly because Jakarta objected to routine training flights by American jet fighters that must go on as part of keeping the flat-top battle ready. Indonesian government sources insisted it was an American decision to conform with maritime law. Whatever the truth, the re-positioning of the carrier added half an hour to helicopter supply flights."
SOUTH KOREA: "Washington’s Tsunami Strategy"
Huh Yong-beom wrote in conservative Chosun Ilbo (1/13): “There is a noteworthy analysis that the U.S. is taking this tsunami disaster in South Asia as an opportunity to station its troops in the region, an area with a weak American military presence. In addition, some see the U.S. relief effort in the region as being the first field test or application drill for the realignment of U.S. troops and their transformation into rapid response forces, which has been pursued by the U.S. military.... Washington might feel unappreciated if we entirely ignore the humanitarian aspect of the U.S. relief effort. However, it is true that the intensity of the current U.S. relief effort, which even necessitates the pullout of USFK helicopters, goes beyond the level of a simple relief operation.... The U.S. did not act like this when a destructive hurricane killed last summer 2,000 people in Haiti, a small island country off its coast, and nor has it provided this kind of aid in Sudan, despite the fact that the tens of thousands of Sudanese have lost their lives and millions are left homeless in the Darfur dispute.... Washington appears to have completed something of a profound strategic calculation. Is it something that concerns the U.S. alone?”
THAILAND: "It Comes With The Tsunami"
'Siri-Unya' (pseudonym) observed in sensationalist, business-oriented Phujatkarn (1/14): " “It is now a known fact that America and Japan knew in advance that there would be an earthquake in the sea near Sumatra Island.... But they only did what was necessary to protect themselves. That’s why U.S. military bases and networks in the Indian Ocean including its military base on Diego Garcia Island remain intact.... Why were they so cruel? People around the world are asking this question.... Most recently, there have been some strange news reports that deserve our interest. Firstly, America has moved at least 15,000 troops and heavy weapons from Okinawa to this region and it remains unclear what their destinations are. Secondly, U.S. marines have landed in Aceh.... Thirdly, America has come in to use the U-Tapao airbase and moved some of its military supplies here, claiming they are for relief assistance in the region. The U-Tapao airbase used to be a U.S. military base during the Vietnam War and American troops had to withdraw because a major rally by the Thai people drove them away at the end of the last century.... Now that the U-Tapao airbase has already been taken, maybe Thai pundits and patriots can answer whether or not we have lost our territory or sovereignty.”
'Siang Sao Long' (pseudonym) commented in sensationalist, business-oriented Phujatkarn (1/12): "I was disappointed with the warning systems of the U.S. and Japan. They had the information about the undersea earthquake but would not warn Thailand and the other nine countries about the tidal wave.... Today I would like to list all U.S. post-Tsunami roles for us to look at. Firstly, the initial U.S. offer of only 2 million dollars which was then increased to 350 million dollars after a barrage of criticism worldwide. Secondly, let’s take a look to see if U.S. relief efforts have any hidden agenda. The U.S. has sent its troops and heavy military supplies to Aceh, Indonesia. Such deployment, although said to be for the purpose of relief efforts, is tantamount to a legal military landing with a hidden agenda to take over the province.... I’m not saying that we should refuse anything American...but we should think carefully about Thailand’s status in the new round of the Cold War.”
INDIA: "Reality Of U.S. Assistance"
Pro-Muslim biweekly Dawat declared (1/13): "An important aspect of the whole US relief efforts after the tsunami disaster is the special attention given to Indonesia. Of course, Indonesia with the largest number of tsunami victims is the worst affected country. But, the reason of the American special interest is rooted in its characteristic selfishness and the tradition of earning political advantage even out of human tragedies. The American establishment and the media has unleashed a propaganda campaign on how the US was providing all out relief to 'Muslim' Indonesia. The emphasis is more on the Muslim identity of the country than the gravity of the tragedy. With this propaganda campaign, the US has sought to make the Muslim world believe that it is always been on their side whenever they needed help. Such an effort is probably based on the premise that world Muslims are not aware of its animosity against Islam and Muslims and of the oppressive measures and brutal atrocities that it has committed itself or actively supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere while many others kept under constant threat. It has now become clear without a shed of doubt that the so-called war on terror is solely targeted against Islam, Muslims, Muslim organizations and Muslim countries. It is the US that has most actively and prominently helped Israel in depriving Palestinians of their legitimate rights and targeting them with most inhuman atrocities. Now, by offering help to Indonesia and publicizing it through global media campaign, the US is under the illusion of winning the Indonesian heart and convincing the Muslim world of its humane and friendly character. The grievances of the world Muslim community against the US are caused by its enmity, aggression and prejudice against Islam and Muslims that the latter has been practicing for decades all over the world. Unless there is a real and visible change in the anti-Muslim policies of Washington, how can Muslims change their opinion against the US?"
PAKISTAN: "U.S. Organizations Making Efforts To Turn Tsunami Victims To Christianity"
Urdu-language second-largest Nawa-e-Waqt alleged (1/18): "An organization which represents U.S.-based Muslims has urged President Bush that those groups must be stopped which are attempting to turn Muslims to Christianity on the pretext of relief efforts in the tsunami hit areas. Council on American Relations (CAIR) says that the activities of this group are damaging the U.S.’ image. CAIR claims that its Washington office has received an email from Virginia Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell which asks for donations for the tsunami victims. The mail also says that a large number of Muslim population there has never heard the words like Christianity and Judaism. The email message says Liberty University’s Director of International Crusade will lead this relief effort team and this team, along with relief goods, will also distribute the literature based on Jesus’ teachings,’ the CAIR says."
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn asserted (1/17): "The generous outpouring of sympathy and financial aid for the tsunami victims by donors from across the world is contrasted sharply with the politics played out by some countries, including those that bore the brunt of the disaster. Indonesia has warned foreign aid workers not to venture out without a military escort to the affected areas in its erstwhile rebel Aceh province. Sri Lanka last week refused to let the UN secretary-general visit rebel-controlled territories in its northern and eastern parts."
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