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06 January 2005

Jakarta Meeting Demonstrates World Concern for Tsunami Victims

Gives global community a mechanism for coordinating efforts, Powell says

The January 6 meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, that brought together world leaders concerned with aiding victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami demonstrated that the international community cares, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

During an interview with Indonesia's SCTV the same day, the secretary said the conference gave the international community a mechanism to coordinate its efforts and demonstrated a commitment to not only provide "immediate humanitarian relief to take care of people who are in need now, but also for long-term reconstruction."

 

Indonesia, with more than 94,000 killed in the disaster (according to estimates from the U.S. Agency for International Development), was the hardest hit.  "The Indonesian people should know that the United States will help in every way we can," Powell said.  He said the major international organizations at the summit "made a clear commitment to the people of Indonesia," but he added that, first and foremost, "it is for the Indonesian Government to provide relief to its citizens and to plan for the reconstruction."

"Indonesia should be in the lead, but the international community is here to support the Indonesian government," he said.

According to the secretary, the United States is considering debt relief for Indonesia.  "We haven't taken a final position yet because we feel it will be better for us to deal with this question within the context of the G7 [Group of Seven industrialized nations] and the Paris Club [of creditor nations]," he said.

In response to a question about the possible misuse of relief funds, Powell said "overall control has to be in the hands of the government of Indonesia as well as the UN organizations.  The United States isn't going to control this."  He said Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono knows that the relief efforts must be transparent in order to be credible, "and that the resources [must] benefit all of the citizens who are in need."

When asked about the relief efforts' effect on the U.S. image around the world, Powell said:  "We believe in helping others who are in need.  And in this instance, it was clear that Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Maldives, Kenya, Somalia were in need, and so that's why we are doing this."

"Will there be favorable impressions?  Yes.  May it have a political dimension to it?  I don't know, we'll see.  That's not why we are doing it.  We are doing it because fellow human beings are in need," he said.

For additional information go to “U.S. Response to Tsunami and Earthquake in Asia at: http://usinfo.state.gov/sa/south_asia/tsunamis.html

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State

Office of the Spokesman

(Jakarta, Indonesia)

January 6, 2005

INTERVIEW

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL

WITH INDIARTO PRIADI OF INDONESIA'S SCTV

January 6, 2005

Jakarta, Indonesia

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary it is nice to be here, to see you here and joining us here.  Well, you have visited Aceh.  After what you see, have you any impression of that?

SECRETARY POWELL:  It was a terrible scene.  And I can only imagine the horror that went through the minds of all of these people as they were swallowed up by the waves that came ashore.  It is a scene of total devastation.  The vegetation is gone, the houses are gone, the schools are gone, the people are in need, the bridges are washed out. 

And so I was able to report back to my government, to the President that Banda Aceh and Indonesia is in great need.  And so the Indonesian people should know that the United States will help in every way we can, and more importantly, as we saw in the conference today, the international community, is unified, coming together: ASEAN, the United Nations, the European Union, all coming together to provide financial resources and other assistance to help the people of Aceh.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Now you have seen also the aid distribution.  Do you think everything has been organized properly?

 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well I think there can be improvements, but I am not surprised because this is an impressive operation and when you set up something like this it takes awhile for all the coordination mechanisms to be put in place.  And I had an opportunity to discuss this with President Yudhoyono last night, and I'm confident things will be working fine.  Up at Banda Aceh we needed to get more airplanes in, and I know that we are working on the air traffic control system tonight, and I am quite confident it will be improved.

 

QUESTION:  And thank you very much for Mr. President George Bush because his visit to our embassy in Washington.  But some people said that it was late and they think it's different when your country encounter the terrorism.  What do you comment on that?

 

SECRETARY POWELL:  It wasn't late.  When the tsunami first hit on the 26th of December, within 24 hours I had called your Foreign Minister and let him know that the United States was prepared to assist in any way that we could and let us know what you needed. 

And remember in these first hours, in the first day or two, the numbers were very small.  We thought maybe only perhaps a few thousand throughout the region, and then after two or three days the numbers started to escalate and as the numbers escalated our response escalated, not just the United States adding more money and sending more ships to the region, but the President made a public statement on Wednesday, three days after it happened, And when he got back to Washington, the first thing he did, on his first working day back in Washington, was with the two former Presidents, sign the condolence books. 

So I think the President has been very forthcoming in leading the government, the U.S. government response, as well as the private response among the American citizens.  Hundreds of millions of dollars are being raised from private contributions from Americans. And so my impression from your President and your other government leaders is that they are very pleased with the American response. 

We have had ships on station now for the last several days with helicopters flying in.  It takes a little time to move ships across an ocean, but they're here and it is American, young American pilots, who are so proud of what they are doing to help Indonesians.

 

QUESTION:  There is a tsunami summit here and we Indonesian people have a great expectation this summit will relieve the Aceh scar and wound.  Can we rely to this expectation that this summit will help much for Aceh?

 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well yes, I mean, the summit today produced additional pledges of money.  It gave the international community an opportunity to coordinate their efforts.  It also demonstrated that aid is coming in.  It showed to the Indonesian people that the international community cares.  Not only for immediate humanitarian relief to take care of people who are in need now, but also for long term reconstruction.  The World Bank was there, the Islamic Development Bank was there, the Asian Development Bank was present, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, all of these major international organizations were there, and they made a clear commitment to the people of Indonesia, but also to the people this until we have dealt with the whole problem.  First and foremost it is for the Indonesian Government to provide relief to its citizens and to plan for the reconstruction. And so Indonesia should be in the lead, but the international community is here to support the Indonesian government.

 

QUESTION:  Yes, for Aceh recovery, some countries mentioned about debt relief.  Will the United States join the effort?

 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, yes debt relief is something that we have under consideration, and we think we ought to do it in a systematic way.  So, the G7 finance ministers will be meeting and Mister Jack Straw, the Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom, who is now the presidency of the G8, announced that today the finance ministers of seven of the eight will be meeting soon, and as you know the Paris Club will be meeting in the next several weeks in order to take a complete look at debt problems of all of the nations that are affected to see how best to assist with debt relief.  We haven't taken a final position yet because we feel it will be better for us to deal with this question within the context of the G7 and the Paris Club.

 

QUESTION:   Yes, Indonesia had a big reputation of corruption.  I think it's very important to scrutinize the control this, this is a lot of money because, at least Indonesia needs one billion dollar to recover Aceh.  Do you think it would be important if U.S. joined this control in the money for recover Aceh?

 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well the way we're handling it is we are providing the funds to the non-governmental organizations, and the UN organizations that will be providing the relief, and the World Bank will be providing reconstruction money.  But overall control has to be in the hands of the government of Indonesia as well as the UN organizations.  The United States isn't going to control this.  The United States is providing support.  But the United States and all other nations that are providing assistance want that assistance to flow to the people.  They don't want to see any of the money or resources diverted to the wrong purpose.  And I know that President Yudhoyono feels strongly that in order for this to be a credible, a credible effort, then it has to be done in a way that is transparent and everybody can see where the money is going, where the resources are going, and that the resources benefit all of the citizens who are in need.

 

QUESTION:  The last question Mr. Secretary.  US aid I think will alter the anti-American people in Indonesia.  That will be a benefit.  What do you say about this?

 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, I hope so, but that's not why we are doing it.  The reason we are providing this assistance is because the United States frankly we are a generous people.  We believe in helping others who are in need.  And in this instance it was clear that Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Maldives, Kenya, Somalia were in need, and so that's why we are doing this. 

To the extent that it gives a different impression to the people of Indonesia about America, that is good.  And I'm always pleased to see our young sailors who are flying those helicopters show a face to the Indonesian people of generosity and of caring.  When I was flying over Banda Aceh yesterday, in talking to the pilot of the plane, and I told him "thank you and thank all of the crew members for what you are doing".  And what the pilot told me, a navy commander, what he said to me was, "We're honored to be doing this to help these people who are in need, and we will do it for as long as it is necessary. We're here to help."   And that's the attitude that we come to this problem with, an attitude of help and of caring.  Will there be favorable impressions?  Yes.  May it have a political dimension to it?  I don't know, we'll see.  That's not why we are doing it.  We are doing it because fellow human beings are in need.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much Sir.

SECRETARY POWELL:  Thank you, thank you so much.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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