Despite Twin Disasters, Indonesia Sees No Need for Foreign Aid Yet

Indonesia is not yet seeking any foreign assistance for communities affected by twin natural disasters that hit Indonesia early this week.

“[A]t this time we are conducting all our efforts on a national basis… I’m not foreseeing at this time the need for international assistance,” Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa was quoted by The Straits Times as saying at the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations gathering in Hanoi.

A tsunami struck Sumatra and several surrounding islands in western Indonesia following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Monday (Oct. 25). The death toll from the tsunami has risen to at least 282, BBC reported Wednesday, quoting Indonesian officials. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s most active volcano began erupting early Tuesday.

>> Aid Groups Gear Up for Earthquake, Tsunami Response in Indonesia

“A look into Indonesia’s history reveals latent political sensitivities that may have influenced Natalegawa’s decision. Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, an organization of countries who are not aligned with or against any major world power,” according to The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Weingarten, citing a possible reason for Indonesia’s refusal to seek foreign aid just yet.

Indonesia, Weingarten says, may also be concerned that accepting foreign aid may undermine its national legitimacy, noting that the nation’s acceptance of overseas aid following a tsunami in 2004 “had an arguably negative effect on its citizens.”

“Though the post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in Aceh were generally successful, the amount of aid did engender some resentment in Jakarta over whether the national government had lost control of the reconstruction, and also potentially altered the economy in Aceh,” Josh Kurlantzick, a fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, was quoted by Weingarten as saying. “So people remember that.”

In terms of logistics, Donald Emmerson, director of the Southeast Asia Forum at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, said coordinating foreign aid offers right now may be “a severe burden” on the Indonesian government.

The destruction caused by this week’s tsunami “seems manageable” compared with the 2004 disaster, Weingarten notes.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Indonesian authorities had indicated they are capable of responding to the twin disasters.

The U.N. is helping Indonesia assess the needs of affected communities. 

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.