Call on Bush to authorize Powell to announce at the international tsunami summit in Jakarta on Thursday United States’ pledge to donate a minimum of 40 per cent of global relief aid targetted between US$6-$8 billion for the millions of Asian tsunami victims and their devastated communities
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): United States President George W. Bush should authorize his Secretary of State Colin Powell to announce at the international tsunami summit in Jakarta on Thursday the United States’ pledge to donate a minimum of 40 per cent of global relief aid targetted between US$6-$8 billion for the millions of Asian tsunami victims and their devastated communities.
With Japan pledging the single highest donation of US$500 million, or 16 times its earlier promise of US$30 million, United Nations emergency relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland has announced that pledges of international financial support for countries devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunamis have reached US$2 billion. Many more billions of dollars are needed for providing health care, water and the basic necessities in the long term for the millions of tsunami victims as well as for the massive rebuilding efforts for their devastated economies and societies.
Apart from Japan’s US$500 million commitment, the other two big items in the US$2 billion pledge from some 40 countries are the promised US$350 million from the United States and US$250 million from the World Bank.
On the second day of the tsunami crisis, Bush and Powell had bristled when Egeland criticized the United States for being “stingy” as it had only committed the paltry sum of US$15 million in aid relief for one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes in mankind’s history.
Although Bush was sufficiently embarrassed by Egeland’s criticism the next day to up the United States’ contribution to US$35 million (at the price of repeated apologies by Egeland that he had not meant to criticize the United States), United States was not spared international criticisms when other countries made bigger pledges, such as Britain US$95 million, Sweden US$75.5 million, Spain US$68 million, China US$60 million, France US$57 million and Australia US$46.7 million.
On the sixth day of the tsunami crisis, Bush pledged $350 million, which is 10 times the previous US$35 million – but this has been dwarfed by Japan’s pledge of US$500 million and the many more billions of dollars needed to help millions of people to recover from what Bush has acknowledged as an “epic disaster”.
In the wake of the controversy over Egeland’s “stingy” comment, Bush and Powell had claimed that the United States had given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world.
Bush said: “In the year 2004, our government provided $2.4 billion in food and cash and humanitarian relief …That’s 40 percent of all the relief aid given in the world last year.”
Bush should live up to the United States’ responsibility as the world’s sole economic and military super-power, not only by pledging to donate a minimum of 40 per cent of global relief aid for the millions of Asian tsunami victims, but also to spearhead the international campaign to achieve a global target between US$6-$8 billion for the relief and recovery of millions of tsunami victims and the reconstruction of their devastated economies and communities.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman