Malaysia should convene emergency meetings of NAM and OIC or an unprecedented joint NAM-OIC meeting on the December 26 tsunami catastrophe to broker meaningful ceasefire in Aceh, Sri Lanka and Somalia as well as to set up an effective mechanism to ensure efficiency, accountability, transparency and integrity in the collection and disbursement of the US$6 – $8 billion tsunami aid
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Tuesday): As simultaneous Chair of two of the largest international organizations after the United Nations – the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) - Malaysia should convene emergency meetings of NAM and OIC or an unprecedented joint NAM-OIC meeting on the December 26 tsunami catastrophe to broker meaningful ceasefires in Aceh, Sri Lanka and Somalia (the three civil wars in the 4,000-mile tsunami arc of destruction and death) as well as to set up an effective mechanism to ensure efficiency, accountability, transparency and integrity in the collection and disbursement of the US$6 – $8 billion tsunami aid which have been committed globally by governments and the peoples of the world.
Last Thursday, I had said that it had not escaped notice of the world that oil-rich Gulf Arab States, home to millions of Asian workers, had pledged less than US$93 million to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster, which is not even two per cent of the global pledges of some US$4 billion at the time, when the oil-rich OIC members should have been prepared to shoulder some US$2 billilon of tsunami aid.
Just before the international post-tsunami reconstruction summit in Jakarta on January 6, 2004, the major government pledges had come from Australia US$764 million, Germany US$674 million, Japan US$500 million, United States US$350 million, Norway US$183 million, France US$103 million, Britain US$96 million, Italy US$95 million, Sweden US$80 million, Spain US$68 million, Canada US$67 million, Denmark US$66 million, China US$61 million, Taiwan US$50 million and South Korea US$50 million. The paltry donations from the predominantly Muslim nations were: Saudi Arabia US$30 million, Qatar US$25 million, United Arab Emirates US$20 million, Kuwait US$10 million, Algeria US$2 million, Bahrain US$2 million, Libya US$2 million and Turkey US$1.25 million.
In the past five days, the global tsunami pledges, government as well as from the peoples of the world, have exceeded US$6 billion and could well double to US$8 billion.
Canada has just announced increasing its tsunami relief from US$67 million to US$345 million (almost equal to the US$350 million committed from Washington), Britain from US$96 million to US$134 million, while latest news from Washington expects the Bush administration to increase its US$350 million financial commitment to the tsunami-hit nations by as much threefold to nearly US$1 billion. In New Zealand, the government is set to announce a eight-fold increase of its tsunami aid commitment of US$3.6 million.
In response to the plea of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for more aid in the wake of the worst tsunami catastrophe in recorded history, killing over 160,000 people with the final count probably in the region of 200,000, maiming 500,000 and displacing five million, countries which have boosted their tsunami donations include: China (from US$61 million to US$83 million); Denmark (US$66 million to US$77 million); Finland (US$6 million to US$66 million) and Singapore (US$3 million to US$23 million).
In the past five days, there have also been a great increase in tsunami aid from the oil-rich Gulf Arab States, with Saudi Arabia boosting its total donation from the original US$10 million to US$114 million after a telethon donation campaign by the Saudi Arabian government. As the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is capable of a greater tsunami aid commitment, as Saudi Arabia had enjoyed a windfall of over US$25 billion from the more than US$10 increase in the oil price above the OPEC target of US$25-$28.
Kuwait, which had initially offered US$1 million tsunami aid, had also raised it one hundred-fold to US$100 million.
Apart from the question as to whether the world, including the oil-rich Muslim nations, are doing enough for the tsunami relief efforts, two issues must be addressed, firstly growing international concerns that corrupt officials in the affected countries will use the tsunami aid to line their own pockets and secondly, the adverse impact of ongoing civil wars, particularly Aceh and Sri Lanka, on the relief and reconstruction efforts.
Indonesians themselves, both NGOs and the media, have raised these concerns. In the past few days, for instance, The Jakarta Post have been carrying articles making the following points:
“It is probably just as well that Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh, who is on trial for corruption charges, is being kept safely in Jakarta away from the truck loads of money that are now pouring into his province.
“There is, however, no guarantee that others, in Aceh, Jakarta or anywhere else in Indonesia, will not prey on the money that rightly belong to disaster victims.
“The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must set up a mechanism that guarantees transparency and accountability for every cent of the money intended to help the victims. Good governance which to date has been nothing more than lip service, has never been so important for Indonesia as it is now following the disaster in northern Sumatra.
“Governments and people all around the world have dug deep into their pockets to raise more than US$5 billion to be donated to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and a handful other affected countries. The global response to this catastrophe has no precedent. Indonesia, which suffered the worst of the calamity, will receive the lion’s share of that money.
“Our reputation and credibility as a nation is at stake. If we can’t handle this, and if money so generously donated for victims of the disasters is embezzled, siphoned off, marked-up – in other words, corrupted – it will bring a terrible shame to this nation.”
This is one area where OIC and NAM must be able to play a proactive role. The same applies to the urgent need to broker a meaningful ceasefire in Aceh, including the lifting of martial law, to allow unimpeded humanitarian work in the aftermath of the greatest tsunami catastrophe in recorded history, with entire villages and human settlements wiped out as if by a nuclear holocaust.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman