12/26/2006, 00.00
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Tsunami: Reconstruction in Aceh and Nias Island blocked by corruption

by Benteng Reges
More than 97 billion rupiahs disappear in the pockets of government officials, Christians on Nias Island complain that housing and infrastructures have not been rebuilt. Today a sombre ceremony will mark the 167,000 people who died in the tragedy.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Two years after the tsunami and a year and half since the start of reconstruction, Aceh remains one huge building site. The quake and the tsunami wave that killed more than 167,000 people on December 26, 2004, also left half a million homeless and many millions displaced, but only 57,000 permanent and 15,000 temporary housing units have been built out of 120,000 that are needed.

Inflation is delaying the reconstruction process. The early estimated price tag of  €$ 4 billion is now 6. For Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), improper actions, fraud and lack of coordination are the most important reasons.

ICW executive Firdaus Ilyas strongly urged the Aceh Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR) to accelerate its reconstruction efforts in northern Sumatra. He also insisted that “corruption in the BRR should also be handled with serious measures”.

According to the ICW, 97 billion rupiahs (€ 8 million) were lost due to corruption of BRR officials.

In a country where corruption is endemic, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had appointed Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, a man known for his probity, to chair the BRR. But even he seems to be unable to change things.

Various NGOs have complained that local building contractors are not respecting their contractual obligations and instead of building quake-proof homes in an area where quakes are weekly events are putting substandard units but are still being paid for the full cost.

Predominantly Christian Nias Island (Aceh is predominantly Muslim) is getting less aid. Nias Christians have complained that the BRR has failed so far to rebuild any home or infrastructural project on the island. “There are many complaints among Nias survivors since the island has not yet risen from its rubbles,” said Anies Baswedan, from the Indonesian Survey Institute.

In Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, economic rehabilitation remains an urgent matter according to Effendi Pandjaitan, who runs a local NGO.

The government has not given priority to rehabilitating local agriculture, he said, especially rubber, cocoa and coconut production, which are the mainstay of the local economy.

In Banda Aceh the anniversary is being remembered in a very sombre ceremony. People are still thinking that the tsunami early warning system has not yet been set up. The government had pledged a network with six stations in the capital of Banda Aceh and neighbouring Aceh Besar, but so far only one has been built.

Last year another had gone up at Cot Langkeumeuh, but it is still not yet operational.

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