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Southeast Asian Affairs 2006 INDONESIA Accomplishments Amidst Challenges lrman G. Lanti For Indonesia 2005 was marked by a number of achievements, especially in politics and security. The experiment with democracy that had been initiated with the fall of Soeharto in 1998 seemed to be stabilizing, albeit perhaps temporarily. The direct regional elections were by and large successful in electing governors, mayors, and district heads. The government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and Jusuf Kalla enjoyed some degree of success in dealing with the restive provinces, most notably Aceh. The tsunami disaster that struck the province on 26 December 2004 provided the impetus for peace talks between the rebel group GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, or Free Aceh Movement) and the Indonesian government. In foreign policy, strategic partnership agreements were signed with China and India, the two rising powers in the world. Jakarta was also successful in lobbying the US government to lift the arms embargo that had been put in place after the riots following East Timor's referendum in 2000. The death of terrorist leader Dr Azahari and the subsequent capture of members of the domestic terror cell network were the highlights of the fight against terrorism in Indonesia. The country's law enforcement agencies also made significant advances in the fight against corruption, one of Indonesia's foremost woes. Despite these successes, the country still faced a number of tribulations, especially in the economic domain. The sky-rocketing of oil prices on the world market pushed the government to slash the subsidy for petroleum in the domestic market. This move created significant pressure on the population, and sharply reduced the popularity of Yudhoyono's administration. Additionally, in spite of the serious drive by the government to reduce corruption and bureaucratic red Irman G. Lanti is a Member of the Board ofAdvisers of The Indonesian Institute; a member of the Board of Directors, Center for Information and Development Studies (CIDES); and Senior Fellow at the Habibie Centre, Jakarta. 94Irman G. Lanti tape, foreign investors were still shying away from Indonesia, citing a lack of legal clarity and predictability as the reason. On the whole, 2005 will be marked in Indonesia's history as the year of positive accomplishments, raised expectations, and continued challenges. While the country stabilized significantly compared with the previous few years and the foundations for better development seemed to be in place, many things that would define the future of the nation still remained in doubt. The Tsunami and Peace in Aceh The tsunami disaster that struck Aceh and Nias on 26 December 2004 caused tremendous destruction and human loss. Table 1 lists the extent of the devastation. The tsunami also destroyed the capacity of the local government, especially in the subdistrict (kecamatan) and village (gampong) levels. Many local government officials either perished in or were severely traumatized by the disaster. The diminished capacity of the local government hampered the rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes in Aceh.1 The central government, therefore, commissioned a special body to oversee and manage reconstruction in Aceh. The BRR (Badan Rehabilitasi dan Rekonstruksi Aceh dan Nias, or Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency) was established on 16 April 2005, and chaired by a former minister, Dr Kuntoro Mangkusubroto. The BRR coordinates the reconstruction effort funded by 15 donor nations to the tune of US$525 million, and also assists the Asian Development Bank in implementing its US$300 million programmes. In addition, various aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also have programmes in Aceh and Nias. However, there were many complaints that the progress in the disaster areas was very slow. According to BRR's own account, a year after the disaster only around 16,200 new houses were completed. 50,000 displaced persons were still temporarily lodged in barracks, while a greater number (67,500) were still living in tents. Critics said that the aid for Aceh, organized just like other aid programmes in other parts of the world, did not use enough local components and knowledge. Aid agencies did not have sufficient knowledge of the psychological and sociological texture of the Acehnese, who have been tormented by a decadelong conflict. Some even suspected that aid agencies spent a...


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