News Release

Asians on Tsunami Relief: Drop the Debt


Activists from Asia are addressing how to best recover from the tsunami that devastated parts of the region a month ago. Now at the World Social Forum, a global gathering of activists and non-governmental groups taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil:

Liem Soei Liong works with TAPOL, a London-based Indonesian human rights campaign. He said today: “Aceh bore the worst of the tsunami’s impact — most of the estimated 200,000 killed were in Aceh. Unfortunately, the Indonesian military is continuing its military operations in the area, with only twenty-five of the forty-five thousand Indonesian troops engaged in relief operations while the remaining 20,000 continue what they call ‘security’ operations. For many days after the tsunami, we could not learn about the situation because the Indonesian military would not allow access to Aceh. The people of Aceh have suffered greatly under the Indonesian military’s actions against the separatist movement in Aceh…”
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Ardi Kusfiardi is spokesperson for KAU (Koalisi Anti Utang, Anti-Debt Coalition), a grouping of Indonesian non-governmental organizations. He said today: “After the tsunami that has devastated the Aceh region of Indonesia, KAU renews its call for full and unconditional debt cancellation. Even before the disaster, Indonesia was paying double in debt payments what it received in new loans. This greatly restricts the funds available to provide basic services, let alone deal with the tsunami disaster. Indonesia’s debt was accumulated during the Suharto regime when U.S. and other multilateral creditors pushed loans to the Suharto government to promote Cold War aims. The money was never used for people’s needs. … The commitments from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and rich country governments at the recent tsunami summit to Indonesia totalled just over $2 billion. But last year alone, Indonesia paid more than $7 billion in debt payments to its creditors, and the Indonesian national budget for 2005 calls for debt payments of $8 billion. Indonesia does not need more empty promises for aid and loans — the resources to deal with the tsunami disaster will be there if this illegitimate debt is cancelled.”
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Based in India, Vinod Raina is chairperson for Jubilee South Asia Pacific, which works on debt, trade and poverty issues. He said today: “The enormous tragedy of the tsunami has been turned into a commodity whereby rich countries and multilateral creditor institutions are trying to use people’s deaths to push further debt and aid to these countries. The Indian government has announced that it does not require and will not accept aid from any multilateral financial institutions. We support this because self-reliance is the only way out of this trap. If the world community is indeed concerned by the human tragedy brought about by the tsunami, the required next step is very simple: cancel the debt so that the enormous amount of interest paid by the Global South can be freed up to be used for constructive purposes. If the G7 cancelled these illegitimate debts, it would be a good first step towards repaying back the debt owed to the countries of the South for 500 years of pillage and ecological plunder during colonialism.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167