Swiss give aid for Indonesia's flood victims

Severe flooding by torrential rains has displaced more han 430,000 people in Jakarta and left at least 38 people dead Keystone

The Swiss government has pledged SFr500,000 ($400,000) in aid to help the victims of the flooding in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

This content was published on February 8, 2007 - 21:39

The announcement came during talks between the visiting Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey, with her Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on Thursday.

"The situation is improving, but the rain hasn't stopped yet and the level of the sea is also rising," President Yudhoyono told swissinfo. "We try to do our best to help those who were made homeless by the flooding. We have to be ready for the worst."

There is no sign of the natural disaster to be seen in the commercial centre of the capital and the affluent areas where the Swiss delegation, led by Calmy-Rey, is based.

But many neighbouring parts of the city are still under water and without electricity. Another violent storm hit Jakarta on Wednesday night.

"Floods occur more or less every five years in Jakarta," confirmed several locals. Everyone agrees however that that those that took place in the past few days have been the worst for 30 years.

Swiss solidarity

Calmy-Rey's three-day official visit is the first to Indonesia by a Swiss president. At the end of her meeting with Yudhoyono she announced Switzerland would put SFr500,000 ($400,000) towards emergency aid in the capital.

"This will be used for supplying drinking water to the area of Rawa Buaya, in the zone west of Jakarta," she said.

Experts from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) – including SDC head Walter Fust – have been in Jakarta for days assessing the situation.

The presidential meeting took place in the "Palace of Liberty", whose walls shook to a 21-gun salute in honour of the Swiss delegation during the traditional celebration of the national anthems.

The two presidents underlined the good relations between the countries – with direct investment worth SFr3.5 billion in 2005, Switzerland is Indonesia's second-largest investor.

A total of 75 Swiss companies are active in the archipelago, employing some 60,000 people.

Calmy-Rey and Yudhoyono repeated their interest in negotiations regarding a free trade accord between Indonesia and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). No decision has yet been taken.

Legal assistance

The Indonesian authorities have expressed an interest in an accord on legal assistance with Switzerland. Calmy-Rey said such as deal was "a possibility, but not essential".

Calmy-Rey, who is also the Swiss foreign minister, said a law has been in place since 1991 to respond swiftly to requests for legal assistance by other countries.

In 2001 the authorities in Jakarta called on the Swiss to provided information in a bid to track down several billion dollars deposited by former President Suharto in Swiss banks.

Switzerland said it was willing to cooperate as it did in similar cases with looted funds of Nigeria's former dictator, Sani Abacha, and those of Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

However, the Swiss authorities said they had not received the necessary documents for the proceeding.

swissinfo, Marzio Pescia in Jakarta

In brief

Parts of Jakarta, a city with 12 million people, has been flooded for more than a week.

At least 50 people have been killed, according to the authorities. About 340,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

The flooding caused damage worth more than $450 million.

Indonesia is regularly hit by mudslides and flooding killing hundreds of people every year. Jakarta which is situated partly below sea level, was the scene of major flooding in 2002.

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Area: 1.9 million sq km
Inhabitants: 222 million
GDP per capita: $1,258
Swiss residents: 786

Switzerland recognised Indonesia in 1949. From 1971 to 1997 the archipelago was one of Switzerland's priority aid countries and a total of SFr277 million was invested there.

In 2005 Swiss exports to Indonesia rose by 13.4% to SFr324 million.

The attacks in Bali of 2005 and 2002 serve as a reminder that the largest Muslim country in the world is still subject to dangerous social tensions.

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