President always monitors disasters: Staff

"The President often chairs coordination meetings to handle natural disasters at the Cabinet level," Daniel Sparingga, a presidential special staff member, claimed.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono continually receives and monitors updates on various natural disasters in the country, his staff has stated.

"The President often chairs coordination meetings to handle natural disasters at the Cabinet level," Daniel Sparingga, a presidential special staff member, claimed here on Monday.

He said the president had instructed the National Disasters Mitigation Agency (BNPB); the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI); the National Police (Polri); and the ministers of social affairs, health affairs and public works affairs to handle the evacuation of the victims and provide any necessary services.

Sparingga stated that the President also made telephone calls to the governors of three provinces hit by disasters---Jakarta, North Sumatra and North Sulawesi.

"(Certain quarters) do not need to raise concerns and make baseless criticisms of the President with regard to the flooding issues," the presidential special staff member noted.

Sparingga cited as an example the presidents plan, made last week, to visit North Sumatra on Thursday (Jan. 23) to observe the condition of the victims of Mount Sinabungs eruption.

In the meantime, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonos Democrat Party denied here on Monday that the president had so far only considered the needs of his own party and did not care about natural disasters affecting the country.

"That is not true," party spokesman Ikhsan Modjo stressed, referring to allegations from many quarters that the President has been slow in dealing with natural disasters and did not care about people who have been affected by them in North Sumatra or Manado because he was too busy addressing his partys concerns.

He pointed out that President Yudhoyono has only conducted activities linked to party affairs over the weekend or on a holiday.

He added that the President has paid full attention to problems created by disasters in the country.

"In the near future, he will visit the evacuees of Mount Sinabungs eruptions in North Sumatra and the flood victims in Manado, North Sulawesi," he noted.

Ikhsan added that President Yudhoyono has been conducting Cabinet meetings since last week to address the problems created by the natural disaster and that he has also instructed the ministers concerned as well as the BNPB to take quick action to handle the problems.

"For Jakarta, in particular, the President has even ordered the extension of direct financial aid from the national budget to those affected by the floods," he claimed.

Ikhsan emphasized that Indonesia is not alone in suffering the effects of natural disasters: Australia has been hit by heat waves, the United States is dealing with extreme weather conditions, and several other Southeast Asian countries are also being affected by natural disasters.

Under such conditions, he noted, all agencies in the country must work together to help those in need.

"We must not blame each other and politicize the issue," he added.(*)