JAKARTA: The Indonesian government clarified on Wednesday (Oct 10) that its policy on foreign assistance, aid workers and volunteers is "not intended" to prevent them from entering quake-hit Sulawesi.
This follows reports that Indonesia told independent foreign aid workers to leave the quake zone. Some foreign groups also reportedly said they faced difficulties getting entry permits to bring in workers and equipment, and there has been confusion about the rules.
In a statement, Indonesia's foreign ministry explained that foreign aid workers must first coordinate with the national team, local agencies or non-governmental organisations leading the rescue and recovery effort.
"All assistance including foreign volunteers should only enter after coordination and approval has been given, so their purpose, role and function are clear. It is important that recovery efforts are well coordinated," said foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir.
"We do not want to end up in a situation where we are receiving assistance, where there are already adequate supply or capacity on the ground, while we are not receiving assistance that we really need or lack of capacity on the ground."
The ministry warned of a situation where there could be many foreign aid workers or volunteers with good intentions, but which can in fact "hamper rescue and recovery efforts".
"The national rescue and recovery team is advising aid workers or volunteers that have completed their work and no longer need to be Palu, to make their way out of Palu to allow others that needs to be in Palu to enter," the statement added.
Most of the fatalities from the quake-tsunami were in Palu, a small city that bore the brunt of the disaster.
No one knows how many people are missing, especially in areas of southern Palu devastated by soil liquefaction, but it could be as high as 5,000, the national disaster agency said. About 70,000 people have been displaced.