Gov. Linda Lingle and State Adjutant General Robert Lee, left, greet Irwandi Yusuf, governor of Indonesia's Aceh province. Yusuf, the former Free Aceh Movement rebel, won the first direct election for governor of Aceh. He was in jail for treason when the tsunami hit Aceh, killing more than 167,000 people, including the majority of the prisoners where Yusuf was being held. Yusuf, a graduate of Oregon State University, is a veterinarian by training. CLICK FOR LARGE
Hawaii delegation trades ideas, expertise with Indonesia, Japan
Editor's note: The authors are accompanying Gov. Linda Lingle on an official 12-day trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, and Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan.
AS GOV. Linda Lingle's official delegation departs Indonesia and concludes the first leg of a three-city visit to strengthen Hawaii's strategic and business relationships in the Asia-Pacific region, we want to reflect on what this trip means for the people of our state and the future of Hawaii.
Part of the Lingle-Aiona administration's efforts to transform Hawaii's economy from one dependent on land development to one based on innovation includes enhancing Hawaii's international connections and competitiveness in the global marketplace.
The primary purpose of our visit to Jakarta was to inaugurate a new State Partnership Program between Hawaii and Indonesia that will increase disaster preparedness and regional security. The SPP between the Hawaii National Guard and the Indonesia Ministry of Defense, which will be conducted in close coordination with U.S. Pacific Command, includes military-to-military components, as well as military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian relationships.
The Hawaii National Guard will share its expertise in preparedness, early warning and first response to emergencies. This will include exchanges between Hawaii and Indonesia to learn how civil defense resources and responsibilities are shared between different levels of government and the critical role of the civilian sector.
Maj. Gen. Vern Miyagi, mobilization assistant to the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, joined the governor and members of her cabinet in meetings with the Indonesian minister of defense, top Indonesian armed forces officials and local government officials in laying the groundwork for the SPP.
We visited the Indonesia Tsunami Warning Center and learned about steps taken since the tragic 2004 tsunami and the challenges still faced.
Chip McCreery, head geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Center in Ewa Beach, who joined our delegation, already has been working closely with Indonesia to improve the early warning system. This is critical for Hawaii because seismic activity anywhere in the Pacific poses a potential threat of a tsunami to our state. The SPP will increase collaboration to improve tsunami warning operations for Hawaii, Indonesia and throughout the Pacific.
While other states and federal disaster management agencies will provide assistance to us in an emergency, it is important to establish collaborative partnerships throughout the region that our state can turn to ensure our residents receive immediate assistance.
HEALTH AND AGRICULTURE
The civilian components of the SPP extend beyond emergency preparedness. State Health Director Chiyome Fukino met with her Indonesian counterparts to address prevention, detection and response to avian flu. She also began exploring other partnerships, including how to provide badly needed medical care for women and children in remote villages, and vaccination and treatment of tuberculosis, which is the third-leading cause of death in Indonesia. (See related column at right.)
In addition, Mark Anderson, deputy director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, explored business and economic development opportunities for Hawaii companies in Indonesia.
A growing Indonesian economy provides strong potential for Hawaii businesses to invest and lend expertise in areas such as agriculture, fisheries and deep ocean aquaculture, renewable energy, coastal zone management and environmental protection. The governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, was particularly interested in obtaining scholarships to the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture so the people of his province can gain skills to develop their agricultural sector.
We are proud that Indonesia has turned to Hawaii for our leadership and expertise. Increasing partnerships with Indonesia will enable Hawaii to expand our global competitiveness and provide our people, especially the younger generations, with diverse career opportunities and a chance to make a difference in the Asia-Pacific region.
During the next part of our trip, the governor is focusing on increasing tourism and business opportunities with Japan. This includes promoting agricultural trade, specifically the export of potted anthurium from Hawaii. In addition, tomorrow our delegation will encourage investments and partnerships in Hawaii's life sciences and captive insurance industries.
Lingle participated in a women's career forum in Tokyo to hear Japanese women's views on leadership, careers and other issues. She also is eager to meet the crew of the Hokule'a, which is in Yokohama on the final leg of its Asia-Pacific voyage.
We will then visit Okinawa to strengthen our sister-state relationship that was established in 1985. In addition, we will participate in an innovation seminar and visit a high school that is involved in robotics and focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
In both Tokyo and Okinawa, the governor will visit U.S. troops and their families. Many are from Hawaii or have Hawaii ties, and it is always heartwarming to meet them and hear their stories about serving our country overseas but always holding a special place in their hearts for Hawaii.
Maj. Gen. Robert Lee is the state adjutant general and director of Hawaii State Civil Defense. Marsha Wienert is the state tourism liaison.