Tsunami destroys coastlines, but fails to level differences

Despite all the noble post-Tsunami sentiments of global solidarity expressed over the past fortnight, religion and politics continue to remind us of the depressing realities of human nature. First, ASSIST reports from India:

According to the Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), some Indian officials have been refusing Dalits relief help while their families are dying of starvation…in some communities members of the Dalit caste are not even numbered among the dead…According to Reuters [see here], “Locals too afraid of disease and too sickened by the smell refuse to join the grim task of digging friends and neighbors out of the sand and debris. They just stand and watch the dalits work.”

Turning to Indonesia, Sidney Blumenthal at Salon notes that:

GAM [the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, or Free Aceh Movement] reports that the Indonesia military is using the catastrophe to launch a new offensive. “The Indonesians get the message when you have no high-level condemnation of what they’re doing,” Tom Malinowski, Washington advocate for Human Rights Watch, told me.

The Indonesian military, in contrast, blames the rebels.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports from Sri Lanka:

The Tamil Tigers, who hold areas in the north and east, have expressed fears that the Sri Lankan government’s claims that it wants to work with the rebels on relief efforts is propaganda and in practice it is not doing so…President Chandrika Kumaratunga dismissed that criticism.

Sri Lanka has already faced criticism for allegedly declining assistance from Israel (publicised widely after Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano incorrectly stated that Israel had refused a request for help), but according to the latest from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (sorry, can’t find original link for some reason – had to go here):

Sri Lanka denied that it refused Israeli aid for victims of last month’s tsunami. In a statement, the Sri Lankan government said it delayed the arrival of the 150-member Israeli rescue and relief team because it couldn’t accommodate team members and because there already was enough manpower on the ground. The statement also emphasized that food and medical supplies from Israel were accepted, and also noted the “friendly and close diplomatic relations” between the two counties.

But no alleged government failing is as systematically crap as that of SLORC, the faceless military junta that controls Burma. The Burma Network has tried to piece together information about how badly things have been affected there, but recalls:

Past experience with how Burma deals with disasters is depressing. Last Summer two people were detained because they filmed a flood in Kachin State in Northern Burma. Dozens of people were killed by these floods, which the government called “normal”.

In September 2003 all news reports about an earthquake causing an unknown number of casualties were censored and no information was released.

In May 2004 a cyclone killed 220 people and made another 14,000 people homeless in Arakan State according to the Red Cross. The government did not report on the disaster until ten days later.

3 Responses

  1. A fuller story on the Sri Lankan denial that it rejected Israeli aid is here: http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=10354 .

  2. SLORC had a name change, now it is SPDC, State Peace and Development Council.

  3. I read that one of Reverend Phelps’s people (the GodHatesFags.com genius behind the Westboro Baptist Church) commented to the effect of, “Thank God for the tsunami, since it swept (some fantastical number of) Swedish (homosexuals) out to sea.” (http://godandcon.blogspot.com/2005/01/church-ohate.html) Brr. Who says natural disasters can’t be used to further icky insane agendas?

    I also heard through the grapevine that Warren Jeffs the Polygamy Prince is using the example of the tsunami to preach ‘blood atonement’ again. Shivery, isn’t it?

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