Agam's Gecko
Friday, January 07, 2005
There's not a lot of new information for me to offer today, except that the Mentawai relief boats were in the Banyak Islands group yesterday, and possibly will be at the West / South Aceh coast today. That page is being continuously updated (also linked permanently on our sidebar), and all contributions of any type of assistance and ideas of how to get more supplies delivered to them in Padang, would be greatly appreciated. Also see Surf Aid International who are also working closely with Mentawai.

There is disturbing news which I'm sure everyone has heard by now, of Acehnese orphans' vulnerability to child traffickers, and reports that some disgusting people are already advertising them in Malaysia via SMS. They didn't call it "selling" of course, but "express adoptions" or some such crap, with all the paperwork and bureaucracy requirements "taken care of". The government is trying to prevent any children being taken out of Aceh, and now volunteers are even inspecting buses to try to ensure that any children are travelling with their real parent or relative. More discouraging accounts are coming out regarding armed skirmishes between the GAM separatist forces and the TNI. Both sides claim the other is using the disaster to cover offensive operations. A number of supposed GAM members have been killed by the military already, after the both the Army chief and GAM leadership pledged to engage in no offensive actions, and to both work full tilt on relief efforts. A TNI field commander directly contradicted this, saying that offensive security operations against GAM will continue. On the other side of the story, GAM fighters were said to have fired on TNI relief efforts around Lhok Nga, from a fishing boat.

Look boys, I don't care who's at fault or who started it. Just stop it RIGHT NOW! and get to work for your people.

I've still not been able to get through to Tapaktuan by phone, although the "Tapaktuan Central Hub" was said to be back in service a few days ago (the "Tapaktuan Central" is actually located in Meulaboh, servicing as far south as Bakongan), reported by one of the field workers via the "Disaster Journal" set up by the IT teams of the Election Commission (I was right, there is only one KPU, and it's evidently very useful for more than elections). Here is a new url for the "Jurnal Bencana Aceh" which I linked on Wednesday, but the earlier url doesn't work anymore (also fixed on the sidebar). The BAKORNAS for disaster management page I also linked to has seemingly disappeared, at least for me. And big thanks to readers (and former Tapaktuan residents) LC for contributing Harian Analisa Online, a daily based in Medan with current reports from West and South Aceh (I'll add it to the tsunami section with the other Indonesian language links). These are all for Indonesian language readers, but here's one for English (and other language) speakers: Pena Translation Project, offering Indonesian, English, German and French translations of news and information.

I did mention China's contribution the other day, and linked to an MSNBC article on that. Well now China has stepped up to the plate, and has offered to help train Indonesian geologists on tsunami prediction techniques. Er, maybe a shipment of rice would be more helpful at this point? Also, I'm so incredibly proud of Canada (sarcasm alert) now that Paul Martin has finally decided to send our 200 strong "Disaster Assistance Response Team". Good thing they didn't put "rapid response" in the title, as the decision is reached more than a week after the disaster struck -- and arrival time will not be for almost a week after that. We don't have the lift capacity to send them anywhere you see, so the DART is really only useful in cases where we don't actually need to send them anywhere. Canadian Forces have had to rent a couple of Antonov transports to move them. To Sri Lanka. It's funny: I distinctly remember PM Martin being very outspoken recently about the international "responsibility to protect". Here's an excellent opportunity to show what he means by that. Instead, I can only wonder what he means when he says,"The world is learning that there have to be smaller, quicker ways of moving." Smaller -- ok it looks like you have that aspect down pat. The quicker part, I'm having trouble with. Our Defence Minister Bill Graham says the stalling was because they had to debate whether it was "cost effective" to send DART at all. Clearly our government and military are operating under the UN style of emergency action coordination (meetings and debates over assessment coordination and cost effectiveness) rather than the US/Australia/Japan/Singapore model (get to work first and save lives, dammit).

Indispensible reading in the past week, is The Diplomad, a group of foreign service officers' blog, which lately has sounded rather 'in the know' and 'close to the action'. Delight in the tales of newly arrived UN honchos setting up their "coordination and op-centre" in Jakarta, deciding which 5 star hotel fit their requirements - chief among them the capacity to provide 24 hour catering for their assessment and coordination team. Yes, I'm sure they know where the best cuisine will be found, they're the World Food Program after all! But wait -- with all these coordination and assessment teams now in place to coordinate everything (between gathering assessments), a new need is revealed. Who will coordinate all the coordination teams, and who is there to assess all the joint assessment team reports?

Easy! The Sec-Gen has sent a very special expert: the United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-affected Countries. That's one person, by the way. And as the Chief Diplomad couldn't help but noticing, she must be super extra special because she has "Coordinator" twice in her title! And on Tuesday she announced the arrival of an extra special assessment team, to coordinate all the other assessment teams. Oh yeah, and Ms. Wahlstrom, this coordinator of coordinators, left Jakarta the next day, likely for more important meetings in Geneva. I guess all the joint assessment teams have already coordinated the regular assessment teams sufficiently to satisfy the Special Coordinator of Coordination that everything has been well assessed, so she can go back to Europe. Is it time for room service yet?

My endless thanks to the Aussies, Americans, Singaporeans and others I've been watching on MetroTV news reports this week and last (and of course our valiant Padang volunteers who remain unlauded in the media as yet), out there on the ground, on the sea and in the air, saving lives and providing some measure of comfort. And my sympathy also for those international forces at work now, for they are about to be coordinated and jointly assessed (and presumably to be directed) by some UN bureaucrats in a deluxe suite at the UN Sheraton in Jakarta.

Here is an MSNBC page of resources that looks to have some useful general interest links, relief channels, stories and blogs. Here is another site with English language information, Indonesia Help (not to confuse with Indonesia Help, the blog). That one will go on the sidebar as well. I also added Laksamana Net there this week under Asia Pacific News. One more: see 2Bangkok's Flashback to 1998, and the man who tried to warn of earthquake / tsunami dangers in Thailand for more than 10 years. Contrary to other claims, it hasn't been more than a hundred years since the last one -- a tidal wave on the east coast in 1965 killed more than 500. The account of the Meteorology Department dithering which I linked to last week, referred to this case of the 1998 false alarm having entered into their deliberations. The Department Chief has been relieved of his duties.

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