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As I was reading, on board an Air Canada flight from Mexico City to Vancouver, The Globe and Mail coverage of the horrors that have been unraveling for several days on the island of Sulawesi, I felt two powerful and contradictory emotions: I wanted to be there, immediately, 'on the ground', in the city of Palu, filming, talking to people, doing everything possible to help" and at the same time, I sensed that I was 'already there', so many times before, whenever the nightmares like those in Sulawesi were taking place all over the Indonesian archipelago.
And I wrote about them, I documented them, I was sending warnings, but nothing was done. The government (or I'd rather call it the 'Indonesian regime'), is expert in hearing nothing and doing nothing, ignoring all frontal criticism. The same goes for the Indonesian elites. They are blind as they are deaf, as long as they can grab, steal and then, do absolutely nothing for the welfare of the Indonesian people.
Look, in 2004, I was there, right after the tsunami hit Aceh. It took me just a few days to arrive. More than 200,000 people died! The same stuff: a powerful earthquake, then tsunami. Well, nobody really knows how many vanished, but 240,000 is the absolute minimum! A quarter of a million! That is 100 times more than a number of those who died during 9-11 in New York.
In Banda Aceh, I lived in a tiny house that had been flooded just a few days earlier, in a room where two children died; two little girls. There were stuffed animals all over, wet, soaked wet, everywhere. The bodies of the children were taken away. I swear I thought I heard their voices every single night --voices talking to me, pleading with me". After sundown, the family would lock me inside the house, simply in order to protect both me and the house, from the looters.
The Indonesian state did nothing to help the people. In Aceh, as well everywhere, where the disasters hit, the relief operations immediately become a huge commercial operation. 'Compassion'? Solidarity? Get real! Please get real. Everything became a 'commodity', even the excavation of the corpses; even burying them was done for a fee -- for an incredibly high fee. After all, Indonesia is one of the most turbo-capitalist countries on Earth. Death is a good business.Everything is. The bigger the natural disaster, the more dead bodies there are -- it all immediately turns into huge commerce, at least for some.
I can show you the photos, but better not, as the faint-hearted would puke, or faint. Do you know how the bodies look, if they are left rotting in a pit, in the tropical heat, for several days? Better not ask. But you know why they were there? Because the relatives could not pay bribes, to have them buried!
In Aceh, everyone was complacent, including the UN. Indonesia is hardly criticized by the West -- it is Washington's, Canberra's and London's great chum, perfectly corrupt, capitalist, anti-Communist and anti-Chinese. The West does not care about the rest.
Do you know that the Indonesian police and army were going from posko to posko, from local NGO tents to others, demanding money, bribes, in order not to destroy drinking water deposits for the victims; water that was delivered from abroad. If bribes were not paid, they used their knives, cutting through the plastic deposits.
While people were dying from thirst and hunger.
Then the Vice-President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kala, to boost his popularity among the Muslim cadres, kicked out dozens of Indonesian doctors, volunteers, from the heavy Hercules transport planes. Engines were running, at Halim Airport in East Jakarta. Instead of doctors and their gear, he stuffed the aircraft with several hundred religious zealots. Later, they landed in Banda Aceh, saw corpses, took selfies, puked, and eventually flew back to the capital.
Should I go on or are you getting the point?
Like now in Sulawesi, in Aceh, all the warning signals 'miraculously' failed. And there was never enough of the national relief supplies.
You know why? Because Indonesia is a failed state. Because nothing works there. Because nobody gives a damn about anything, except money and the religious rituals (of any denomination, to be precise).
But you will never read it in the pages of The Globe and Mail, or The New York Times.
I saw disasters in Indonesia, I saw 'sectarian' and religious killings, and I saw genocides, from East Timor to Aceh, Central Java, from Lombok to Ambon. And periodically, I feel that I cannot take more of the same, but the situation is so horrific, that in the end I always come, again and again, and I film, document. It is because I feel that I have to come, that it is my 'internationalist' duty; because if I don't come, then really, damn it, who will?