Floods and Revolutions?

Unless you have paid no attention to news whatsoever, you have heard about the flooding that is taking place in the capitol city of Indonesia. Over 200,000 people are without homes at the moment, and many have even died. There is worry about health care and the spread of diseases in the floods, and the problems are no where near over, with more rain in the forecast.

Anyone who has visited Jakarta will have been amazed by the scale of some of the development that has taken and is taking place in the city. I have been around, and some of the most fantastic shopping malls and most luxurious offices I have seen are in Jakarta. At the same time, and often on the same city block, hundreds of thousands of people live in conditions where basic public services are not supplied, as is evidenced by the floods. It is no secret in Indonesia that allocations meant for public infrastructure have wound up funding other projects. While one might get the impression that Indonesians, while recognizing the inefficiency of their government, are not moved to action over it. It is very important, however, to remember that Indonesians are more than capable of taking action, such as when a mass movement helped pave the way for the downfall of the Suharto regime in 1998.

The fact that the current government and indeed political system is so young is cause for worry, especially in the face of such disasters as Indonesia has seen in recent history. I believe that if Indonesia cannot deal with the floods in Jakarta to the satisfaction of the city’s residents, the country and its people will be that much closer to demanding change.

This article from the International Herald Tribune talks about how “…this is as much a governance issue as a natural disaster…” The fallout from the tragedy will be manifest in the upcoming elections in Indonesia, according to the author, with the current government baring the blame, at least in terms of the voting power of the public. This is, I agree, a very likely scenario. However, from my experience, the political situation in Indonesia is still tenuous. Disasters like the flood and others that have taken place recently in Java are increasing the suffering of a people that already know the meaning of discomfort, to put it one way. Enough misery can lead people to drastic ends…

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