Thursday, 8 March 2007

Plenty of woe, and some promise, in Indonesia

Indonesia never escapes the headlines, which is usually a sad thing...
It seems as if there is always some sort of disaster brewing in Indonesia. Whether it’s a shipwreck or a plane crash or a tsunami or an earthquake. In fact, three of the four aforementioned have occurred in major recent incidents.

With the fire-on-ship incident a little bit ago and the earthquake (killing 82 at the least) and plane crash (killing at least 22) just this month, just within the last couple weeks disasters have killed hundreds. Unsurprisingly, the plane crash, the lesser of the two accidents this month, has garnered much more attention than its less-deadly companion, the earthquake. Aircraft problems always get more attention — like terrorism, it is a public and media obsession.

There has also been a major mudslide and another ferry incident in December, in which hundreds were killed when the boat sank. In January, a plane carrying over 100 disappeared. Just in the past month there has also been a blast at a port and deadly protests.

Corruption, poor safety records, lax government regulation, technical troubles, and poor infrastructure have all been blamed for many of the disasters, though Mother Nature has killed the most. There was a huge earthquake last year and an even larger tsunami in late December 2004, not to mention a large risk of another major tsunami last year. Terrorism still remains an issue.

Profile: Indonesia (Wikipedia, CIA factbook, Economist [1] [2])...
Indonesia is big; it is basically a collection of islands. It is the largest Muslim-majority country and the fourth largest overall country on the planet. Indonesia is also the third largest democracy, bested only by India and the United States. Indonesia is a young democracy at that, and, like India, is democratic at the high, governmental level, but runs into troubles when one zooms to the local level.

Located in the south Pacific, north of Australia and southeast of the Indian ocean, Indonesia became an independent state in 1949, after declaring independence four years earlier. With a state so vast with most areas being former colonies of the Netherlands, there was bound to be ethnic conflict.

The government has had significant trouble holding the country together. With issues like Avian bird flu and Islamic extremism (e.g. Bali nightclub bombings), the Jakarta-based republic has remained surprisingly intact.

The country gained independence led by General Sukarno, who was Indonesia’s nationalistic leader. Following a conspiracy by the Communist Party of Indonesia to unseat Sukarno in a 1965 coup, there was a power fight between Sukarno, the current president, and a military leader named Suharto. Suharto won. Most probably in a mindset of paranoia, Suharto presided over a great purge of communists, which resulted in the deaths of somewhere between hundreds and a couple of million.

Suharto finally fell in 1998 and reforms have followed. There have been plenty of separatist movements, some — plenty — still dragging on, though notable achievements include the ones with East Timor and Aceh.

Technorati technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments: