05 October 2009
Is SBY a Walking, Talking Trigger for Natural Disasters?
You know what they say, "small things amuse small minds". There is nothing amusing about the recent earthquakes in Padang, and the more than 1000 lives lost there, or the tsunami that devastated Aceh in 2004. However, the idea of linking the current president, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or SBY, to the regular natural disasters that confront Indonesia is. It is not only amusing, but reeks of political opportunism. When politicians and others must be focused on disaster response and then putting into place appropriate disaster response mechanisms to ensure that aid and assistance gets to where its needed most and fast.
The recent Padang earthquakes has once again highlighted how under-prepared and ill-equipped Indonesia is with respect to responding to natural disasters. This is no longer a simple case of passing a little bit of legislation here and there, and pumping out a few ministerial regulations. It is now a matter of ensuring that the provisions of the laws and regulations as they currently stand are given the amount of resources required to guarantee that they function.
There will always be disasters that one cannot prepare for, or no manner of preparation will be enough. The tsunami in Aceh is evidence of that. Yet, there are still initiatives that can be undertaken to minimize the tragic outcomes.
Anyways, back to the original intent of the post; is SBY to blame for the earthquake?
It seems a little far-fetched to suggest that SBY is responsible for the earthquake. He might have been re-elected by 60% of the population however this is hardly a mandate to shift tectonic plates. SBY might even think that he is God-like, but there is a big difference between God-like and God.
The whispers persist though that SBY is an unlucky man. He was born on an unlucky day where the date and the stars were aligned against him being lucky. Now, for an unlucky man, he has certainly been pretty lucky when all things are considered; rising through the ranks to general, a stint as a cabinet minister, and now a second term as president. Most Indonesians would consider that to be pretty lucky.
Then again, there have been a litany of natural and man-made disasters during his tenure. So many, in fact, that there is an old joke that SBY stands for "selalu bencana ya". The translation of which is 'always disaster yes', which sort of loses its impact as a play on the president's initials.
Permadi, is a politician that was originally associated with the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle of Megawati, but who of more recent times has shifted allegiance to Gerindra, the party of Prabowo. Permadi is known as a practicing mystic. He is also known for his penchant of wearing all black clothes, allegedly the "all black" theme includes his underwear. Now, according to Permadi, the Primbon is pretty clear that the numbers in the president's date of birth are unlucky. They are numbers that will always attract natural disasters to Indonesia.
So, for Permadi, the best option is that SBY step down from the presidency and focus on other things. It is clear, to Permadi, that if SBY refuses to show heart and step down a bigger and more devastating natural disaster will befall Jakarta. Is this irresponsible fear-mongering, political opportunism, or a genuine belief that the president is an unlucky man? It is a bit of everything, but that said, it hardly seems likely that the president is going to resign from office because people think he has been born under an unlucky alignment of stars.
What is a little more bizarre for me is that the president gives this idea credence by addressing it. A couple of years ago in an address to local officials in West Sumatra he broached the topic and said something along the lines of, 'just because I am president does not give me the power to command the forces of nature'. I guess there is nothing like feeding the fire.
My condolences to all those who lost family, friends, and colleagues in the devastation wrought by the two earthquakes last week. May you find the strength to rebuild your shattered lives and may the government get its act together enough to assist you through the challenges you face.
(Photo courtesy of Reuters)