The floods in Jakarta seem to be getting worse as bad weather prevails. Latest news reports estimate up to 200,000 people being made homeless.
Driving around Jakarta, listening to the accounts of others and listening and watching news reports on radio and TV provide an astounding impression to this national disaster: there is nobody really in charge.
Everywhere you go you see communities, religious groups and political groups helping themselves because the government does not seem to be present.
TV and radio reports seems to focus on complaints from residents in certain communities complaining that they haven’t received food promises by this or that authority. The media is also full of appeals for funds from the public to help the flood victims.
And one of the top news items since yesterday has been focused on Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso’s dilemma as whether he should open the floodgates at Manggarai to relieve the flooding. This is because opening the floodgates would mean that the area around the Presidential Palace and the National Monument would be submerged.
Today Sutiyoso is still wringing his hands and asking for the permission of the President to give him the permission to do so. President Susilo Bambang Yudhono, to his credit, says with some exasperation that the importance of the people should come first and if the Presidential Palace and national Monument area were to be submerged for the good of Jakarta then so be it.
So what’s wrong with this picture? You have Jakarta – the nation’s capital, commercial and administrative center — going under by the minute and the governor frets about displeasing the president. The President is exasperated and says so — but that’s all. One would think that the President should just relieve Sutiyoso of his command – or non-command as it is, and replace him with someone competent.
But no such luck. The ballet of the incompetents and the irresolute continues with no one seeming to take a leadership role in this crisis.
Compare this with the tornado disaster in Florida and you see a newly-elected governor taking charge as a leader should. You also see a professional Federal Emergency Management Agency swing into action. Decisions are made, action is taken, you see government officials taking charge of the situation on the ground and the public is constantly informed of what’s going on.
No such luck in Indonesia. One can only wonder where is Indonesia’s in a disaster of this proportion? Or is it the Governor who’s supposed to be in charge? Or is it the president? Is anyone manning the helm as the Good Ship Jakarta sinks under water?
Indonesia foundered when it came to managing the Aceh Tsunami Disaster, It also foundered when handling the Yogjakarta Earthquake and now its foundering with the Jakarta Flood 2007. When will it realize that it is a disaster prone country and as such need a professionally trained FEMA-like body to handle the situation when disaster strikes?
The people are resigned to the fact that the government is paralyzed every time a disaster happens and so they do not expect any help. It’s every man for himself, save for some volunteer groups and NGOs. But these bodies do not have the resources to provide relief on a wide scale as only the government could. Where are the armed forces? They have boats to help in the evcuation.
I have a friend who is a doctor at the Jakarta hospital. She sent me an SMS for monetary help because there is no way she and her colleagues could raise money and other necessary essentials from the locals, since almost everyone is affected.