Sunday, November 10, 2013

The sickening first response of government to disaster


     Typhoon Haiyan is perhaps the most devastating weather event to ever hit land. More than 10,000 people have been killed, and the full details are still very much uncertain. The Philippines has had more than its share of natural disasters - and man-made ones as well. What I find particularly disturbing and unfortunately quite typical is the first priority of the Philippine government to the events. As quoted in today's report in Al Jazeera the President of the country used a photo-op visit to one of the areas affected to make the following "promise".

     "We have around 300 policemen and soldiers who can rotate and restore peace here. Later tonight there will be several armoured vehicles from our army arriving to show the strength of the state and stop those who started the looting here"

     Full stop ! This is not the abnormal reaction of some Third World state. The pattern was the same in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the USA. To a government the first thing that it cares about is its own ability to rule. Secondly it cares about the property of the favoured classes. Humanitarian concerns rank a distant third.

     In the aftermath of natural disasters the initiative of people on the ground and in nearby areas is far more important in relief than state-sponsored "help". This has been shown over and over. The statement from the Philippine President shows what the state is most concerned with. The so-called "looting" is an absolute necessity for people faced with hunger and other needs in the wake of tragedies. The first concern of the government is to hinder their ability to survive and to command that they will have to wait for the fullness of time when authority sanctioned aid may or may not arrive. The forces of authority will, however, arrive in a timely fashion.

     The savage nature of government is laid open for all to see by such statements and actions.

1 comment:

chip104 said...

I assure you that almost always the first persons to enter a disaster zone to provide assistance is the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They will not succeed in setting up an effective disaster management zone if they cannot first restore order and peace.

I'm pretty confident that they will kill two birds with one stone - send in a security and a humanitarian contingent on the same day.