Added to SP site, 14th January 2005
Australian SP statement on the tsunami tragedy
Howards exploits tsunami tragedy
By Stephen Jolly
No important event has a neutral or apolitical effect - not sport,
music, or even natural disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami.
The Indonesian government is taking advantage of the tsunami to attack
GAM (the Aceh guerilla/independence movement). One tactic by Jakarta
has been to introduce reactionary groups like the Islamic Defenders
Front, Jemaah Islamiah and Laskar Mujahidin into Aceh to assist in crushing
GAM. This is similar to how the Israelis created Hamas in the past to
undermine the PLO or the US assisted Bin Laden to help defeat the
Soviets in Afghanistan. In Palestine/Israel and in Afghanistan these antics
came back to haunt the imperialists. It will be the same for Jakarta.
The response of the advanced capitalist world to the tsunami was at
first disdain, then (under pressure from the public) it changed into using
the tragedy to boost imperialist influence in the affected areas.
John Howard initially offered only $10 million to the aid effort - that
has now increased to $1 billion ($500 million in direct aid and $500
million in loans over five years) - an increase of times 100. He has
insisted that the aid be kept out of UN hands and under the firm control of
the Australian ruling class.
There are similarities with East Timor in 1999. For years Australian
governments both 'Labor' and Coalition supported the brutal Indonesian
occupation. When the Australian public took to the streets to protest
against the 1999 brutalities by the TNI and their militia allies, Howard
changed tack and announced an Australian-led UN military intervention
into East Timor. Indonesia, weakened after the 1998 economic collapse and
revolution that overthrew Suharto, had to grudingly accept. The
Australian protest leaders - including so-called socialists - supported
Howard's adventure, as did the leaders of the East Timorese independence
movement, and in effect sub-contracted their liberation out to Canberra.
Now of course even blind freddy can see that Howard is getting more
than his money back from poor East Timor, with Australian oil and gas
companies stealing more than $1 million a day from disputed oil fields.
Today, with the tsunami, Howard is doing the same. That is taking
advantage of the tremendous mood to 'let's do something' from the public and
turning it to the advantage of the ruling class.
The "$1 billion" from John Howard will be distributed not by
democratically elected committees of the people affected by the tsunami, or even
the Indonesian regime, but by a joint commission overseen by Howard and
Indonesian President Yudhoyono and staffed by Australian officials and
led by AusAID's Bruce Davies. "A lot of ideas will come from the
Indonesians themselves", commented Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in the
colonial manner he does so well.
"The federal government and Australian companies look set to keep firm
control of the awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars Indonesian
recontruction contracts" (Financial Review 14th January 2005). No wonder
the same newspaper congratulated Howard at being "a dab hand at dealing
Days earlier (8-9th January 2005) the Financial Review bluntly
explained that: "the groundswell of generosity (from the West) did not stem
from humanitarian concerns alone" (!)...For many nations, (the tsunami) is
a golden opportunity to seek to expand their influence in a region full
of fast-growing economies, particularly in Indonesia...Australia's
massive pledge, for example, shold lead to greater co-operation with
Jakarta in the war against terrorism, while a viable Indonesian economy
promises benefits for Australian trade and investment. Australian companies
are also more likely to be involved in the rebuilding of key
infrastructure in shattered Aceh province over the next five years."
Even a few weeks ago who would have believed that Australian troops
could be on the ground in Aceh or US troops in Sri Lanka? For the US and
Australia the tsunami is an opportunity to rebuild their image in the
underdeveloped world, especially in the Muslim world. However the
presence of foreign imperialist troops will generate big anti-imperialist
movements in the future.
The Socialist Party and the CWI call for:
* All foreign debts should be cancelled immediately
* Democratic control of aid by committees of local people, workers and
poor farmers organisations etc in proportion to their support in each
area - no confidence in capitalist aid agencies or imperialist forces or
* Australia should accept a large number of refugees from affected
* Australian workers' movement should create direct links with similar
organisations in affected areas to provide financial and material
support so they can rebuild
More SP/CWI articles on the Tsunami disaster are available here