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Indonesia's descent into government madness continues

supari%20afp.jpgScrew it.

I am going to tell it like it is, and never look back.

The Indonesian government's self-inflicted death wish has reached intolerable proportions.  The most recent disclosure from Indonesian Health Minister and Court Jester, Siti Fadillah Supari, means Indonesia has reached the Tipping Point between political recklessness and geopolitical suicide.  Or maybe future homicide.

For those unfamiliar with recent developments:  Indonesia has announced it will no longer report bird flu deaths as they happen.  Instead, they will roll up the data and grace the rest of the world with reports every six months or so, or whenever the muse strikes them, or when a goat is slaughtered and the entrails are spread over the government's fax machines and computers.

This means Iran -- Iran! -- is more transparent than Indonesia.  It means China is more transparent.  It means Hell has frozen over.  It also means that for the rest of us, we will not know that an epidemic has started there until it is probably too late to do anything except batten down the hatches and pray.

It has gotten to the point that an ad hoc union of flu bloggers is trying to take more decisive action to bring someone -- anyone -- in the Indonesian government to his or her senses and stop this Supari woman before she dooms not just her nation, but the entire world, to disease and death.  Supari couldn't be jeopardizing the world's health any worse than if she bottled up a few sick people from Tangerang and flew them to Los Angeles.

So here are a few random ideas.  I appeal to my colleagues to use their resources to see if we can accomplish a few things and to add to this list within their own blogsites. 

  1. First, let's have somebody ask John McCain and Barack Obama to sign a joint letter to the Indonesian president, expressing their regret and indignation at the government's policies.  If Indonesia knows that both presidential candidates will not stand for this Tomfoolery, and it is a bipartisan effort, it has to count for something. 
  2. Second, let's start having some serious travel advisories about any travel to Indonesia.  The US, Britain, Australia (especially Australia, since Bali is to Australia what Disney World is to America) and other nations can all issue joint travel warnings, discouraging people from any travel to Indonesia.
  3. Third, let's contact our local Congressman or -woman and Senator, asking them to write the White House and hammer for decisive action.  It is surprising just how few letters it takes to activate a slumbering Congressperson.
  4. Fourth, and also within those letters, let's press for UN action against Indonesia.  A nicely-worded UN resolution should do the trick. 
  5. Fifth, pull NAMRU the Hell out of Jakarta and put it where it is wanted.  Someplace like Vietnam or Thailand or South Korea would be just great.
  6. Sixth, pressure American-led corporations to cancel all Indonesian conferences, including Bali.  Ask everyone to refuse to attend any multinational or multigovernmental conference that is booked in Bali or Jakarta.
  7. Seventh, ask the WHO to begin applying the pandemic threat level to individual nations.  I have frequently called upon the WHO to raise the pandemic threat level from Phase Three to Phase Four.  Let's rethink this and take a Homeland Security approach to things.  As DHS applies the terrorism threat level to sectors such as the aviation sector, let's apply a Phase Four warning to Indonesia.
  8. Eighth, let's do everything possible to empower doctors, scientists, researchers, reporters and bloggers to get the real story out of there.  Maybe we need a Bloggers Corps to go into Indonesia and teach bloggers how to post their stories and blogs anonymously and without detection by government censors.
  9. Ninth, let's hope we have Boots on the Ground, James Bonds armed with Q-Tips and vials, ready to covertly swab the epithelial cells of suspected bird flu patients, and spirit the samples out of Indonesia via submarine.
  10. Tenth, pull all US-bought antivirals out of the country.  Today. Save the Tamiflu for our own people.  After all, if the Indonesian government is willing to play Russian Roulette with a loaded gun regarding the health of the entire world's population, they obviously don't care one whit for the safety of their own people.

I am out of ideas.  Let's hear from you!

Reader Comments (13)

Supari's words don't seem to help in the current situation.

Here is my idea:

find someone with wisdom and knowledge, maybe in the WHO. Go to Indonesia without publicity, don't tell anyone. Talk to Supari, listen to her. Maybe invite some other important Indonesian health officials.

Talk without agenda, keep an open mind, just explain how you feel yourself, how you look at the future regarding H5N1.

That is how you can start something, called a dialogue. Instead of confrontation.

Pulling back Tamiflu from innocent H5N1 victims... shame on you!

June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDutchy


Indonesia has to butch up and recognize its place in the greater scheme of things. Enough talking. They are the ones doing all the talking, and it is negative and anti-World. If they do not want to join the rest of the planet and abide by their treaties, shame on them, not on me. And if they are indeed treating their patients with American-bought Tamiflu, and they spit in our face when we ask them nicely to ABIDE BY THEIR TREATY OBLIGATIONS, then they are nothing more than a rogue state.

Time to play hardball.

June 6, 2008 | Registered CommenterScott McPherson

I understand your feelings, they are mine. I just wonder: who will be hit by the hard ball?

June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDutchy

Indonesia is practicing International Bio-terrorism... plain and simple. When H5N1 comes screaming out of Indonesia with an 80+% CFR decimating civilization in its wake, Indonesia should be charged with Crimes Against Humanity.

What they are doing is despicable.

June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGoju

Amen! Sanctions should have been applied when they first started refusing to share samples, as they are required to by treaties THEY signed. The United States has broken many treaties we signed over the years, treaties with our Native Americans comes to mind, so we are not completely without sin, but at least we werent endangering the entire world. IMHO.

June 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBlitzen

[I'm wondering how this new regulation plays into the scheme of things].

U.S. Embassy Jakarta
U.S. Consulate General Surabaya
U.S. Consulate Medan
June 4, 2008
Requirement for all International NGOs to Register with the Government of the Republic of Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, informs American citizens that the Government of Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DEPLU) recently informed the Embassy that under Indonesian law, all international NGOs working in Indonesia, including those working with the U.S. Embassy, other foreign donor governments, or funded by private contributions, are required to register with DEPLU.
Guidance on the “Process and Procedures for Registration of International non-Governmental Organizations,” is posted on DEPLU’s website at http://www.deplu.go.id under the link, “Proses Dan Tata Cara Pendaftaran Organisasi Internasional Non Pemerintah.”
DEPLU has stated its objective is to have all international NGOs registered no later than June 30, 2008. Requests for registration received after this date will be handled by DEPLU on a case-by-case basis.
The USAID Procurement Office has issued a Contract Notice to inform USAID implementing partners, namely those which are considered international NGOs by the GOI, of this registration requirement.
One of the Government of Indonesia’s registration requirements is to have the U.S. Embassy issue a Letter of Recommendation in support of a U.S. NGO. NGOs affiliated with USAID should contact "cherwilliams@usaid.gov"]cherwilliams@usaid.gov for assistance in acquiring that letter. U.S. NGOs not affiliated with USAID should contact the Consular Section of the Embassy at "jakartaacs@state.gov"]jakartaacs@state.gov to request the letter. The request should include the following information:
Name of the Organization, Legal Status in the United States, Date Founded, Address of the organization in the U.S., Name of the Director(s) in the United States, Address in Indonesia, and Name of Representative in Indonesia;
Copy of the organization’s State Certification of Incorporation
Copy of the organization’s Tax Exemption Status Qualification Letter from the Internal Revenue Service;
Copy of passport for local representative.

The Embassy will usually be able to issue the letter within one week.
For more information about DEPLU’s international NGO registration requirement, please contact the U.S. Embassy USAID’s office at "cherwilliams@usaid.gov"]cherwilliams@usaid.gov or the Consular Section at jakartaacs@state.gov"]jakartaacs@state.gov http://jakarta.usembassy.gov/consular/WM060408.html

[And I'm wondering how the "checking of documents" could be done by x-ray?]

Passengers` laptops now subject to security checks at Soekarno-Hatta airport

Tangerang, (ANTARA News)- The operator of Soekarno-Hatta international airport has instituted tight security checks on passengers` laptops at the airport`s entrance gates to prevent the the equipment`s misuse for negative purposes, an airport official said.

"We have taken the measure for the passengers` own safety because certain people could use laptops for negative purposes," Herry Bakti, the airport`s administrator, told Antara here on Saturday.

The tight inspection on laptops was meant as an anticipative measure against the illegal use of documents for certain purposes, including terrorist activity, he said.

The inspections on laptops were done with the help of X-ray devices and by body searches, he said, noting that laptops could also be used to hide heroin. [How is this going to find "documents" on a laptop??]

Security checks on passengers` laptops had now become part of airport security officers` routine duties to help guarantee flight safety, he said. (*)


June 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCommonground

I am shocked that the media has not taken a stronger stand on this issue, I am a healthcare provider who has been following the flu blogs for a few months. Since the Indonesian Health Ministry made their announcement this week I have contacted my local paper asking them to give this issue more attention in hopes of eliciting a greater public outcry. Look at the response to mad cow risks as perceived by South Koreans, If the U.S. citizenry understood the implications of this issue I think there were be outrage here as well. Whether intentional or not, the health ministry's refusal to publish data on H5N1 is tantamount to global bioterrorism. The general public is uninformed and the press is responsible to get the word out. Now that the democratic primary is over hopefully this will get more attention.

June 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Szcz

Public is badly informed about bio-piracy also I think. Do we ask about GM seed for poorest countries sold by big corps? Do we ask about DNA testing without consent of local inhabitants in various part of the world?
Is Indonesia a Westerners ally?
If Western countries leaders don't reach a consensus about health benefit to third world, then Indonesia could be only a first one to establish this new policy of concealing vital information for world health.
Perhpas, agricultural and farming industrial system in developed countries of the first world aren't completely disappointed by a concealing policy. None would like to risk a shares price fall after bird flu antibodies discovery in its own poultry.
The confrontation scheme put in place at the eve of the War on Terror is going to grow its fruits.

June 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIronorehopper

Unfortunately, I feel the politics is too deep to untangle this, especially from the U.S.A. We have alot at stake in Indonesia if we decide to start imposing this and that. The U.S. just lifted it's travel warning to Indo a few months ago concerning the terrorist threat. The U.S. has oil companies there. The U.S. is tied to Indo politically and economicaly, and not many people realize this.

I honestly feel, that at presant time, our pleas to congressmen, political leaders, ect., will fall on deaf ears. I do believe the best we have to hope for and to work with, is the Indoneisan bloggers. They can be the biggest source of help than we can, at present time. Why? Because they are at the source. They have the power more so than us, to get this decision changed. They can write/contact WHO and plead with them to step in. This is happening to them, not us, at the moment. However, we need to be bombarding WHO with e-mails, letters, protests, whatevder we can do, to let them know their lack of response to this is just as outrageous, as Supari's decision.

Get use to the frustration. It's only going to get worse. I was furious when I found out the general public was not going to have access to the sequences but that you had to "join" a group that closely monitored what was taken from that site and displayed on the internet. This decison from the health minister has sent us over the edge, and it feels like defeat. We are not defeated. We still have something to work with, and if we all start talking with the Indonesian bloggers, perhaps there is a chance(that's about all we have left) that Supari's decision will be overruled, changed or at best, reports can be once a month.

Let's not give up folks. The flu communities have come too far to feel defeated or be defeated! We have made a difference and we can continue to do so.


June 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercottontop

I think, if the Indonesian gov't sanctions the statements made this past week by it's "official", then the US should stop sending both money and meds to Indonesia. Harsh?
Oh yes. Possibility it could backfire? Certainly. But what options are there?

Travel warning? How about a travel ban - or at least a required 10 day quarantine of anyone returning from the region to the US?
(At the traveler's expense, not the taxpayer's expense).

At the very least, have everyone traveling to Indonesia sign a statement that they are aware that they are traveling into an unsafe area, and that they should expect no help from the US gov't if they run into difficulty while there.

I've always favored diplomacy, but in this case to continue diplomatic efforts, such as Mike Leavitt going to Indonesia to deal with Supari in person as he has done in the past, could in fact be viewed as negotiating with terrorists. Those who would take such a gamble with the fate of the world shouldn't be treated as equals, for they prove by their actions that they are not. We must not continue to validate their position by acting as though there is little wrong with it.

And Namru? Surely there are other ports where it would be much more appreciated, and perhaps able to fulfill its purpose much more readily.

June 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterclawdia

I think Indonesia is at phase 4+
I think Indonesia can get away with this because China has gotten away with it
I think china has gotten away with it since Chan was installed by China into WHO
I think they will get away with it under the protection of the multinational corporations seeking to tap into the profit that the growing Chinese middle class will put in their pockets.

June 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGoju

Is Indonesia in a pandemic alert phase 4 or 5? And China also? ''Goju'' you acknowldege that similar considerations may results in grave damage to all people of these countries, and mistakenly mixes people with politicians.
In other words, if a pandemic has started, a minister or other govt member speeches will be of no value at all. And no corporations profits warranted...
One may be upset by health minister of Indonesia behaviour but all considerations should be based of hard fact, events, not suggetions.

June 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIronorehopper

Ironorehopper - as far as i am concerned, the pandemic began when H5N1 crossed the species barrier in 1997.

I figure pandemics take time to develop.

I cannot understand why any government would want to keep their cases secret unless that info would damage them Globally.... sure seems to me that the statements coming out of Indonesia are saying just that.

If the Govs of these countries cared about their people, they'd be more honest and thereby allowing others to help them combat this growing menace.

I am fully aware of the "economic" consequences phase change will cause. It may be time... dont you think?

June 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGoju

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