Correspondent, Political and General News
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Jan 5, 2010
via FaithWorld

Q+A – What’s next in Malaysia’s “Allah” row?


Facebook group protesting Allah ruling, 5 Jan 2010/Bazuki Muhammad

Malaysia’s government has filed for a stay of execution pending its appeal of a court ruling allowing a Malay-language Catholic paper to describe the Christian God as “Allah”, amid growing Islamic anger in the country. We reported on the dispute here yesterday, including how it has spilled over into Facebook.

What lies ahead in this row threatening to increase religious tensions in the mainly Muslim but multi-racial Southeast Asian country?

Jan 4, 2010

Malaysia “Allah” row spills on to Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – More than 43,000 Malaysians protested online over a court ruling allowing a Catholic paper to use the word “Allah” to describe the Christian God, signaling growing Islamic anger in this mostly Muslim Southeast Asian country.

A group page on social networking site Facebook was drawing 1,500 new supporters an hour on Monday as last week’s court ruling split political parties and even families.

Dec 14, 2009

Malaysia PM to offer CO2 reductions in Copenhagen

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s government will offer “credible” cuts in its emissions of carbon dioxide at the Copenhagen climate change summit in a bid to halt global warming, Prime Minister Najib Razak told Reuters on Sunday.

Najib will be among more than 110 world leaders who will meet in Copenhagen next week to attend a summit to try to clinch a deal on deeper emissions cuts by rich nations, steps by developing nations to cut their carbon pollution and finance to help the poor adapt to climate change.

Oct 7, 2009

Foreign rescue teams leave quake-hit Indonesia city

PADANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – Relief workers struggled to reach Indonesian quake survivors still without food or shelter a week after the disaster, while foreign rescue teams packed up their high-tech equipment on Wednesday and prepared to pull out.

Aid has been pouring into the shattered West Sumatran city of Padang since the September 30 earthquake, but the scale of the disaster, heavy rain and damaged infrastructure have meant it has been slow to reach outlying areas.

Oct 7, 2009

Indonesia quake survivor says saved by a coffee

PADANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – An Indonesian earthquake survivor described Wednesday how buying a coffee during a hotel training course he was attending almost certainly saved his life.

Ghazali, 28, had been taking part in a training program with 40 people held by insurance firm Prudential at the historic Dutch-era Ambacang hotel when the quake hit the coastal city of Padang on September 30.

Oct 6, 2009

Helicopters drop aid to Indonesia quake survivors

PADANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – Health workers doused the Indonesian city of Padang with disinfectant to ward off disease outbreaks and helicopters dropped aid to survivors six days after a devastating earthquake.

The rescue mission in the port city of 900,000, and in surrounding hills ravaged by landslides, has been all but abandoned for a relief effort to help thousands of homeless.

Oct 6, 2009

Quake-hit Indonesian city sprayed to stop disease

PADANG, Indonesia, Oct 6 (Reuters) – Health workers fanned out across Padang on Tuesday to douse the Indonesian city with disinfectant over concerns about disease outbreaks six days after a deadly earthquake rattled Sumatra.

The rescue mission in Padang, a port city of 900,000, and in surrounding hills devastated by landslides has now turned to a huge relief effort to help thousands who have lost their homes. While aid has poured into the area, the scale of the disaster, heavy rains and damage to roads has meant that some relief supplies have built up at various points, triggering anger on the ground.

"I have seen reports on TV of boxes piling up at the airport and not making it to victims. That’s not fair. Those are the secondary items, not the priority items like food and water," said Gamawan Fauzi, the governor of West Sumatra.

On Monday, Reuters correspondents in a number of different areas were told by villagers that little if any aid had arrived.

"Yesterday all I had to eat was a packet of instant noodles. All of us are hungry. We hear on the radio very nice words that aid is pouring in, but where is it?," asked Erol, a resident with a 10-day-old infant in Pasa Dama, a village outside Padang.

Governor Fauzi denied that any of the aid supplies were falling into the wrong hands.

"The receipt of aid is signed off by the head of each sub-district. So we know what they have received. I think the risk of corruption is small, but if anyone is caught doing that they must punished," added Fauzi. The governor said rotting bodies were a big hazard to health now and experts were monitoring for cases of cholera and tetanus. "We have sent out of a lot of disinfectant and we will spray in Padang today," he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono criticised on Monday evening local officials in the quake-hit area for not focusing enough on emergency needs and too much on reconstruction needs.

"What I want to know is what is being done for emergency steps, such as food supply, electricity supply, fuel supply and other aspects," Yudhoyono said before a cabinet meeting.

The president also called for an Aceh-style reconstruction.

"In my view I think we could implement what has been done in Aceh, Nias and Yogykarta," he added.

The rebuilding of Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra after the 2004 tsunami has largely been held up as success, while massive rehabilitation also took place on the island of Nias, also in Sumatra, and in the city of Yogyakarta in Java after quakes.

Yudhoyono thanked fellow Muslim nation Saudi Arabia for donating $50 million to the recovery effort. Aid from at least 16 nations and international bodies has arrived since last week, although foreign search and rescue teams are now leaving.

Indonesia’s official death toll from the quake is 625 dead and 295 missing, but Indonesia’s health minister has said the toll could reach as high as 3,000.

(Additional reporting by Olivia Rondonuw in JAKARTA; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Oct 5, 2009

Some schools reopen in quake-hit Indonesia city

PADANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – Markets reopened and some children attended school in the earthquake-shattered city of Padang on Monday, but inland villages engulfed by landslides were to be left as mass graves to focus on getting aid to survivors.

Relief workers saw little chance of finding anyone alive in the rubble of buildings five days after a 7.6 magnitude quake hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra, perhaps killing thousands.

Oct 4, 2009

Aid push to villages wiped out by Indonesia quake

PADANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – Rescuers and aid workers were fanning out on Monday into the hills of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, where hundreds of people were buried in landslides triggered by an earthquake that may have killed 3,000.

In the shattered city of Padang, which bore the brunt Wednesday’s 7.6 magnitude quake, unidentified victims pulled from the rubble were due to be laid to rest. Relief workers said there was little hope of finding anyone else alive in the ruins.

Oct 4, 2009

Indonesia prepares for mass burial of quake dead

PADANG, Indonesia, Oct 4 (Reuters) – Indonesians dug a pit for a mass burial in the earthquake shattered city of Padang on Sunday, while in nearby hills villagers with wooden hoes clawed in the mud in a near-hopeless search for hundreds entombed by landslides.

Rescue teams combing the rubble of Padang said there was little prospect of finding more survivors from a disaster that authorities say may have killed 3,000 people.

As relief workers pushed deeper inland from the coastal city, they found entire villages obliterated by landslides and homeless survivors desperate for food, water and shelter.

"I am the only one left," said Zulfahmi, 39, who was in the village of Kapalo Koto, near Pariaman, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Padang, with 36 family members when Wednesday’s 7.6 magnitude quake struck.

"My child, my wife, my mother-in-law, they are all gone. They are under the earth now."

Indonesia’s health minister, Siti Fadillah Supari, told Reuters by telephone that the government estimated the death toll could reach 3,000, adding that disease was becoming a concern, especially in Padang city, where a pervading stench of decomposing bodies hangs over the ruined buildings.

"We are trying to recover people from the debris, dead or alive. We are trying to help survivors to stay alive. We are now focusing on minimising post-quake deaths," she said.

In Padang, a port city of 900,000 that was once a centre of the spice trade, rescuers picked through collapsed buildings to look for perhaps thousands of people still buried.

"We are doing final checks before we can declare the rescue phase is over. We think it’s the end of the rescue phase," said British rescue worker Peter Old, of Rapid UK. "There’s very little chance of finding people alive."

A pit had been dug in the Tunggul Hitam public cemetery in Padang for a mass burial of 11 unidentified bodies retrieved from the ruined Ambacang Hotel, a landmark in a town famous across Indonesia for its spicy cuisine and dramatic curved roofs.

A huge rescue operation at the hotel involving international teams with sniffer dogs had failed to find anyone alive inside.


In remoter areas, the scale of the disaster was still becoming clear, with at least five villages swallowed by torrents of mud and rock. One landslide hit a wedding party.

"In the villages in Pariaman, we estimate about 600 people died," said Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry’s crisis centre. Pariaman, closer to the epicentre, is one of the worst-affected areas.

"In one of the villages, there’s a 20-metre-high minaret, it was completely buried, there’s nothing left, so I presume the whole village is buried by a 30-metre deep landslide."

In another rural area, a resident said it was too late for aid.

"Don’t bother trying to bring aid up there," said Afiwardi, who pointed past a landslide that cut off a road. "Everyone is dead."

But in other areas aid was still urgently needed.

"We haven’t had any food except instant noodles for four days. There are lots of injured and we need medical help," said Hery, an official in Sungai Limau. A noticeboard by his office listed the names of the dead with ages ranging from 1 to 95.


Indonesia’s disaster agency said 20,000 buildings had been damaged in the quake, with most government offices destroyed.

"Such widespread infrastructure damage will make it hard for the city to bounce back," said Eko Suhadi, spokesman for the Indonesian Red Cross.

In a sign of a slow return to normalcy, shops had reopened in some parts of Padang and a pizza restaurant was crowded with diners. But close to the badly hit Chinatown district, six women were drawing filthy water from a monsoon drain.

Padang lies on one of the most active faultlines in the world, but a geologist said the city had been ill-prepared and remained at risk of being wiped out in the next decade by a more powerful earthquake. [ID:nSP498004]

"I think Padang is totally unprepared. Generally, the existing structures are not designed to be quake-proof and that’s why the devastation is so great," said Danny Hilman Natawidjaja from the Indonesian Science Institute.

(For a graphic, click here) (Additional reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu in Jakarta and Thin Lei Win in Pariaman; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Alex Richardson)