Sunday, November 29, 2009

Natural Disasters & Immorality

At the end of 2004, the Tsunami devastated Aceh and killed more than 100,000 people. Since then, Indonesia has been struck by a series of natural disasters the latest being the earthquake in West Sumatera few months ago.

In this regards, I would like to quote an article in The Jakarta Globe about the opinion of the Minister of Information and Communication Tifatul Sembiring, as follows :

Indonesian Minister Draws Twitter Anger for Disaster Remarks

A government minister drew sharp criticism from earthquake victims Saturday and alienated some of his Twitter followers by blaming natural disasters in Indonesia on immorality.

Communication and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring linked disasters to declining public morals when he addressed a prayer meeting in the city of Padang to mark Idhul Adha on Friday.

"Television broadcasts that destroy morals are plentiful in this country and therefore disasters will continue to occur," Antara quoted Sembiring as saying.

He also referred to Indonesian-made hard-core sex DVDs available in street markets as an example of growing public decadence and called for tougher laws against pornography.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that make the nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity. A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Aceh.

A magnitude 7.6 temblor on Sept. 30 killed more than 1,000 on western Sumatra.

News of what Sembiring, a former leader of the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party, said provoked criticism Saturday from disaster victims.

Kikie Marzuki, a Muslim Aceh resident who lost 10 relatives in the tsunami, said victims were not to blame.

"I prefer to believe that natural disasters occur because of the destructive force of nature that cannot be avoided by humans," he said.

Sembiring's remarks also brought swift rebuke from some of his followers on the social interaction network Twitter.

One tweeter, who identified himself as Ari Margiono, told Sembiring his words inferred that residents of Aceh and Padang were more decadent than other Indonesians.

"Disasters provide a momentum for repentance," he told the Jakarta Globe earlier.

Not everyone disagreed with him, and his speech in Padang won the backing of the Indonesian Ullema Council.

"Based on the religious view, a disaster could be seen as a punishment for people's sins, and could also as a reminder to us of our mistakes," prominent council member Ma'ruf Amin said.


Duckham said...

That is the kind of comment that harms Indoneia's efforts to be considered internationally as a modern culture based on fine traditions, tolerance and a use science. A rather thoughtless remark, I think.

H. Nizam said...


I agree with you.
If the words come from a common man it can be understandable.
Maybe it's because that he's just taken the ministerial post for one month.

Rob Baiton said...

Or maybe he really believes that the reason for natural disasters is that some Indonesians are heading down an immoral path and this is God's way of getting them back onto the path of righteousness.

H. Nizam said...


It's possible and personally he has the right to say and share it with members of his political party or religious gatherings. But it would be different if he spread it to the general public & try to make others think the same way.

Rob Baiton said...


He is free to hold those opinions and express them in an open and democratic Indonesia, isn't he?

He would have the right to discuss these ideas and beliefs in public, wouldn't he?

And, then it is up to the public to decide whether what he has to say is legitimate or not. Besides there is no law that says you cannot disagree with the Minister of Communications and Information is there? So, if you disagree then shout your disagreement from wherever you can :D

H. Nizam said...


The problem is that his statement was made in front of people in Padang who recently suffered from the effect of earthquake.
Its like saying that victims of natural disasters, like in West Sumatera and Aceh, are immoral therefore they suffered.

People who do not agree with his statement should be free to express their objections.

Rob Baiton said...


That is my point. He is free to express his opinions and views, insensitive as they may well be in the surroundings that they were made, but similarly you are free to express your disagreement.

Voltaire once said something along the lines of, I might not agree with what you say but I would die to protect your right to say it...

That is the point, is it not?

H. Nizam said...


Yes, you are very right.
But I am not sure whether the majority of people in Indonesia feel the same way.

Edwin's Personal Blog said...

Immorality exactly has something to do with disasters. It's a cause-and-effect matter. No need to convey the logic since it's a divine explanation...

Rob Baiton said...

@ Edwin...

Really, it is cause and effect? Then why have places like Banda Aceh been flattened by a tsunami and Padang crushed by an earthquake while places like Jakarta survive relatively unscathed?

If it was simple cause and effect, then wouldn't it be true that Jakarta gives more cause to the divine to intervene with an effect?

Just a thought seeing one need not explain the logic.

H. Nizam said...


I hope you are not implying that what happened in Padang & Aceh was caused by 'immoral' behaviors of the people in those provinces?
I hope not because I thought, in a way, they are more devoted to Islam compared to other provinces, e.g. Aceh is a.k.a Serambi Mekah.


We both agreed that in a democratic society people should be allowed to express opinions freely. And those who do not agree should also be allowed to express their objections freely, n'est pas?

Rob Baiton said...


If you are referring to my reply to Edwin, then you are misreading what has been said. I am more than happy for Edwin to hold whatever opinion that he believes in and believes to be right.

I am merely looking to engage in debate as to the "cause and effect" and explore the rationale behind claiming that the divine might choose one place in preference to another, particularly when there are seemingly other more immoral places in Indonesia.

Practicing your French?

H. Nizam said...


Okay I've got your point, I think that our thoughts are basically the same.

PS: I haven't been speaking French for quite a while, so it slipped out of my mouth (LOL)