Do Not Exploit Disaster Victims for Votes
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 10, 2011
Summary: In the face of natural disasters, man will not always prevail. The road to reconstruction will be a long one. The second anniversary of the disaster is merely a mile marker along the way. As we proceed toward the third anniversary, we hope the government will be more proactive, more patient, more communicative, and more adept at coordination. It is not merely the infrastructure that needs rehabilitation. We too need spiritual rehabilitation.
Full Text below:
"That is my home, the autumn maple tree is my house number." People who have homes will find it hard to feel the pain of those who have lost their homes. Two years ago, Typhoon Morakot took over 400 lives in Hsiao Lin village, Victims' families held memorial services in honor of loved ones, Thes people can never return to Hsiao Lin Village, Some people carved their house number on rocks. Some people planted sunflowers, or autumn maples. The trees represent homes. The survivors' hearts are filled with thoughts of home. But they are also filled with pain.
Two years ago, on August 7, Typhoon Morakot struck Taiwan. Record rains caused severe flooding in central, southern, and eastern Taiwan. These widespread floods caused landslides. In Hsiao Lin village hundreds of people were buried alive. Other areas suffered severe damage, including Namasia Township, Kaohsiung County, Liuguai Township, Pingtung County, Linbian Township, Jiadong Township, Taitung County, Beinan Township, and Taimali. According to official statistics, the storm caused 681 deaths. Eighteen people are still missing. President Ma Ying-jeou's approval rating has plummeted. Premier Liu weathered the global financial tsunami, but was forced to resign in September over the disaster relief issue.
Hundreds of deaths have left wounds in the hearts of survivors that will never heal.
The Ma administration will find it difficult to emerge from under this shadow.
On the eve of the 8/8 Floods, President Ma Ying-jeou revisited the disaster area and stayed overnight in Hsiao Lin Village. DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen criticized Ma. She accused him of visiting the disaster area on the second anniversary of the flood, after neglecting it for over two years, In fact, President Ma visited the disaster area 82 times. Actually, for disaster victims, the number of visits to the disaster area is not that meaningful. It is however, part of the Ma administration's required homework. It enables the administration to keep a close eye on reconstruction. It also enables the administration to continuously track the effectiveness of its disaster prevention and disaster relief efforts.
Over the past two years, reconstruction work has continued unabated. According to the government's numbers, it has provided more than 200 hectares of land to disaster victims. In cooperation with charitable organizations, it has completed nearly 3000 permanent homes, and benefited over 10,000 people. The government undertook Infrastructure projects in 18 major disaster areas. These include the Chi Chi Section of Taiwan Route 16, the Alishan Highway, the Da Jin Bridge, the Chiahsien Bridge, the Liuguai Bridge, the Qishan Bridge, and the Xinfa Bridge on Taiwan Route 27. The Gaoshu Levee in Pingtung is already complete. Industrial reconstruction includes orchid flower cultivation and grouper fish farming. Over 400 hectares of farmland lost during the disaster were recovered.
Nevertheless, reconstruction remains incomplete. For example, Aborigines are most concerned about Taiwan Highway Route 20 and Taiwan Highway Route 21. These have yet to be approved. Some Aborigines are still getting used to living in permanent dwellings, far from their native villages, Some roads remain impassable, The damage caused by the disaster was too extensive. It poses obstacles to swift reconstruction. Some villages have been unable to stabilize the soil. Rains still bring disaster. It is unlikely they will be able to return to their native villages in the near term. To most victims, the homes they lost were their real homes.
Premier Wu Den-yih teared up during the press conference held on the second anniversary of disaster reconstruction. But a number of Aboriginal elected officials protested on behalf of Aboriginal peoples outside the Executive Yuan. Their protests signs read,"Aboriginal Village Restoration Rate: 0. Eviction Rate: 90." Premier Wu, who was moved to tears, may feel wronged. Demanding that victims move away from their tribal villages is a last resort. After all, human life is more important than a particular locale. No one on Taiwan, including the government, can endure an even worse disaster.
When victims protest, the government must listen. The wounds the victims have endured cannot be healed merely by providing them with attractive new homes. What they really want is to return to their old homes. They do not want to be evicted and forced to move north, Their wishes, alas, cannot be fulfilled any time soon. Under the circumstances, all the government can do is remain humble. All it can do is help victims to the best of its ability, The holes in the victims' hearts can never be healed.
Reconstruction has proceeded for two years. Some people are angry at the government over the slow pace of reconstruction. Many more meanwhile, suffer in silence. They do their best to endure, They find ways to integrate themselves into unfamiliar new environments. They learn how to begin anew. "Nature shows no mercy, but among men there is love." Premier Wu bowed low before disaster victims three times during the press conference, He thanked reconstruction personnel. He expressed his gratitude to survivors who have remained positive and optimistic towards life, These survivors have withstood these challenges of nature, and these tests of their character. They have proven their love of mankind.
Those who have not undergone such an experience, cannot imagine how the past two years have been for disaster victims. Tsai Ing-wen criticized Ma Ying-jeou, saying he visited the disaster site only on the second anniversary of the typhoon. But how many times did she visit the same site? How many times did DPP county chiefs and city mayors visit disaster sites under their jurisdiction? The Democratic Progressive Party accused Premier Wu of shedding "crocodile tears." But how many tears have DPP officials shed for the disaster victims? DPP officials' callous sniping, all for the sake of electoral advantage, does nobody any good. It does no good for the victims. It does no good for the reconstruction effort. It does no good for the hearts of men.
In the face of natural disasters, man will not always prevail. The
road to reconstruction will be a long one. The second anniversary of
the disaster is merely a mile marker along the way. As we proceed toward
the third anniversary, we hope the government will be more proactive,
more patient, more communicative, and more adept at coordination. It is
not merely the infrastructure that needs rehabilitation. We too need