Although I have stated quite strongly
that the tsunami was not 'an act of God' and do not espouse any one religion or faith above another, there are times when empathy is called for. Acehnese pilgrims returning from the haj
in Mecca are only now discovering the extent of their losses.
Grief swept through the Banda Aceh airport overnight when hundreds of Acehnese Muslims returned from the annual Haj pilgrimage to learn they had lost children, parents and homes to the waves. Pilgrims cannot cut short the trip once they have left because the journey is seen as a symbol of submission and self-sacrifice to God. Therefore, even though they would have heard about the devastation and horrific loss of life, they had to stay.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he regretted the assault against antigraft activist Farid Faqih, who soldiers alleged had stolen relief aid in Aceh.
Lt. Col. Sazili, the air base commander, said,
"The beating was unavoidable because the officers had been waiting to distribute the aid for two days.
The government admitted
yesterday that the management of public donations for the tsunami survivors in Aceh and North Sumatra had been tainted by malfeasance.
The balance sheet reveals that the government has received Rp 914 billion from the public and has spent Rp 114 billion on relief operations in the tsunami-stricken areas.
That leaves at least Rp.800 billion up for grabs then.