Wed, Aug 15, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan can do more after quake on Lombok

By Ethan How 何漢昇

The magnitude 6.9 earthquake that struck the Indonesian island of Lombok on Aug. 5 has killed more than 430 people, injured more than 1,400 and left about 270,000 people homeless.

The day after the earthquake, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) posted on Twitter, in English and Indonesian, voicing her concern for the victims and announcing Taiwan’s willingness to help.

In view of the Tsai administration’s New Southbound Policy and the presence of nearly 260,000 Indonesian workers in Taiwan, and given that the impact of the disaster is worse than initially thought, the government should join forces with non-governmental organizations to provide advanced medical treatment and humanitarian assistance.

Due to historical factors, unlike Cambodia and the previous government of Malaysia, relations between the Indonesian and Chinese governments are very distant. Chinese, given the opinions voiced on the Internet, do not have very good feelings about the Indonesian government or Indonesians in general.

Indonesia is one of the countries with which Taiwan can strengthen its cooperation under the New Southbound Policy. Taiwan and Indonesia are highly complementary and have the potential to cooperate more closely in fields such as manufacturing and tourism.

When a powerful earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Taiwanese made big donations to help the victims. This led to Japanese feeling more sympathetic to Taiwan, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has thanked Taiwan for its assistance on several occasions.

In comparison, after the Lombok quake, apart from Tsai’s message, Taiwanese do not seem to know or care much about it. One thing that the government should do is to raise public awareness about the disaster.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Taiwan and Indonesia are interdependent. Figures published by the Ministry of Labor showed that as of the end of June, there were 689,824 foreign workers in Taiwan, of whom Indonesians accounted for the highest number at 259,930, or 37.68 percent.

More than 200,000 Taiwanese families rely heavily on their Indonesian carers. If we can treat these workers well and make sure that they feel the government’s concern, when they eventually go back home, they are sure to be Taiwan’s best spokespeople and present a good image of this nation.

When I started my business in Taiwan, many of my customers were Indonesians workers. After posting news about the Lombok earthquake on the Internet, I have received a lot of feedback from our Indonesian clients.

However, I have looked around for Taiwanese online discussions about the earthquake, and found that, compared with the 2011 earthquake in Japan, there is a huge difference in the amount of discussion and the degree of concern expressed.

Although Taiwan and Indonesia are far apart geographically, with nearly 260,000 Indonesian workers in Taiwan, could the Taiwanese government not do a bit more than it has so far, and do it a bit more visibly?

Ethan How, a jeweler, is originally from Malaysia.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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