Message from Jakarta
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1998:
JAKARTA, Indonesia––As dogs, cats, monkeys,
students, and looters are shot in Indonesian streets, against a
backdrop of razed stores, ethnic mayhem, and jungles ablaze
across Kalimantan and Malaysia, Hindu myth almost seems to
explain it all––especially amid the additional reverberations of
five nuclear tests in the Rajasthan desert of India.
The blasts sent a warning to Pakistan, 97% Islamic,
that added to the stress in Indonesia, too, 87% Islamic.
“It is said that when great evil stalks the earth,”
explains Nanditha C. Krishna, honorary director of the C.P.
Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation in Chennai, India, “Vishnu will
appear as Kalki, and the world will go up in flames.”
Little noted by western media, whose Indonesian
coverage was preoccupied with the retreat of the Suharto dictatorship
from policies prescribed by the International Monetary
Fund, the first massacre during the crisis was of animals,
ordered ostensibly to contain a rabies outbreak in East Flores,
the major island closest to uneasily subjugated East Timor.
Eight rabies deaths were reported in East Flores
between September 1997 and May 8, 1998, among a human
population of four million. Another 46 people were reportedly
ill from dog bite as of April 23, but media mentioned no other
deaths within the next month. Nusa Tangara province livestock
office director T.H. Salean reportedly linked the outbreak initially
to a bacterial disease that hit swine in November 1997––
not to a rabies outbreak reported simultaneously in fire-ravaged
East Kalimantan, across the Laut Flores strait.
But as demonstrations broke loose in Jakarta, 920
miles from East Flores and 750 miles from East Kalimantan,
East Flores regent Henke Mukin on May 6 declared a rabies
emergency, and ordered “all people” to kill the estimated
150,000 dogs, 100,000 cats, and 170,000 longtailed macaques
of the region. The order was much publicized by Jakarta media.
Stated Mukin, “We anticipate that there will be
protests from the community, but there is really no other way.”
Hint: protesters might be linked with mad dogs, by a
regime which took power in 1965 amid the slaughter of an estimated
300,000 ethnic Chinese residents––mostly shopkeepers
and their families––in the name of purging Communists.
Commented Arthur King, founder of the World
Health Organization’s Southern and Eastern Africa Rabies
Group, via the ProMED Internet bulletin board on emerging
diseases, “The policy of mass dog destruction is now questioned
in many quarters. It creates a vacuum which is quickly
filled by susceptibles; when properly costed, it is often more
expensive than vaccination; and it is usually totally unacceptable
to the public, meeting with resistance rather than the cooperation
essential to successful campaigns.”
There was no indication that Indonesia appealed for
vaccination help from WHO, which is five years into a thus far
highly successful effort to eradicate rabies in Europe, north
Africa, and other parts of Asia through the distribution of oral
rabies vaccine bait balls.
But vaccine-filled bait balls wouldn’t quell a revolt.