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19 April 2006

ethnic rioting on Guadalcanal

Guadalcanal (click for larger)

The capital town Honiara and Henderson Field airport are on the north coast. Guadalcanal, and in particular Henderson Field, were the sites of ferocious combat -- from August 1942 to February 1943 -- when the U.S. Army invaded to wrest the island from the occupying Imperial Japanese forces. Naval and naval air combat were also fierce.

As the Governor-General of the Solomon Islands is trying to explain to the Reuters stringer (I see all this so clearly in the Heathkit Solid-State Remote Viewer RV-116) on Guadalcanal, ethnic riots and violence are an almost perpetual commonplace in the islands of Pacifica, in the archipelagos from Southeast Asia to the Phillipines, as well as in East Africa. The riots are not always spontaneous popular uprisings. Often the politics of some of these places evolve around and depend upon the simmering hatred against ethnic Chinese or immigrants from India/Pakistan.

Australia and New Zealand acknowledge and to some degree try to fulfil treaty and colonial obligations, but typically the only active political contacts with Canberra or Wellington are when Canberra or Wellington have to dispatch two companies of infantry to quell the violence in a sudden coup.

Because so many of these islands (not all -- Niue could be sitting pretty if it's really sitting on top of a newly surveyed mountain of Uranium) are so desperately poor, and live in decades of neglect from the Wealth Centers, they are not a bad choice for Canary In The Coal Mine of the Week.

If Bad Things are headed our way, the Bad Things will reach places like Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands, and do their Worst, many years before they start to bother, annoy, pester, sicken and kill significant numbers of us in Pennsylvania.

There's a buzz around, particularly loud since Katrina, that The Weather Is Rapidly Degrading in Multiple, Quantifiable Dimensions, and one of the signs we schlubs first notice are the increasing numbers and the increasing destruction of tropical cyclones, hurricanes, monsoons, tornados, taifun.

The Tsunami was triggered by a massive earthquake in Java, Indonesia, so there is no Window of Wise Policy to do much about the Earthquake- or Volcano-triggered Tsunami. Mostly lots more electronic early-warning buoys, and a better switchboard to Get The Word Out To The Most People A.S.A.P -- and the word is: FLEE TO HIGH GROUND! Like military jobs, monitoring for Big Anamolies in the sea and atmosphere is being transferred from humans to robots; I hope the Software is robust and smart. When The Shit Hits The Fan, crappy Software won't cut it, and there isn't much time to call Bangalore to patch it -- as Galois wrote the night before his pistol duel over a woman named Motel:
Mais je n'ai pas le temps

If anyone knows who actually writes this kind of Global Early-Warning Catastrophe Robot Coordinating Software, please e-mail Vleeptron, we have Many Questions of this Entity.

But the islands of the Pacific, and their people, and birds, and meat and dairy animals, and plants -- and the unique things they have, like mangrove and micromollusk filtration systems and coral reefs -- if the Philly suburbs are heading for Doom, Guadalcanal will signal it first, years early. You will see it on CNN while you are sipping a chilled merlot. Heading slowly your way.

This is also a Volcanic Event and thus Entirely Beyond Our Power To Do Squat About, but on the night of 8 May 1902, the population of Saint-Pierre, Martinique , 29,000 women, children, men were asphyxiated; a big hot nasty cloud (a Pyroclastic Event or Pyroclastic Flow) just rolled down the side of Mount Pelée, into the town and snuffed everybody.

Some sites say two men survived, but the best legends and stories are that only Louis-Auguste Cyparis,
the town drunk, survived in a basement jail cell, which miraculously maintained an air pocket for him. He toured with the Barnum & Baily Circus, and then became a Catholic monk in a monastery and remained there for the rest of his life.

As the first sailors of the morning stepped ashore, only Cyparis' voice could be heard crying for help from the jail cell; all else were silent, or corpses. The gorgeous harbor town wasn't damaged much, and you can still visit and have a wonderful, beautiful time, or perhaps you can stay longer, rent a little house in Saint-Pierre, spend your time looking up at Pel
ée. Thrillseeker In Paradise. On nearby Montserrat, a volcanic awakening in 1995 has killed nineteen and sent two-thirds of the rest of the population on a wrenching diaspora like the massive dislocation Katrina caused. People still live there, most or nearly all just because they love the place, it's home.

The United States government ruled last year that the thousands of Montserratans living in the US on emergency humanitarian relief visas -- the US has declared that The Emergency Is Now Over, and booted them out of the US. The US declared that they are now no longer sufficiently tired or sufficiently poor to merit our humanitarian hospitality.

The most sophisticated leading-edge high-tech defense we have against volcanos and earthquakes is still Prayer and Sacrifice.

But whatever's coming -- perhaps on the Wings Of Migrating Fowl -- the neglected infrastructures, physical, economic, educational, medical, racial and political, will Whomp The Islands Upside The Head first, and if the people can't recover and if the people die in large numbers, it will happen in these places first. They are The Vleeptron Canary In The Coal Mine du Jour.

But at the same time, Not Much News from these places. The canaries may already be keeling over, the canaries' infrastructures may have collapsed beneath the point where life is possible -- but nobody's telling us.

Reuters is lucky they found Michael Perry On The Ground, or a Fast Nearby Ferry or Island-Hopper prop plane, to grab this interview with the unhappy, disoriented Governor-General, whose week is Nothing But Phone Calls FROM Canberra and Wellington. Helicopter-Borne Troops To Follow.

Ah. The RV-116 is coming in very clearly: Michael Perry is having a very pleasant, if somewhat dangerous and thrilling work week.

I wonder who the hell he is and what he was doing on or near Guadalcanal when TSHTF. Unlikely Reuters has an office in
Honiara. More likely a reporter or editor for the English-lingo rag in Honiara -- maybe a weekly throwaway -- strings for Reuters when Reuters takes the occasional interest in matters originating in the Solomon Island. Maybe as much as $200 a story if he's competent, reliable and a good writer.

But he was Reuters' Man On The Ground, and he found the poor distraught G-G in deeper poop than FEMA's Mike Brown.

Briefly, for one class and a movie, I was trained by the Army on how to handle riots and mobs. You try to guide them into side streets, I think, and I know all about gas masks. In our day we shot tear gas, now the Irritants for dispursing a mob are
Capsaicin / hot pepper based.


Wednesday 19 April 2006

Solomon Islands
head of state
calls for calm

by Michael Perry

SYDNEY, April 19 (Reuters) -- The Solomon Islands head of state on Wednesday blamed ethnic tensions for two days of rioting and looting sparked by the election a new prime minister who rioters accuse of being pro-Chinese.

Governor-General Sir Nathaniel Waena said the Solomon Islands was, like many developing countries in the South Pacific, struggling to manage multiracial populations and gaps in economic prosperity.

"We have got a major problem of a multi-cultural society. You can never please everybody, as you would in a homogenous place," Waena told Reuters in a telephone interview from his residence in the capital Honiara.

"It is not an uncommon thing amongst developing nations. It is something which is expected in the Solomon Islands, like it is in Papua New Guinea ... Fiji have got their share of it, Vanuatu," he said.

The Solomons was on the verge of collapse in 2003 when ethnic gangs from two islands fought over Honiara, again disgruntled over perceptions one was gaining an economic advantage.

Tensions between Guadalcanal and Malaita islanders over land stretch back to World War Two when Malaitans first moved to the new capital Honiara on Guadalcanal.

Fiji has suffered three ethnically motivated coups since 1987 while Papua New Guinea is routinely scarred by tribal warfare.

Australian troops began landing in Honiara late on Wednesday to quell the rioting and looting sparked by Snyder Rini election as prime minister in a secret parliamentary ballot on Tuesday.

Australia and New Zealand have committed an extra 235 security personnel to the Solomons.

Rioters claim Rini's new government would be heavily influenced by local Chinese businessmen and the Taiwan government, which the Solomons recognises diplomatically.

Residents in Honiara say many people are resentful of the small Chinese population, estimated at a couple of thousand, dominating businesses and blame them for rising prices. Most Solomon Islanders still live traditional subsistence lives in villages.

About 1,500 people looted and burned shops and buildings, many of them Chinese owned, in Honiara on Wednesday before Waena declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew and called for calm in a national radio broadcast.

Waena urged people not to take the law into their own hands but also said he had delayed swearing in Rini, who is being protected in an undisclosed location, until the unrest eased.

"The situation in Honiara is quite tense. Common sense tells anybody, you don't do things when the atmosphere is not conducive," Waena said.

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