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AUSTRALIA



Published: Mon, January 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



AUSTRALIA

The Age, Melbourne, Dec. 28: On Boxing Day, the world's biggest earthquake in 40 years triggered tsunamis across southern Asia.

Coming so soon after Christmas, tragedy on such a scale compels us to reflect, even more than usual, on life -- on the life we lead and on the lives of others in the world, most of them less fortunate than us. In this time of giving, sometimes to excess in Australia, we have had a sobering reminder that there is no greater gift than life itself.

Even now, there needn't be guilt in celebrating this truly fortunate life. Knowingly ignoring the desperate needs of others is another matter altogether. Australians have so much in a world where many others have so little, and our prosperity carries with it responsibility. We can make a difference to the lives of others out of all proportion to what our contribution costs us. Australians do know something of the human and financial costs of recovery from natural disasters, but this country is also better equipped than most others to do that.

Humanitarian imperative

For every person killed, the fate of scores more depends on aid -- first to survive a time of chaos, then to rebuild homes and lives. This requires that aid pledges be kept. Of course, it will be to Australia's diplomatic advantage to provide aid, but such calculations pale against the humanitarian imperative. At this time, above all, we should recognise that. The enormity of such human tragedy strikes at our being. The only remotely adequate way to respond is to reach out and help the survivors in whatever way we can.

SINGAPORE

The Straits Times, Singapore, Dec. 29: The immediate priorities in responding to Sunday's tsunami disaster are clear: The missing have to be accounted for and resources have to be marshalled to help the millions who survived the disaster. Tents to house the homeless, food, medical supplies and sanitation equipment are urgently needed. Unless medical aid is made available quickly, and portable sanitation facilities provided, there is a serious risk of a public health disaster.

Much, however, will remain to be done even after all this has been accomplished. Beyond the first aid, there is the task of helping the victim nations to recover, and that will include restoring the infrastructure that has been destroyed -- the schools, clinics, roads, businesses and homes. As many as one million people may have lost their homes in Indonesia alone, and the number of homeless may be similarly high in Sri Lanka. Assistance will be required to help the victims rebuild their lives, for most of them live in developing countries.

Early-warning system

In the long term, the region must develop an effective early-warning system to deal with tsunamis. One of the most poignant remarks heard in the past two days came from the director of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who said his office tried to send out a warning soon after the earthquake off Sumatra's northern tip occurred, but they did not "have contacts in our address book for anybody in that part of the world." This cannot be allowed to happen again.

KENYA

Daily Nation, Nairobi, Dec. 24: Secretary General Kofi Annan has shrugged off calls to resign over a scandal that preceded him at the U.N. The so-called food-for-oil scandal is traced back to 1990 -- seven years before Mr. Annan took the helm -- and dragged on to last year. But the Americans believe they have found the smoking gun in Mr. Annan's son, Kojo.

The younger Annan is alleged to have received $150,000 over several years from Swiss company COTECNA, which received a U.N. contract in Iraq. So far, there has been no evidence linking Mr. Annan with his son's alleged misdemeanor.

It is no secret that Mr. Annan has been a thorn in the U.S. flesh after repeatedly criticizing the U.S. and its allies for their unilateral war activities.

No WMDs

Embarrassed that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction or any links with Al-Qaida terror network, Americans have been looking for a fall-guy.

America should not use its position as the biggest contributor to the U.N. to bully Mr. Annan out of office. The U.S. should allow the investigations headed by one of its own to conclude before condemning Mr. Annan.

BRITAIN

The Independent, London, Dec. 28: The Ukrainian people have delivered a decisive verdict on who should be their next president. Viktor Yushchenko has defeated his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in the Boxing Day poll. And the size of the turnout -- 77 per cent -- leaves little room for Mr. Yanukovych's campaign to mount a legal challenge to the result.

The verdict of the 1,200 independent electoral observers yesterday was also decisive. They ruled that, despite some continued problems with voter lists, this poll constituted a fair election.

Intimidation

The widespread intimidation and fraud witnessed in November's poll were, thankfully, absent this time. This alone vindicates the decision taken by the Ukrainian Supreme Court a few weeks ago to call a fresh run-off election.




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