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     Volume 8 Issue 79 | July 24, 2009 |

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The Morning After

The Morning After

This file photo released by Jakarta police on December 23, 2002 shows Malaysian terror suspect Noordin Mohammed Top, who is named by Indonesian authorities as the likely suspect behind July 17, 2009 suicide bombings at the two luxury hotels in Jakarta that left at least eight dead and 55 injured. Authorities say the attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels bear all the hallmarks of Noordin, who leads the most violent splinter faction of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional network.

Whether by coincidence or by design, things started to happen as soon as the presidential election was over. In the past week alone, there have been bloody bomb attacks at two luxury hotels in Jakarta on Friday, a series of fatal shootings near a giant gold and copper mining operation in Papua, and another explosion of a different kind, but no less serious, which is the sudden outbreak of the H1N1 flu in the country.

Indonesia had looked forward to a more peaceful time after the divisive and tense July 8 election. We were just settling down and content with waiting for the General Elections Commission (KPU) taking its time to announce the results.

Going by the quick-count results of five different surveying agencies, the incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was already assured a landslide victory. With respect to the KPU, however, everyone concerned agreed to postpone any celebration or sending of commiseration messages until after the official results were out.

Indonesia had been mentally prepared for an anticlimax and a slow return to normal life. But after that week, we probably need an even stronger morning-after pill to face a new reality about our country. Instead of the democratic, stable and economically growing Indonesia, we have a country where havoc is being wreaked by the rapid spread of the H1N1 virus and a series of terrorist attacks.

No one could have anticipated these turn of event out of the ordinary tragedies that upset our notion of “normality”.

Normalcy would include news of the European Union finally lifting the ban on four Indonesian airlines from flying to Europe. It would also include the President intervening, though not successfully, in the ongoing conflict between the police and the anti-corruption commission (KPK) to the detriment of the anti-graft campaign. We could even include a court decision to give probationary jail term to a man for writing a letter to a newspaper complaining about a land transaction that went awry as normal events occurring in an emerging democracy.

Normalcy includes the losers in the election nursing their wounds.

Jusuf Kalla, the outgoing Vice President, faces mounting pressure to resign as chairman of the Golkar Party. As the Indonesian expression goes, after falling down from the ladder, he was also hit by the ladder. Politics is cruel when you are on the losing side. The best you can do is accept the defeat and try to make as graceful an exit as possible. Kalla is probably good for the remaining three months of his term as Vice President.

Indonesian forensic investigators inspect the aftermath of a bomb blast. A Malaysian extremist wanted for a string of terror attacks has been named as the man most likely behind twin suicide bombings at luxury hotels in Indonesia, which killed at least nine people.

Former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and her running mate Prabowo Subianto have been busy collecting evidence to show the election was rigged. It remains unclear how they hope to use this material as the KPU already has gone ahead with its announcement, irrespective of their findings. The best Megawati could hope for is to cast some doubts about the credibility of the electoral process. But the KPU results will likely stand as the public in general will accept them and move on.

Normalcy in Indonesia also includes the incumbent or his team refraining from celebrating the victory. The nearest public display of victory was when Yudhoyono received congratulatory messages from foreign leaders. Probably that was the only time too. When the results were formally announced, there was hardly any time to celebrate, certainly not given how the country has been going downhill this past week.

Yudhoyono needs to go back to the business of governing and managing the country. The challenges don't get easier. The H1N1 outbreak and the terrorist attacks, coming straight after his re-election victory, literally exploded in his face. These two issues will require his utmost attention in the coming weeks if he is to restore domestic and international public confidence in Indonesia and in his ability to lead.

We have been buoyed by the lavish praises from outsiders about our successes in the economy and in our democratic elections to the point of letting our guards down.

When the United Nations declared the H1N1 flu as a global pandemic, the government, in particular the Health Ministry, took a lax if not dismissive attitude. It could not have been more wrong. Now that H1N1 is here with us, and we already have our first confirmed deaths, the virus will spread faster and wider. The government's response has been limited to preparing hospitals to deal with patients, when it should have taken stronger measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The shootings near the gold mining operation of PT Freeport Indonesia in Papua and the bomb attacks at two Jakarta hotels exposed gaping holes in our internal security. The police and the state intelligence body, whose task it is to anticipate terrorist attacks, must be held accountable for serious security lapses that claimed many lives, including scores of foreigners.

Instead of the normal life that the nation had been looking forward to, Indonesia is now being plunged into another rocky period of uncertainty. The outside world will be asking the same questions again about the safety of travelling within Indonesia, about their investment. Indonesians will have to brace themselves for the impact.

Armed government troops stand posted outside the bomb damaged Ritz Carlton hotel in Jakarta. Police were studying explosives found in the suspects' "control centre" in room 1808 of the Jakarta Marriott hotel, which was bombed along with its nearby sister hotel the Ritz-Carlton on July 17 as guests were having breakfast.

The government, with the incumbent president getting a fresh and stronger mandate, must lead the country once again out of this new crisis.

This article was first published in the Jakarta Post.


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