Friday, September 10, 2004


This is what happened..was teaching in class when another aussie, a fellow in charge of the HSC came in and told the students we were finished for the day and they were to call home and ask for transport.

then when a student asks why..he says a bomb went off outside the Australian embassy..I buried my head in my hands..this week on monday I had called a meeting of all expats to explain that security was now a priority and to give them a sketch of the political situation in indonesia. this was followed by another meeting on tuesday where the CEO of the foundation that runs the school, promised to come out to meet us to hear our concerns on friday; on wednesday, another meeting, this time to discuss just what we would do if we were to evacuate quickly, what routes to take, how we would go about it and so on..all serious but with the constant refrain from yours truly that this is just a logical exercise, not something to get emotional over, and that it was in our best interests to be aware and ready rather than bury heads in the sand syndrome..

this following morning a student approaches me and asks if I think there is going to be trouble..she is chinese, and the stories of 1998 still reverbrate quite strongly around their community .. I say no, smile confidently..ten minutes later the aussie guy walks in and tells us school is done for the day..

the Foundation, to its credit, acted quickly, within two hours the CEO was addressing the expats and offering free flights home on full pay for those who wished to take it, tho with the proviso that we should really stick around as it was just playing into the bombers hands to go home..we all nodded, but looking around I could see that all were not convinced...
within an hour all the aussie expats said they were going..

went home and turned on the tv..the indonesian tv news here is graphic, no, more than graphic, its in your face and spares nothing..I have mentioned earlier that they like to pan up and down corpses and damaged bodies..today was no exception..god knows how but a tv crew was at the site within seconds,...the smoke was still clearing and they were filiming the whole thing..scene after horrific scene unfolded...an injured guard crawling out of a gutter, blood pouring down his face, obviously blinded, before collapsing at the feet of the cameraman,..a leg lying by itself, a body draped across a motorbike, a mangled mass of bone and flesh pushed almost through a chainlink fence, organs and matter scattered about, a small child, and it is here that the full impact of what happened finally sunk in..I wept, a small child, no more than five or six, the severity of the bomb had ripped her clothes from her and she was lying face up near her mother..who was also lying motionless..another guard stumbling along, bleeding profusely crying out in pain..I wont go on..it was just too horrific to ever put properly into words..but I can tell you, it was terrible, here were these people, stumbling dazedly about..or being dragged from gutters and ditches, cops, gaurds, passerbys, motorists...and the scenes were so real, so unpolished, that the enormity of what had happened was almost too much to bear..we watch the news and see the massacre in russia and get upset but we are carefully shielded by the media from the true horror of what had occured..not here..

Indonesian tv was superb in that they kept up a running commentary for hours, allowing people to phone in and express their outrage and horror..the calls were numerous..and all with the same sentiment.." I hope they catch the bastards and deal with them etc etc ...." .

The news this evening after the shock had worn off was still the same, but with a more considered approach...yes, aussies have finally been targeted, but, the spokesman for the foreign ministry reminds the lateline fellow (whats his name) who is trying to get him to admit that aussies are in danger that in this instance, as in the marriot bombing, while foreigners are targeted, it is the indonesians who suffer..he says this with such dignity and self control, yet with such pathos... I felt like thumping the interviewer for his crass ignorance... yes, the bali bombing did cause tremendous losses... but we are not alone in our suffering...as it stands at the moment, 8 dead, but they can only identify 4...the chainlink fence and its contents will remain with me for some time.

So, after all is said and done, I am taking up the Foundation on its offer and flying home to wife and children... going to spend three weeks back in the countryside and breath the fresh air, then come back. Hopefully, with family in tow..but we'll see, if the reports consider the area too dangerous..then we will have to reconsider..

Elections and Rumours

I tried to post this last night but couldnt..and now it seems all so prophetic..see above..

Last Night:
With all the reports of possible problems in Jakarta, we decided to leave mother and children in aussie until after the general elections had settled down, only now to be confronted with a new election on the 20th September. This time things have been getting more interesting. The race is down to two candidates, and Indonesia is holding its collective breath to see who will make it to the top post.

The rumours and stories running around Indo are fascinating and somewhat scary…to the point that the aussie embassy (following the US embassy) issued its strongest worded statement in over three years warning of possible trouble...(see article below).

Thus, we are now on hold again for wife and children to arrive back, they were due back on the 14th , six days before the election, but now we have decided to wait until the elections are well and truly over, early October, before attempting to get them back here.

It’s difficult to know who or what to believe, but this time people are sitting up and taking notice. Expat staff at my school are considering going home before the elections are held, and security is being tightened everywhere, though Jakarta seems to be generally quiet at the moment. Time will tell if all this is just another “much ado about nothing”, or is indeed a credible threat.

I have chatted to a few people, mostly old hands and bearing in mind the conversation I had last night with two old expat hands I think the scenario is this.

There are predictions of trouble in late September due to the fact that Bambang and Megawati are both supported by powerful groups, and if either were to lose, the groups involved would be seriously unhappy, thus, at least according to the expats I met, there is going to be trouble. How much and when etc is anyone’s guess, but common consensus is after the election, as counting normally takes two weeks, thus late September early October.

The problem is this: Megawati is being supported by Golkar the largest and most powerful political party of Suharto’s regime. However, Golkar has lost twice already, and if they were to lose again it would be a serious loss of face for them. The military is said to be supporting Golkar and Megawati. On the other hand, you have Bambang who is ex army, and only a 3star general when he retired, thus reducing him in the eyes of the 4star generals who run the army, they cant see themselves working for a 3 star general. Golkar is also showing signs of splits, as some factions within are refusing to support mega, probably realising that Bambang has the support of the people, and as such, is the one to back. This goes against the party central machine and they are being told very sternly to fall into line, but they aren’t, thus this is also causing a ruckus amongst the various factions, spilling over into the newspapers...thus causing even more widespread potential for loss of face for Golkar.

Enter the army. They won’t support Bambang, but will back Megawati. The people won’t support Megawati but will support Bambang. Thus, you have two opposing forces, the people against the army and Golkar.

What will happen is anybodies guess, but the two old hands told me there would almost certainly be trouble either way. Other people are not so sure.

Finally, just to add a bit more excitement to the mix, you have the various fundamentalist Islamic groups operating with some impunity across Indonesia, or so the western media keeps telling us, and looking for a bun fight. If they were to decide to get involved and make whatever hackneyed statement they are so wont to do, then the time would be around the elections, to cause as much ruckus as possible. After chatting to various people, I finally decided to call a meeting of the expats and explain the political and security situation, we have all agreed to be more cautious and have asked the Foundation to set out evacuation and security procedures. Guess its better to be prepared than to just wait and see.

Talking to everybody and anybody is interesting but doesn’t really tell you much more. Some say that the elections will proceed calmly due to the military and police both advising that they will brook no mucking about, and have promised a trouble free election. Others say that the military are also keeping one hand behind their backs with two fingers crossed, and others are saying that the Islamic movements will surely not do anything after the school massacre (who stayed up watching that one? I did, it was both harrowing and upsetting, I don’t think I have ever been as affected as I was by the coverage of the limp bodies young children were being carried away) in Russia and the taint that has spread across their various organizations (after Russian officials conveniently confirmed that some of the “hostage takers” were of “Arabic” descent). would make any further action unlikely in the extreme for the moment

WASHINGTON : Western hotels are potential targets of terrorist attacks in Indonesia ahead of the third anniversary of the September 11, 2001, mayhem, the United States said in an updated travel alert Tuesday.It reminded citizens to defer non-essential travel to the Southeast Asian archipelago.In the travel warning, the State Department alerted American citizens to "security concerns regarding identifiably western hotels and reminds travelers of the ongoing terrorist threat for Indonesia."US government travelers to Indonesia "have been directed to avoid identifiably western hotels," the statement said, updating an advisory issued about three months ago. Americans were reminded to "defer all non-essential travel to Indonesia" but those continuing to travel there despite the advisory were told to observe personal security precautions, including "continued potential for terrorist attacks against Americans, US- or other Western interests."The State Department said Tuesday that the US government continued to receive information that Jemaah Islamiyah or JI, regarded as al-Qaeda's Southeast Asian chapter, and other extremist groups might be planning attacks against American and other Western interests in Indonesia. Americans in Indonesia were advised to maintain a low profile, vary daily routines, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and keep abreast of current Indonesian events.Since security has increased at official US facilities, terrorists could seek "softer" targets, it warned. They include places where Americans and other Westerners live, congregate, shop or visit, it said, listing among other targets clubs, restaurants, shopping centers, transportation systems, places of worship and schools.The State Department also warned that the JI and other Islamic militant groups might use the September 20 Indonesian presidential elections as an "opportune" occasion to conduct attacks. "Election-related violence is possible. Americans should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, which could turn violent or cause unexpected traffic disruptions," it said. - AFP

So, the question remains, we have seen these warnings for years now and it has all become a bit hohum, complacency does set in and one wonders if indeed anything is going to happen. Stay tuned, this either be a calm and quiet election with the odd small demo, or ….


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Birth Of A Son

Its been ages since I last updated this blogspot, so much has gone one and happened since last wrote that I just don’t know where to even begin.

So let’s start right at the beginning, I left Jakarta on the 19th June to meet my wife and child in Australia, as we were expecting lil one number 2. Stayed with Mum who as usual, was extremely generous and made us feel very welcome. After some false starts, the better half gave birth to a fairly large boy, now making what Indonesians admiringly call “sepasang”, a pair. That is, a boy and a girl…. I wont go into the birth of the bubs, suffice to say that it was long, though most probably longer for my better half who had to deal with the whole thing, all I did was pop in and out of the birthing suite while my sister, an expert after 4 home births, took control and was the birthing partner... Why? you may ask….well, if you have ever been at a birth with me in attendance, you’ll understand why…sister was a far better option than me…and she did brilliantly..

To have a new child is both an amazing experience and also a wonderful one, though my time finished too quickly and I had to get back for the start of the new school year.

Its been nearly two months now since I’ve seen my family and time is beginning to weigh heavily. It’s not easy leaving your family in one place and living in another, I feel I have missed quite a bit but console myself with the thought that when we are together again, this should be the last time we will be apart for so long.

The good news is that while they have been away our apartment was totally renovated, thus it’ll be nice for them all to be in a freshly painted, new bathrooms and kitchen apartment!

Left Aussie on the 12th and headed back to Jakarta.


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