Indonesia: Terrorism's Reverberations

When a vehicle packed with explosives detonated in front of the American-owned J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta on Aug. 5, killing at least 10 people and injuring more than 150, few doubted who was behind the blast or what message they were sending. Last October, the country suffered a similar terrorist attack in Bali, which killed 202 people, many of them foreigners—a crime for which Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, a suspected member of Jemaah Islamiyah, was to be sentenced on Aug. 7.

As The Jakarta Post suggested (Aug. 8): “Given the timing, and the similarities of means and methods employed in the Bali and Marriott blasts, it is not difficult to read in the latter an ominous message to the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and to the panel of judges [deciding Amrozi’s fate].” Nevertheless, the judges were not deterred. Two days after the Marriott bombing, they sentenced Amrozi to death.

On hearing the sentence, victims’ family members cheered. But not everyone believed that the threat had been neutralized. Wrote Suara Pembaruan (Aug. 11): “We worry that the brain or mastermind has not been identified. Only if the mastermind is identified...can the network of terrorists be cut off.” 

The Aug. 5 bombing at the Marriott prompted other concerns. Kompas asserted (Aug. 6): “The effect of the bombing is tremendous, as it occurred in [Indonesia’s] capital, which serves as the main showroom, or display window, for the country.” The Jakarta Post (Aug. 6) editorialized, “Experience with the Bali bombings tells us that, with the reputation of the country and government in tatters, investors and potential investors will stay away from Indonesia, as will tourists and regular visitors.”

Some writers focused on the crime’s human dimensions. Asserted Tempo (Aug. 11-17): “The victims [of the Marriott blast] are civilization’s heroes. The perpetrators, the terrorists, are like a tribe living outside civilization’s borders—like the barbarians who used to wander outside China’s Great Wall.”