Those of us who live in Indonesia are used to taking risks as we or our friends go through riots, floods, landslides, ferry sinkings and other disasters. But throughout all these mishaps, and probly because there are so many of them, Garuda has come to represent for us the one symbol of safety in a tumultous sea of danger. It wasn’t the world’s best airline by a long shot, but it was at least much better and safer than the rest of the field in Indonesia.
In discussing the unreliability of airlines in Indonesia people would proudly say that if they have to fly in Indonesia they would fly only Garuda. To those of us who were more hardy and flew other airlines Garuda was still a psychological comfort. In a country of cowboy airline operators Garuda still represented a standard bearer against which all others could benchmark themselves, we liked to tell ourselves. It was perhaps an illusion but it provided comfort, and hope that not all is lost.
When GA 200 crashed this morning, all illusions that we may have had of Garuda being a standard bearer crashed with the plane. Though garuda may not be responsible for the crash, the feeling now is that “if even Garuda can crash, what hope is there left for aviation safety in this country?”.
My office colleagues, all hardened by news of one disaster or another through the years, are all visibly rattled for the first time I can remember. The fact that one of our colleagues have almost certainly lost someone near to her does not help make it any easier.
I fear a sense of despair may spread following GA 200, primarily of the destruction of Garuda’s symbolic significance.
Garuda, so far, seems to be handling the situation competently and Unspun hopes that it continues to do so. But such dark times call for leadership and we have no one to look to for this other than the President.
President SBY must now restore hope to the nation by articulating clearly the anguish and despair we all feel and outline a concrete plan of action of how the government will ensure aviation safety moving forward. And he needs to follow up these words with concrete actions, or he will plunge the population into a chasm of cynicism.
The shock that goes through Indonesia today is palpable.