Unspun penned this for Malaysian paper The Star last night. Its my impressions about the reaction to the Ritz-Carlton-JW Marriott bombings in Jakarta.Was told that they are using it today but haven’t been able to check. and The article was published in Page 4 of The Star today. Here’s an electronic version:
Saturday July 18, 2009
Jakarta: Bombs won’t defeat us
By ONG HOCK CHUAN
JAKARTA: If there is an overarching phrase to describe how Indonesians reacted to the bombings at the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels yesterday, it would be “in their stride”.
As can be expected of such a momentous and violent incident that saw at least eight people dead and dozens injured, there was a spectrum of reactions ranging from despair and sadness to defiance and anger.
By and large, however, Indonesians, who have lived through a spate of bombings six years ago and before that riot and demonstrations when Suharto fell, took the bombings in their stride. To be sure, the bombings were a distraction.
Office workers glued themselves to the TV to see the latest developments in the aftermath of the bombs that took place just as the working day began.
The more tech-savvy reached for their handphones, computers and Twitter and Facebook accounts. The result was a surprisingly rational appraisal of the situation as it went as Twitterers regulated each other and the mainstream media.
Shortly after the explosions, for instance, the TV stations were already concluding that the explosions were the result of bombs.
Twitterers roundly criticised the TV stations for coming to premature conclusions. At that time the only facts that were certain were that there had been two explosions, and nobody knew exactly what the causes were.
The TV stations were also slow off the mark, showing Google Earth-type satellite photos of Mega Kuningan, a business district in downtown Jakarta where both the hotels were located.
Some Indonesians said over Twitter that they were sad and angry at the perpetrators, other said they wanted to know who was behind it. Yet, some others were nonchalant, wondering whether Manchester United which was scheduled to land in Indonesia would cancel their visit.
By mid-morning the TV stations were already at the scene and provided live footage of the carnage. Indonesians saw the damage done to the hotels, police climbing into the hotels with surgical masks and rubber gloves to investigate and, in a fit of tastelessness, graphic images of wounded victims.
By then there were also rumours swirling around the capital that there had been another explosion at Muara Angke, that a bomber was caught trying to enter FX, an entertainment-oriented mall near the Senayan Sports Complex; and that eight bombs will go off in Jakarta, mainly in malls.
The rumours all turned out to be false but that didn’t deter many Jakartans from avoiding the shopping malls during lunch time, “just in case”.
Away from the malls, however, it was life as usual as the Friday lunch crowd carried on as if there had been no bombing.
After prayers, President Susilo Bambang Yudhono addressed the nation live on national TV. He was visibly emotional and livid, a side the public had not seen since he came to power more than five years ago.
He called the terrorists “Draculas” and said that their act had destroyed efforts to rebuild Indonesia over the past five years.
He then said something that left many Indonesian observers puzzled – that there was a conspiracy against him being made president for a second term. It has been barely two weeks after the presidential elections in which SBY, as he is known here, according to all quick counts, won by a landslide.
He then showed screen grabs of a video where masked gunmen used his image for target practice. He went on to pledge that he would go all out to fight terrorism.
No doubt over the next few days and weeks Indonesia and the world will be looking for answers behind the bombings.
There will be displays of unity and defiance. There will be sorrow and mourning. But the important thing to note is that the Indonesians are taking the bombings in their stride and carrying on with their lives as normally as they can.
They have been through much, seen much and experienced much. This bombing is but yet another challenge along the road. In taking things in their stride, and refusing to be cowed or frightened by the bombings, the Indonesians are probably delivering the most potent blow against the terrorists.