14 February 2016

Jakarta Under Terrorist Attack

An account on how Jakarta face the January terror attack. Though it must be admitted there are some things to be worried about the future of the nation, this piece highly expresses positive aspects of the situation and hope of a better future.

On 14 January 2016, there was a terror attack at MH. Thamrin road, near Sarinah building, almost at the very center of Jakarta. The site of the attack was under 5 kilometers away from the Presidential Palace, Vice President Palace, National Monument "Tugu Monas", United Nations Office, as well as from the Governor's office. There were gunfights and 11 explosives, consisted of hand-grenades and bombs, of which 6 were exploded.

1. Background

The location where the terror attack unfolded itself was not at all a foreign one to me or any Jakartans.

In a regular day, Thamrin road will be congested with traffic every morning and evening, as workers come and go. It is one of the most prestigious road in Jakarta, together with General Sudirman road, they form a straight line where skyscrappers rise at its sides. Local and foreign companies love to put their headquarters and main branch there; there are head offices of banks, university, hospital, shopping center, high-class hotels and apartments, CBD, even Bursa Efek Jakarta (Jakarta Stock Exchange) located near this line of road. More importantly, there are a lot of Embassies and (as Thamrin road is connected directly to the Medan Merdeka set of roads) important governmental bodies' headquarters nearby.

Jakarta is the capital of a nation that unites 13 thousand islands, home to 255 million of people: Indonesia. Of that number, the majority 87% are Moslems, making Indonesia a nation with largest Moslem population on earth, even compared to any Arabian or Islamic states themselves, while maintaining democracy instead of Islamic Sharia as it's governmental and political structure since very beginning. Indonesia is not at all an Islamic state.

In regard to the recent terrorist attack, most Indonesians condemned it openly. They insisted that Islam does not teach people to kill each other, that Islam should be "rahmatan lil alamin", blessing for all mankind. Though there are minor disagreement, most Indonesians are of moderate Islam, that still believe in the slogan of the nation, "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" (unity in diversity).

Last year, the congress theme of one of the largest and oldest Islamic movement in Indonesia (Nahdlatul Ulama) was a new ideal of "Islam Nusantara" (Islam of the Archipelago); an interpretation of Islam that incorporates the locality aspects of Indonesia. It seems that the government greeted the idea happily.

But yes, though very minor in number, there are still groups of people - both openly or in discreet - believe that it is good to die while killing people of different religion, that their God requires them to do so, that there will be seventy-two virgin women waiting for them up in heaven. Backwards? Absolutely!

From my point of view, the root of this idocy would be a mixture of several factors: Economically repressed society with no good rational and logical education tend to look for "answers" irrationally, they tend to buy erroneous heavenly propaganda, they tend to enjoy being distracted from the actual earthly problems, they are infected by escapism out of their ugly life and looking for goodness in the hokum of other life.

In short, some people love their opiums so much they would die for it. And we've seen that kind of primitivity many times in many places around the world, by the followers of diverse brand of opiums. On 14th of January 2015, it happened in Jakarta.

2. Progression

Though I live in Jakarta, I cannot share first person experience of the incident for I work in the town next door. But from the reports, backed up by uncut CCTV record from across the street, the proceeding of the incident was as follows:

10.39 - Explosion of a suicide bomber at the Starbucks Coffee.

10.40 - Or ten seconds after the first explosion to be exact, second explosion of a suicide bomber at the police post in the middle of the road.

10.44 - Police secured the area.

10.48 - Two gunmen appeared and shot at polices as well as at the crowding civilians. One of them then shot two foreign men in the Starbucks Coffee.

10.58 - Police forces cornered the two gunmen to the parking lot in front of the Starbucks Coffee, who then threw away some small bombs towards the polices, but one failure of throwing had them killed by the explosion of their own largest bomb.

11.10 - Polices, anti bomb (Gegana), and anti terror (Densus 88) squads started to clear and secure the buildings nearby.

12.34 - The President, that was in other city that day, made a press conference, commanding the authority to pursue and arrest the attackers and those who involved. He said he will shorten his visit and will immediately go back to the capital.

"We condemn actions that disrupt public security and disturb the peace of the people and sow terror. I have instructed the Police chief and the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs to pursue and arrest the perpetrators and their networks."

"The people do not need to be afraid and should not be defeated by these terrorist acts. I hope that people remain calm because it is all controllable."

13.00 - The government put the army and their heavy vehicles on parade along the Sudirman and Thamrin road as a show of force and control.

16.00 - At noon, five hours after the fatal incident involving heavy shootings, grenades, and bombs, together with the Governor of Jakarta, some ministers, army and police chief, The President of Indonesia Joko Widodo visited the site.

15 January 2016 - The visit carried out again with a much relaxed appearance by The President a day after that, on 15 January. He visited some shops, then he greeted the receptionist officers and foreign tourists in Kempinsky hotel nearby.

Meanwhile since the dawn of that day, anti terror polices started a large campaign of arresting terrorists suspects and their supporters across many cities and towns in Indonesia. The campaign was carried out up to several weeks after the incident.

The details has also been reported in many foreign news, including by a foreign journalist who was even as close as 50 meters away from the incident.

3. Reaction

For some time after white smoke burst out from Starbucks Coffee, the traffic on the Thamrin road were not affected. No one seems to understood what happened at that time. After the second explosion at the police post which located in the middle of the road the officers nearby realised that it was an attack. They immediately sterilized the road and secure the area.

Then in a few minutes, suddenly people were crowding the police post to see what had happened. They didn't know that there were two gunmen sneaking around. Only after the gunmen pulled out their guns and started to shoot that the crowd realise the real danger they were in and ran away, emptying the road once again.

When police forces managed to corner the gunmen to the parking lot of Starbucks Coffee, very soon crowd gathered again watching the exchange of shootings. They faithfully waited and watched until it all ended, until the police finished their duty of securing and documenting the site, until night fell down in Jakarta.

Indeed there's probably something wrong with Jakartans. Later we know from social media, that even during the attack, some people were still selling food and toys very close to the site of the attack.

Social media and modern communication tools played a very important role in the wake of the event. News, update, photograph, videos, and - of course - rumors spread very fast through all available channels; through conventional means of peer to peer communication like SMS, BBM, and WhatsApp and especially through the more social like Facebook, Twitter, and Path.

It weren't always facts that spread through social media channels. During the incident and on the first hours after, there were several false alarms and rumors spread; that there were several other attacks in various other locations across Jakarta, that there were terrorists taking hostages in some building far away from the Thamrin road, and that the attack are still ongoing. But in a very short time, as soon as the government clarified that there were no other attack in Jakarta besides the one being dealt and that it was all over and handled successfully, the Jakarta people's mood changed dramatically. About three hours away after the initial attack, people started to send positive messages across the social medias, #kamitidaktakut was world wide number one trending in Twitter and the same messages flooded Facebook's timelines; sending one simple message that we, the people of Jakarta IS NOT AFRAID.

Their mood rose higher towards that evening; they sent even stronger messages of courage, that this is Jakarta and no one can terrorize its people, that the terrorists' ideology has no place in their society, that they are still sticking together. Further still, they made fun of the terrorists, they created a lot of memes mocking the terror act earlier that day, turned the tragedy into a dark comedy, while as an addition to #kamitidaktakut, the women of Jakarta launched something so original that day, #kaminaksir #polisiganteng (we have crushed on handsome police): Pinpointing handsome police officers captured in the news photographs, gossiping about their name, their fashion style, and of course their status.

"I said go to Suriah (Syria), stupid!"
"Yeah, Sarinah isn't it?"

The terrorists targeted the location because of its prominence economically and politically. A terror right on the heart of a nation intended to shock and terrorize the entire nation, and that's what every terrorist dreamt of. Just like the 2000 bomb attack on the Jakarta Stock Exchange building; trading activity was stopped for two days and depressed the stock trading for months.

And that was what actually can be happened and to some degree already happened that day, the nation shocked, but it was not last long and it was not that bad.

Rupiah was slipped slightly from 13,861 per USD on 13 January to 13,877 per USD. A mere 16 points that didn't reflect great fear and distrust. A far more relaxed situation than the decrement being anticipated towards the end of 2015 affected by global economic turmoils.

Indonesian Composite Index (IDX/IHSG) was dropped 42 points at the midday break but when the second session of trading was opened, the Indonesian Composite Index was crawling back up again. It was closed at 0.53% lower than the previous day, a very small gap compared to the decrements caused by the uncertainty of The Fed. The number was even better when compared to other regional index fluctuations that day; such as Nikkei Tokyo -2,68% and Singapore Strait Times Index -1,93%.

4. Reflection

It was a failed terror.

The terrorists failed to terrorize the nation; not its people, nor its economy. The failure was so great in a sense it became a parody entertainment for the people of Jakarta.

It was an incident that shows, after the people's very eyes, what a religious radicalism really are and what it can be. It gave us reflection and chance to ask ourselves, what kind of religiosity would we want to live up and how we want to treat our religions? The incident slightly escalated the tension that forcing the people to decide: being stupid or being rational.

It is now exactly a month since. Our deepest condolences to the fallen victims and we condemn and curse any terror attack towards civilians for any reason. After all, though for a short period of time, the attack created a sense of belonging, sense of togetherness, and sense of citizenship, especially for the people of Jakarta.

"Selamat pagi warga jakarta yg pemberani, kita kembali beraktivitas seperti biasa.
Mari bareng-bareng jagain kota kita."

"Good morning brave Jakartans, we live our day as usual. Let's protect our city together."

(Governor Ahok's first tweet the next morning.)

On Sunday, 17 January 2016, three days away since the terror attack, the weekly agenda of Car Free Day along the Sudirman and Thamrin road was going on as usual, crowded and jolly, with one addition: a performance of Dayak native Dance of War.

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