Six hours after bombs exploded in two prestigious hotels in Jakarta at about 9 am (Singapore time) on Friday, 17 July 2009, a colleague of mine asked me “why now?” I was puzzled with her question.
Indonesian economy had been growing steadily. Even, during the current global recession, when many countries experienced negative growth, Indonesia still maintained a positive economic growth, about 4.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2009. With about 220 million population, the steady economic growth means a large market and human resources. Indonesia is even predicted to join the emerging power of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) group—it will become BRICI (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Indonesia).
At the same time, Indonesia, a country with a very large percentage of Muslims, has been democratizing peacefully since 1999. All direct elections at sub-national levels (governors, mayors, and regents) have been implemented smoothly since 2005. Then, in 2009, Indonesia has also carried out two peaceful national elections. First is on 9 April 2009, to elect member of parliaments, who will monitor the 2009-2014 government. Second is on 8 July 2009, to directly vote for the President and Vice President in the 2009-2014 government. Though official results will just be announced on 27 July 2009, all indications show that the Yudhoyono, the incumbent, will be re-elected in October 2009.
In addition, there had been no suicide attack in Indonesia since 2005 until last Friday. Well, it should be noted too that Indonesians still suffer from many “terrors” such as natural disasters (which are also often caused by human negligence), road and air accidents, and crimes. Perhaps, the possibility of an Indonesian killed in those kind of “terrors” is much higher than from a suicide attack.
In short, with the rising economic prosperity and maturing democracy, Indonesia will soon become one of influential powers in the world. So, the question “Why Now?” becomes very important. Who are behind the bombing and what are the motivations? Why not earlier, before the elections, when people were worried that the elections could be marred with violence.
Police are still investigating the bombing. Preliminary observations indicate that it is very unlikely that it is related to the presidential elections. The same group of people who conducted earlier suicide bombings in Indonesia may be behind the last Friday bombing. Lax in security in the hotels may also contribute to the bombing. It is a common knowledge that security checks in malls, hotels, cars, and even airports in Indonesia should be much improved. It may be just a coincidence that the attack occurred last Friday. The attack needs a long and careful planning. Perhaps, last Friday is simply the time the terrorists find possible to launch the attack.
Whatever the explanation on “why now”, Indonesians have shown their resilience. People return to business as usual. Stock market was down initially, but then back to normal again. The foreign business may also stick to Indonesia. They may be initially scared, but they will return. Their confidence on Indonesian economy is quite good. They have invested in Indonesia and they want to get profit from Indonesian economy. It is for the interest of foreign business to keep their money in Indonesia. The bomb, this time being, will have failed to deter foreign money. The market will defeat the impact of the bombing by maintaining their business in Indonesia. The hit, by the bomb, may even strengthen business confidence in Indonesia and market will get more profit by putting money in Indonesia. The terrorists, whoever they are, may realize that their action does not get the purpose of ruining Indonesian economy and scaring foreign money.
Ordinary people are neither panicked. They continue their every day life as usual. They talk about the bomb, but the tragedy does not interrupt their work. An SMU student doing internship in Jakarta had lunch on that very Friday, with a friend who worked very near to the two hotels. She said that everybody in her friend office worked as usual, as if there had been nothing so shocking.
Some even, unfortunately, “enjoyed” the tragedy. They visited the devastated hotels and took pictures with the ruined building as the background. A small girl, watching the bombed area, even asked her mother, “When will there be another bomb?” This small vignette may show an irony, but it may also convey the message that the suicide attack have failed to disturb the every day life of Indonesians.
Indonesians will continue enjoying their newly found democracy. They have shown their unity in responding to the tragedy. It will put Indonesians more in the democratizing path, and will not bring Indonesians returning to an authoritarian style, as in the time of Soeharto, to avoid future bombings.
The news, particularly the pictures, may be very scary, but Indonesians and business go as usual, defeating the very purpose of the bombing. Indonesian economy and politics seem to be very resilient. An emerging Indonesia will bring more benefit for the region.