It’s up to Indonesians to improve themselves

Posted by Admin on Friday, 25 October 2002 | Opini

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 10/25/2002 12:00 AM

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo, Former Governor, National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas), Jakarta

It is clear that Indonesia as a nation state is the biggest loser in the Bali tragedy. It all happened because of the ineffectiveness of the security services who were not able to detect or prevent the tragedy. Thereafter, the security services have been slow to come up with credible proof and evidence of the initiators and the actors in the bombing, leading to a lot of speculation over the whole affair.

Many in the West, in particular in the U.S. and Australia, have expressed their astonishment about these speculations and wonder why Indonesia does not just accuse ""Arab terrorism"" or al Qaeda operatives.

For Indonesians, it has not been easy to accept such accusations. In recent years, trouble has not only come from Muslim radicals. There has also been the bad experience of western intervention for a long time, as documented by the late Indonesianist George M. Kahin in Subversion as Foreign Policy regarding the U.S. policy in Indonesia. The threat of danger has come from so many corners.

Speculation, including from the country’s many secular nationalists and moderate Muslims, will continue unless and until our security services come up with credible evidence of the culprits.

People in the West should also understand that Muslim Indonesians look at the U.S.-led war on terrorism as a U.S. effort to enhance its national interests. If it is a real war against terrorism, why aren’t targets expanded beyond al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Taliban? What about Israeli terrorism against the Palestinian people or Basque terrorism in Spain?

Indonesians have fought terrorism since the Dutch colonial times; it was a normal procedure of the Dutch colonial forces. A good example is the mass-murder of civilians in Sulawesi by Dutch captain Raymond Westerling and his troops. Dutch forces also burned, tortured and killed civilians when they could not find Indonesian guerrillas.

But why are those acts and also the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 never mentioned as violating humanitarian values? Or for that matter, the bombing of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. And not long ago the U.S. air attacks against Afghanistan that killed many people who were not members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Are these all ""normal"" as part of war? If so, why are nations that are not siding with the U.S., always punished if they are considered to have violated humanitarian values, even if their actions caused less death and suffering?

A nation must be strong to get the respect of other nations — or side with the U.S.

Indonesia has traditionally adhered to an independent foreign policy, having friendly relations with other nations but not siding with them, including the U.S. Therefore, Indonesia must be strong economically and militarily to be regarded as equals by other nations. Obviously, the weak condition of Indonesia today is a splendid opportunity to treat it with disdain, especially by Australia. An article in the Australian Financial Review of Oct. 19, 2002 by Brian Toohey said it very clearly: ""Crafting a response to the Bali atrocity would be much simpler if the Indonesian government was culpable, even in a peripheral way, like the Taliban was in the attack on New York’s World Trade Center last year.""

In other words, Indonesia could be easily punished with a military attack that would finish it as a nation state. Reports of an Australian intelligence center setting up an office here reminds us how weak we are and how our sovereignty no longer counts.

But it depends on Indonesians themselves whether they are respected or not. If they can strengthen the effectiveness of their government, Indonesia will definitely regain a respected position in the international community. The nation needs a government that can improve the economy and security, including the armed forces, the police and the intelligence services. The big question is how to achieve that with the present political system, which gives little opportunity to develop the leadership required to establish a strong and effective government.

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