We advise against all non-essential travel to Indonesia.
The 'we' in this travel advisory is H.M. Govt. back in London. Please note that this supercedes the advice, dated October 25th 2002, given on the Jakarta Embassy site
. If, like me, this link was one of your 'favourites', then delete it and link to the headline.
I was told this by Paul Speller, the Deputy Head of Mission here in Jakarta, at a meeting this morning of British wardens in the Goose and Durian, the social club at the Embassy.
We were also told to "feel free to tell people you know." There was one snippet of info which I think we should have been told not to relate. This was about ....
Anyway, these were the salient points:
1. There is no specific threat to Brits in Indonesia, although we are advised to keep our alert status up. British companies are advised to vary their work times and travel arrangements. Incidentally, Embassy vehicles do not use the black-on-white CD plates anymore. They're now white-on-black with a variation of the normal numbering ~ still easily identifiable.
2. There is a "climate of problems", notably in Karachi, Bangladesh and the Gaza Strip. Iraq wasn't mentioned.
3. Within Indonesia, the Embassy is "slightly nervous (about) the continuing problems in Aceh, Ambon and Sulawesi."
4. Britain is, thank you Tony Blair, identified with the USA.
5. "Chatter" has increased in the past two months. The most nervous are the police following their re-arrest of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, allegedly the head of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), the group supposedly responsible for a string of attacks, including the Bali bombings.
(It would appear that, following the killing in Central Sulawesi
on Wednesday night of a prosecutor dealing with terrorist cases, other Indonesia law enforcement officers need to review their security arrangements. Mind you, he was also involved in a major corruption case.)
There was a very low turnout of wardens at the meeting; we felt that this was due to the seeming normalcy of life here. Demonstrations are currently low key and of local concern, such as the disenfranchising of Gus Dur from the Presidential election on account of his near-blindness and a few university campus conflicts.
Our major concern remains the effect of the travel advisories on investment and tourism here. There are risks to life all over the world. The streets of Jakarta are certainly safer than those of, say, Miami Beach. No travel advisories have been issued for Spain and only Indonesia has warned against travel to the UK. Although we recognize that governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens, we do wonder why this country seems to be singled out.
I've witnessed riots in Brixton in London, Moss Side in Manchester, Toxteth in Liverpool, St. Paul's in Bristol. I've been caught literally in the middle of a Hindu-Muslim riot in Kashmir, India. I've also visited Ambon and Poso, two current hot spots, here in Indonesia. I lived through the IRA campaign in London and saw a tailor's shop blown up in Belfast ~ (ceramic) arms and legs everywhere. None of this was planned, believe me ~ I'm really a coward where violence is involved. You shouldn't hit a guy with glasses.
We were told that Jack Straw, the British Foreign Minister, has agreed to review the travel advisories. If there are specific threats, we do need to be told, but there's surely no need to be over-paranoid. Shit happens. Meantimes, take care as per usual and, if resident here, do (re)register with your embassy.
Which reminds me ...
And now for the important stuff. The Goose and Durian currently has Ruddles County
, Abbott's Bitter
and Old Speckled Hen
ales in stock. Pity I didn't need the hair of a dog this morning.