Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Expatriates to stay in Indonesia during election

Rendy A. Witular and Rusman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Samarinda

As the peaceful 22-day legislative campaign period has come to a close and the nation's voters prepare for the polls on Monday, foreign nationals residing in the country appear to be staying for the general election, brushing aside fears of possible violence during the election process.

Spokesman of oil and gas company BP Indonesia Pradakso Hadiwidjojo said on Friday that all of the company's 80 expatriates were staying in the country during the election.

"None of our foreign workers have left the country. They seem confident about the country's political and security condition, which has remained stable up to now," said Pradakso.

He said most of the company's expatriates were stationed in Jakarta and the majority of them were from Britain, with a few American nationals.

BP Indonesia is the local unit of Anglo-American energy giant BP PLC.

Ario Dewayanto, Unocal Indonesia spokesman for its Samarinda operation, concurred with Pradakso, saying that none of Unocal's expatriates had decided to leave the country during the election.

The local unit of U.S. energy producer Unocal Corporation has not issued any security notices to its expatriates, whether onshore or offshore, to stop work and temporarily remove themselves to a safer location.

"Our situation here remains safe and sound. Operations are normal," said Ario, adding that Unocal Indonesia employed around 100 nationals of the United States, Britain, Australia and several Latin American countries.

Elsewhere, spokesperson for the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta Sachiko Furuya said the embassy had issued a travel advisory for its citizens in Indonesia to remind them to be cautious during election year.

"We have urged our citizens to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, which could turn violent. Until now, we have not received any reports that Japanese are leaving the country," she said.

A stronger warning was issued by the American Embassy, which issued a travel advisory over fears that terrorists might take advantage of election day to attack local U.S. assets.

The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs said in the advisory that election-related violence or attacks were possible and U.S. citizens were reminded that they should avoid demonstration and large gatherings, which could turn ugly.

The statement also said the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah regional terrorist network and other similar groups might use the elections as an opportune occasion to carry out attacks.

The British and Australian embassies also issued similar advisories, urging their citizens to avoid large crowds, particularly in the legislative election on April 5 and the presidential election on July 5, as well as the possible presidential runoff on Sept. 20.