Wed, 06 Aug 2003

Govt condemns Marriott bombing, asks people to stay calm

The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The government condemned on Tuesday the bombing in the driveway of JW Marriott Hotel in South Jakarta that killed 13 people and seriously wounded more than 140 others.

The government also called on people to stay calm despite the incident, saying that the government would tighten security in public places and immediately arrest the terrorists.

"The government expresses deep condolences to the victims of the bombing and their families. The government will immediately arrest those responsible for this inhuman attack," Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the coordinating minister for political and security affairs, told reporters while visiting the scene of the bomb blast.

The visit was made right after the bomb blast at midday. It was the fifth bomb attack that hit Jakarta this year, but this was the only one that has brought wide repercussions in the lives of Jakartans, as it was the first bomb blast that has claimed lives.

Susilo asserted that the public must help police hunt down the perpetrators and pass on information to the security authorities.

In order to prevent such an incident from recurring, Susilo called on owners of restaurants and hotel chains, malls and other public places to beef up security on their premises. "Don't think that open public places are safe," he said.

Asked about the motive of the bombing, Susilo said that it was too early to tell.

Separately, Vice President Hamzah Haz called on the people to stay calm after the incident.

Interviewed by journalists shortly before he attended a Cabinet meeting, Hamzah said that the government would beef up security measures in public places as the security in those places was related to investors' confidence.

Asked if the attack deliberately targeted an American facility here, Hamzah said that "it may have been the goal, but the move may not be an organized one."

The Five-star JW Marriott which opened in September 2001 is part of Washington-based Marriott International, one of the world's largest hotel groups.

Marriott International, founded by J.S. Marriott in the 1950s, manages 2,600 hotels in 66 countries and employs about 129,000 people

Another Marriott hotel situated on the 40th floor of the World Trade Center was devastated in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, but its employees and guests managed to escape.

Separately, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais called on people not to blame each other or to convey premature judgments over the incident, saying that it would be counterproductive. "Let the police, which is a professional party in this case, resolve the case," Amien said.

Amien said that people should remain calm, otherwise economic activities would be disrupted and it would badly affect the rupiah and the national economy.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Akbar Tandjung, underlined the danger of terrorism.

"We must not take the threat of terrorism lightly. This has been a real and present danger in this country," he said.

Pramono Anung Wibowo, the deputy secretary-general of the ruling party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, said that the police must immediately arrest the perpetrators behind the bomb blast. Only by a quick arrest of the perpetrators, he said, the police could bring back the feeling of security among ordinary people.

A.M. Fatwa, a politician from the National Mandate Party (PAN), said that the bomb blast posed a challenge to the government to resolve it immediately and to guarantee people's safety, especially foreigners.

"The government must step up security measures in the foreign embassies here. The safety of foreigners will affect the good name of Indonesia in the international arena," said A.M. Fatwa, who is also MPR deputy speaker.

The Regional Representatives Faction (FUD) of MPR condemned the bombing and said that the incident was designed to terrorize the public.

In a statement signed by faction deputy chairman Ghazali Abbas Adnan, FUD speculated that the Marriott bombing might have been an attempt to distract the public from the MPR Annual Session.