Wed, 15 Jan 2003

Jakarta hotels adopt tight security measures

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A middle-aged woman strode toward a five-star hotel in Senayan, Central Jakarta, carrying a red handbag. When the hotel attendant opened the door for her, she kept on walking without noticing the security guard holding a metal detector. The man stopped her to examine her handbag.

She halted and let the guard scan her handbag, exclaiming, "Oh! Do you still have to do this?"

The security guard murmured something to the lady and let her pass after finishing the examination.

Following a series of bombings in Indonesia over the past four years, compounded by the fear of terrorism since September 2001, many public places such as hotels and shopping malls have posted security guards armed with metal detectors at strategic locations within their premises.

Aside from the terrorist scare, at least three robberies have occurred in star-rated hotels in Jakarta in the past four months.

Sr. Comr. Edmon Ilyas, Central Jakarta Police chief, conceded that such crimes in Jakarta's star-rated hotels had recently become a growing trend.

He added that the management of hotels in Jakarta should not depend solely on the police, and that hotels should also tighten their internal security systems.

Despite the heightened security situation in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta, life still goes on for Andy, an entrepreneur from Surabaya who frequents Jakarta on business, and who has stayed in many star-rated hotels in the city.

"Thank God, I have never experienced a bad incident while I've been in Jakarta, and I hope nothing will ever happen to me. So far, though, I feel that staying in star-rated hotels in Jakarta is still safe enough," he said.

He added, "After all, misfortune can happen anywhere and at any time, and I have always tried to be cautious."

Hana Hoed, public relations manager at Gran Melia Hotel, said that since the Bali bombing, the hotel management had tightened security in the hotel.

"Before the New Year, we tightened it even more," she explained. She said that every person who entered the hotel was examined with a metal detector to search for any potential weapons. "We also examine cars that enter the hotel's parking lot," she added.

She said hotel guests might feel uncomfortable due to such security procedures, "But the demands to implement these tight procedures are more abundant. So, until we feel that our country is safe, we will continue with the security procedures."

However, the hotel has not planted cameras inside its elevators. "We plan to put cameras there, but we have not yet set a date for it," she said.

Meanwhile, Mulia Hotel in Central Jakarta had implemented heightened security measures even before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S.

"We examine everybody who enters the hotel, and also cars that enter the parking lot. Moreover, we scan everybody before they enter the hotel's elevators. We have also put cameras in the elevators," Ratna Sjamsiar Idris, public relations manager of the hotel, claimed.

However, such attempts do not offer a 100 percent guarantee of security. Last Friday night at the Sari Pan Pacific Hotel in Central Jakarta, a Japanese diplomat was held up at gunpoint and robbed by an unidentified man.

Els Ramadhinta, public relations officer of the hotel, did not deny the incident, although she refused to provide further explanations. "It is a tragedy that can happen anywhere. Unfortunately, it happened at the Sari Pan Pacific," she said.

She explained that the hotel management had been implementing tight security measures. "The current security procedures of the hotel comprise examining the trunks of cars entering the hotel and scanning the bags of hotel visitors using a metal detector," she said.

Thus, she suspected that the weapon used in the robbery may have been fake, because if it was real, the metal detector would have picked it up.