Thu, 03 Aug 2000

Speculation continues of motive behind bomb blast

JAKARTA (JP): Speculation continued on Wednesday on the motive behind the bomb explosion in front of the Philippine ambassador's house, with theories ranging from international terrorism, a personal vendetta to local groups bent on creating chaos.

Philippine President Joseph Estrada, who was in Washington when the blast occurred, said he had a very strong suspicion terrorists were behind Tuesday's attack.

"The ugly head of terrorist forces has taken the lives and injured hardworking diplomatic representatives of the Philippines," Estrada said on Wednesday in a statement made in the United States.

Estrada said he was awaiting reports on the blast from Jakarta and the Philippine intelligence services.

"I have a very strong suspicion as to who is behind this, but I will reserve final judgment until the above reports are received," he said in the statement released by the presidential palace in Manila.

President Abdurrahman Wahid said on Tuesday after the blast he suspected the attack was linked to a separatist rebellion in the Philippines' south.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the larger of two groups fighting for an independent Moslem homeland in the southern Philippines, has denied any involvement.

The other rebel group, the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf militia, is holding dozens of foreign and Filipino hostages on Jolo island, near Mindanao.

One of the most startling admissions on Wednesday was made by injured Philippine Ambassador Leonides T. Caday who allegedly told Philippine Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that he believed he knew the assailant.

"He told me who the suspect is but I don't want to say who... until we have corroborating evidence," Arroyo was quoted by Reuters as saying in Manila.

"Caday's belief is that this was personal against him," Arroyo said, adding that it was carried out by a Filipino who had come to Jakarta.

Meanwhile People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais dismissed suggestions foreign parties were behind the attack.

"It's too much to say that international parties were involved in the bombing," Amien said. He believed those behind the bombing were still in Jakarta and the surrounding areas.

Earlier in the day, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman condemned the bomb attack as "a pure act of terrorism". He also said the government currently had no leads on who was behind the incident.

He said, however, that "there are some opinions that this (the blast) is somehow linked to matters outside of Indonesia".

When asked whether he was ruling out the possibility that former president Soeharto's followers were behind the attack, Marzuki said: "We are not easily led to that and we are trying not to speculate on this matter."

"We are not saying anything definite, we are just saying that we can't link it directly with whatever is happening here at the moment, so we have to look at it from both perspectives: the internal and the regional." Marzuki said.

The U.S. Embassy in a statement expressed its deepest sympathy to the Philippines ambassador and to the families of those killed and injured.

The statement also said that U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Gelbard, in a letter to Abdurrahman, had "affirmed the U.S. government's willingness to cooperate with the Indonesian government's investigation of this incident and overall effort to combat terrorism."

In Yogyakarta, political observer Cornelis Lay from Gadjah Mada University said the blast was a further blow to the government following the series of violent conflicts in the outlying provinces.

Nana Sutikna, a political observer at Soedirman University in Purwokerto, Central Java, believed the blast was linked to a Filipino political disagreement.

He refused to connect the incident with domestic political troubles. "If the terrorists wanted to ruin Indonesia's image in the eyes of the world, why didn't they plant the bomb at the UN office or the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta?"

Meanwhile, a sociologist at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi, said the bombing could harm Indonesia's image internationally.

"Violence is not in our culture. Therefore it is very naive if Indonesians now tolerate such ferocity," he said.

"Let's contemplate and introspect. We, the Indonesian people, have entered a phase where terrorism has become a trend. We must be honest to ourselves and admit we are familiar with such actions. This is very dangerous to the progress of democracy," Darwis said.(45/27/sur/44/byg/jun)