Monday, February 23, 2004

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Life as a Westerner in Jakarta

Jay Drezner reports on what it's like to work in Jakarta:

[B]eing in Jakarta doesn't make you feel very safe. The security around the city is overwhelming. Every car is searched before it approaches any major hotel or office building (including mirrors on wheels which search under the cars) and to walk into any building you usually have to go through a metal detector and have your bag searched. Now this creates a bit of tension, but what makes it even worse is that almost every local or expat living here who I speak to admits that pretty much all of this activity is for show to make foreigners feel like they are safer. None of these measures would really stop something like the JW Marriott bombing which took place last October. Any security that tried to go to that level would drive itself out of business due to being too customer unfriendly (and its pretty close to that as it is already).

posted by Dan on 02.23.04 at 12:45 AM


I wonder if what your brother describes so well, isn't on all of our plates in future. Bad as they are, AlQuieda is hardly the only terrorist org we're to deal with... and the next group to come along will likley raise the ante some.

posted by: Bithead on 02.23.04 at 12:45 AM [permalink]

Human beings often delude themselves that they are doing something sensible if everybody is being irritated. I know of an office building in Houston that got downright silly after 9/11. The management now demands that tenants sign in and out after hours. And all visitors must sign in and show a picture ID. Both regulations are absurd because the tenants constantly must use their access cards to enter and leave the building! Thus, their very movements are always being tracked. As for ID cards per se---every single terrorist on that fateful morning was carrying plenty of official identification. Most of them also possessed perfectly clean police records.

posted by: David Thomson on 02.23.04 at 12:45 AM [permalink]

On the other hand I spent some time in Jakarta years before there was any concern about terrorism, and came close to death just from eating the food. I'd like to know what bio-terrorism precautions are being taken now, and whether they address this threat.

Honestly, Jakarta is so fetid, odorous and generally odious the relevant authorities there probably made the prudent calculation that a general feeling of insecurity would be the last straw for any non-Indonesian working or investing there. In that geologically unstable part of the world there is always the chance that Nature will dump the whole city into the Java Sea and allow Indonesia to start over, but until that happens the heightened security measures will have to do.

posted by: Zathras on 02.23.04 at 12:45 AM [permalink]

Actually, Jay's post is simply not correct. As a long time resident/visitor to Indonesia, I can testify that, with respect to the international hotels, preventive security is very good now. All vehicles are searched -- by police not security guards -- and these searches are conducted at sufficient distance from the hotels. There is absolutely no way to prevent all terrorist attacks (see Israel) but Indonesia has -- belatedly -- done a reasonably good job of protecting the most obvious targets.

posted by: Conrad on 02.23.04 at 12:45 AM [permalink]

Conrad, don't know if you're still living here, but in regards to your points:

1) Yes, inspections take place pretty far away from the locations involved (i.e. hotel, stock exchange, office building, etc), however...

2) I've seen Indonesian police officers and the people searching our cars aren't them. Not only that, but the people on guard have no preventitive measures other than a wooden bar (like in the old tolls) which wouldn't stop anyone from driving on in and doing what they wanted (assuming they didn't plan on getting out afterwards)

I don't know what it was like before the Bali and Marriott bombings (this is my first time here) but for a Westerner who's travelled quite a bit and has never seen it before, the whole scene can be a bit unnerving.

posted by: Jay Drezner on 02.23.04 at 12:45 AM [permalink]

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