The October 12 bombing in Bali, like most incidents of violence, was very brief, a matter of only seconds, yet its effects will be with us for a long time. The effects extend beyond the tragic loss of loved ones and the painful scars of the survivors. The bombing has badly damaged the cross-cultural, cross-national communication that this magazine has been trying to promote for the last twenty years. Many Australians (and other foreigners) studying, working, or vacationing in Indonesia have returned home. Indonesians living in Australia have been harassed.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian and Australian governments are eroding civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism. Activists in both countries struggling non-violently for peace and justice are worried that they too will become targets of the anti-terrorism campaign. Added to these worries is the prospect of increased instability in Indonesia as the already faltering economy declines further.
As the repercussions of the bombing keep spreading, we should remember that it was the work of a small clique of conspirators. Although the perpetrators targeted foreigners, they were obviously indifferent to the lives of Indonesians and to the welfare of the nation. The bombing should not affect our appreciation of the need to maintain strong society-society relations between Indonesia and Australia.
Indonesia today is a dangerous place primarily for Indonesians, not foreigners. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by war. Some 600 Acehnese civilians have been killed in 2002. The task of making Indonesia a safer place is much larger than bringing to justice the clandestine group responsible for the Bali bombing. Foreigners need to continue to help Indonesian civil society find ways to end the violence and to ensure their own governments do not follow policies that encourage it.
The deadline for submission of articles to this issue was only three days after the Bali bombing. We decided to proceed with this present issue about the military and militarism. Our next issue (no. 74) will be devoted to reflections on the bombing and its consequences.
The bombing has actually confirmed the importance of the theme of this issue. Given the military's notorious corruption, it has been widely assumed that the bombers obtained their explosives from the military. This is a reasonable assumption: the first suspect arrested by the police (Amrozi) was found to have some 4,000 military-issue bullets. Given that elements in the military have been supporting extremist militias (such as Laskar Jihad), it has also been assumed that the bombers have had some backing from within the military.
The articles in this issue reveal that the Indonesian military, assigning as many troops to internal policing as external defence, has become a security threat for the society. Since about 70% of the military's funding comes from off-budget sources, the loyalty of the troops is divided between the state and the private businesses (sometimes illegal businesses) that pay their salaries. The military is in desperate need of reform. But the task of reforming it has become immeasurably more difficult as civil society itself has become militarized. This issue carries several excellent articles on the civilian militias that have emerged in recent years.
We at Inside Indonesia are proud of the high quality of articles we have been able to publish. Our magazine was a finalist in the United Nations Association of Australia media awards for an article titled 'Timor's Women' by Dawn Delaney in the East Timor edition (no.71). Congratulations to Dawn.
Because of a recent budgetary crisis, we have had to temporarily suspend publication of the supplement 'Learning about Indonesia.' We regret the demise and hope to hear from friends with ideas on how to restart it.
John Roosa firstname.lastname@example.org