When I was young, I read a story of a famous dacoit of Sind (Pakistan). When in prison he was asked to state an event that has always been etched in his mind, swollen with pride he replied, reading about my dacoits in the newspaper which I never do but are associated with my name by the agencies.
Undoubtedly, the attack on nightclub in Bali is a well planned and organized act of terror with unambiguous agenda of the culprits and categorically it is another barbaric act of the series of terrorism, the world is witnessing. Certainly, the culprits must be brought to justice without any prejudice. However, one must not just jump into the simple conclusion by making the responsible those who have already been blamed by the US without yet producing any straightforward evidence against them for the other terrorist acts including 9/11. The writer has no intention to defend Al-Quaeda or any other extremist group which exist in Indonesia, however, it is very important and in the interest of the stability of Indonesia that law enforcement agencies in Indonesia must deeply analyze the incident with all the potential possibilities open including investigating those who could get the benefit of this attack.
It is very strange to see that the FBI, CIA and other agencies in Washington could not catch the sniper who has killed 9 innocent people in more than a week now but President Bush spent no time to blame assertively Al-Quaeda for the huge attack in Bali.
Making Al-Quaeda responsible and arresting Islamic figure-heads on the basis of US-defined perception about the hatred of Islamic groups against the West is certainly in the interest of Washington at this time when Bush is seeking more reasons to make his case strong on attacking Iraq. Noticeably, Bali blasts came just three days after the worldwide alert for possible terror attacks particularly for Indonesia and Australia issued by the US State Department without giving specific details.
Geographically, Indonesia is far distance from the present conflict between Muslim countries particularly the Arab State and the US for instance the Palestinian and Iraqi issues. However, Indonesia is a largest Muslim nation worldwide. Indonesia has the largest and strongest hold of Islamic and religious groups. The US administration has been anxiously trying to extend its war against terrorism which has yet been targeting only the Muslim activists and groups around the world. Washington wants to apprehend the Indonesian religious activists and figure-heads particularly the head of Jemaah Islamiah Abu Bakar Bashir who wants to establish an Islamic regime across South East Asia. However, due to the strong hold of Islamic groups in the Indonesian government, US finds very hard to dictate Jakarta and to find ways to ground its forces in Indonesia for the hunt of Islamic activist similar to what US is doing in Pakistan.
On the other hand, taking into account the strong hold of Jemaah Islamiah and other religious groups in Indonesia, it is very simple to believe that Indonesia could be the best heaven for Al-Quaeda extremist to hide and remain underground, similarly, it is hard to understand that why would subversive members of the Al-Quaeda – if exists in Indonesia é would instigate terrorist operations and provide reasons to the Indonesian government and foreign forces to launch an operation against them. In a recent statement, Abu Bakar Bashir blamed US for the Bali attack giving the reason that US wants to find means to land its forces in Indonesia.
Indonesia has always been a model of unity and harmony among the different faiths. Just like the country an alliance of thousands of Islands, the Indonesian population is also a mixture of various faiths like Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu. They have been living with great harmony and brotherhood for centuries now. Indonesia has 80 percent Muslims however Bali is the only province where 90 percent population is Hindu faith. The Balian Hindu population conquered the tiny island off Java Island many years ago from its aboriginal inhabitants, who have been isolated to a small region near an active volcano and experience harsh treatment at the hands of the Hindu majority. As a matter of fact, since the Hindu-Muslim ethnic violence in Indian state of Gujarat where 2000 thousand Muslims were brutally massacred, there have been enormous sentiments of extremism and hatred arose in Hindu extremists minds. However, due to the 80 percent overall majority of the Muslim in Indonesia, the Hindu minority could not afford to confront with Muslims openly. Undeniably, the incident has brought down the Muslim image of the Indonesia. The unexpected but well organized incident has also created lot of speculations about the possible reaction of Hindu extremists against Muslim yet the chances of Hindu extremist involvement are not much likely.
Indonesia is the biggest and very important neighbor of Australia, politically and geographically. Blindly following US and taking care of US interest has cost Australia’s good economical and trade relations with many countries including the neighboring Indonesia. During last OPEC summit, Prime Minister Howard tried many times to have meeting with Indonesian Prime Minister Mrs. Megawati but her vice president forced her not to see him. The Foreign Minister of Indonesia said in his statement that Indonesia has had better understanding with past governments than the government in place.
If one believes that this is the operation of anti-US or anti-west elements then Australia has to deal the situation very carefully. The hostile statements by the Australian ruling heads against Iraq and continuous blind-support to US has already cost too much to the Australian people. Australian farmers lost $890 wheat trade per year with Iraq and now the huge loss of innocent lives. The present Australian government seems more interested in US issues rather than concentrating to establish and maintain good relations with its neighboring country Indonesia.
Indonesia had been having good relation with Australia until the Tampa crises and US-led war against Afghanistan. Indonesia earns enormous amount of foreign exchange from the Australian tourists. Therefore, one can not understand why any Indonesian group would launch an attack at the place where majority of people were Australian. Australia is the worst sufferer from this tragic incident, 70 percent of the victims of Bali attack are assumed to be Australian. Howard’s government has showed unconditional support to Washington and London in the present US-Iraq crises. Now, this is the time when Prime Minister Howard must keep Australian and regional interest as top priority. Australia can not afford to sacrifice the lives of Australians for US interest. Australia being the neighbor of Indonesia must closely work with the Indonesian authorities in hunting the culprits. Australian government must keep its interest as top agenda in maintaining the neighborhood relations with Indonesia for the safety and stability of the pacific region rather than blindly follow the US direction. Similarly, Indonesian government must also feel the pain of the Australian due to this horrific incident. The good and strong relations between Australia and Indonesian are in the benefit of the entire pacific region. As for as the suspects of the Bali attack, one must examine the incident from various aspects and find-out who could gain the benefit and advantage to cash the incident in their interest.
The writer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and a political analyst.