Saturday 16 May 1998

Indonesia Falters, Jakarta Shakes

I walked into the last day of a week of annual planning meetings at Rockwell Automation in Hong Kong Friday morning to discover that the truck in the above picture belonged to one of the company's distributors in Jakarta. Courtesy of the French press, it depicts rioters and looters in Jakarta. Rockwell's only expat in Jakarta is holed up in his flat until Tuesday when he will manage to leave the country. He described to me how, looking out from his balcony, he saw buildings on fire and troops being lowered by helicopters onto building rooftops.

The following reports come from friends in Jakarta:

Yes, Jakarta is on fire. The place went NUTS yesterday, two shopping malls, numerous buses, a police station and movie theatre less than two minutes walk from my house were looted and burned in the late afternoon. Last night, a friend and I took a stroll to view damage and saw people streaming down the streets carrying everything they could manage. The most surprising included a ceramic salon chair used to wash patrons hair, a toy-house that children ride after paying a quarter and two teenagers trundling the remains of an ATM machine. Chaos reigns in the streets of Jakarta.

They haven't targeted "bules" (as Caucasian foreigners are referred to), there seems little malicious intent towards foreigners. However, being worried about being caught in the crossfire, I am attempting to get out.

Think its best to be away from the action and stray bullet and fires. Besides, when their are no more shops and malls to loot, the next targets are vehicles and house.

So, I have packed my guitar and backpack and am heading for Australia and then Africa on safari and look for my roots. With any luck I will be airborne Saturday (16th) night. (Sent Friday, 15 May 1998.)

Thanks for the concern. The situation today was one of tension and apprehension. Hundreds of families are being evacuated tonight by the US embassy. I have not left yet but will try to get to the airport either tomorrow or Sunday.

I'm keeping in touch on the go with my fancy Nokia 9000, mobile phone, email and WWW terminal, fax machine all-in-one. Should be standard issue for Cap students, always in touch (of course it works any where in the world except North America!).

Anyhow, the latest is that the American evacuation has been postponed until tomorrow (Saturday) night. Hundreds were left stranded waiting on buses then were told to go home and come back tomorrow. I'm glad I wasn't there with my 18 month old twin sons at 1am. I may be there tomorrow though, depending on the situation. I'll try to find out from the other alumni and report back. I feel like Mel Gibson in TYOLD. -- Later, name withheld. (Sent: Sat, 16 May 1998 1:57.)

(Photo courtesy of South China Morning Post) I would like to inform Canadians about the actual situation in Indonesia. I have recently fled the country that is in the news and have stories about living among these people and seeing their plight first hand. It is a sad story that I have witnessed and choosing to share it with others was a difficult decision.

The way in which the rioters are being portrayed is a travesty. One must understand that these people are being oppressed from all angles. The government that claims to work for the people in actuality is so segregated and removed from the citizens that it probably gains information from CNN like everyone else.

In reality, the Indonesian people are the warmest and most inviting people that I have ever met, they have such a desire to talk to the ex-patriots in the country. It is important to understand that these people are very religious and very proper. They attend church and they do all of the things that we do here in North America. These wonderful people are absolutely suffering.

In respect to the riots and the unrest, it is due to ridiculous rises in prices. While I was there, the price of petroleum gasoline rose by seventy percent. It was too much for the people to bear. The riots began on the campus' of the local universities. For weeks it was said that the riots were contained to the campus, when in actuality they were on the streets. I was attacked in a taxi cab, inadvertantly, when the rioters on one side of the street began throwing rocks at the army that were gathered on the other side of the street. Although the people would never target foreigners (other than Chinese), it is a great possibility to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The animosity that the Chinese and the Indonesians, in general, have towards each other is purely based on economics. As a teacher in this country, one gets to see things that others may not observe. I taught classes mixed with both ethnic backgrounds and one can see the difference between the two groups of people. Also as a teacher it was my job to unite these people and they seemed to get along with each other when they can get to know each other.

The rioters are tired of being oppressed and are demanding Suharto's resignation, but on a grander scale they are screaming to the world that they are people too and are a force to be reckoned with.

I have much information about this topic and anyone wishing to know more can contact me at Sarah Hall

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