Shadow play and rivalry can hurt Jakarta’s image
Even as the world seeks unity in fighting terror, Indonesia’s three security bodies are thumbing their noses at each other.
The morning after a deadly bomb ripped apart a popular nightclub in Bali, three senior generals huddled together for a meeting with President Megawati Sukarnoputri at her residence.
Security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, military chief Endriartono Sutarto and police commander Dai Bachtiar offered their theories on what could have happened that led to 191 people being killed.
Conspiracy theories are de rigueur in Indonesian politics.
And nothing could stop one of the generals from indulging in one.
He told Ms Megawati that the chief of the state intelligence agency (BIN), Mr A. M. Hendropriyono, and his deputies, were seen on the island on Oct 12.
They must have conspired with the CIA to bomb Bali to force Jakarta to act against Muslim hardliners at home, he said.
Fortunately, the four-star general got his facts wrong.
Mr Hendropriyono and company were in Australia then to meet Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Unfortunately, however, incidents like this – and many others brought to light in recent weeks – do little to help Indonesia’s image.
Jakarta cannot afford to be wrought with Javanese-style shadow plays and rivalries when the international community is looking for leadership and unity in fighting the scourge of terrorism.
It has been anything but.
Amrozi, the part-time mechanic captured by police as a key suspect in the bombing, offers some hope that things are changing in the face of intense competition.
The name of the 30-year-old actually surfaced in intelligence briefs to the police, along with nine other names, earlier on in the investigation.
But the police apparently preferred to pursue their own leads instead.
Likewise, the military intelligence agency (BAIS) – now a pale shadow of its former self compared to the Suharto days – preferred to do things its own way.
This changed somewhat when the President forced some degree of inter-agency cooperation among the police, BIN and BAIS.
It produced a result: Amrozi.
But, ironically, Amrozi’s capture is turning out to be a thorn in the sides of Gen Dai’s rivals.
For the national police, of course, he is a prize catch, with whom it can gain political mileage, allowing it to thumb its nose at other security agencies.
But even as the police were exaggerating Amrozi’s role in the attack by calling him a ‘field coordinator’, the other two outfits were describing him scornfully as a ‘foot soldier’.
They suggest that it was his brother instead who played a bigger role in the bombing.
The key issue now is whether rival agencies will see benefit in sharing information and providing other pieces of the Bali puzzle if they think it is only going to allow the police to bask in glory for all their efforts.
This skewed mentality has often led key officials to forget what is at stake for Indonesia if the comical rivalry among them continues.
That is its credibility internationally in dealing with a very serious problem.