October 12, 2002


TROUBLE IN PARADISE: Indonesia is full of beautiful islands, but Bali reigns as a tourist destination. The most annoying thing about Kuta Beach, filled with hawkers who won't let anyone enjoy an afternoon, used to be the "massages"-- often, an ugly old woman touching your shoulder with one hand, vaguely rubbing, and demanding payment.

Note I said "used to be"-- now it's the terror attacks. Indonesia's tolerant society has suffered a small infestation of Islamist radicals for years, but this is getting serious. President Megawati Sukarnopatri (who is a woman, which irks the Islamofascists to no end) ran under the banner of a party, ubiquitous when I was there during the election season in the Spring of 1999, symbolized by a bull-- strong, but quiet. (Due to parliamentary alliances and/or the mysteries of dictatorship-to-democracy transisition, Megawati, who's party appeared to be the most popular everywhere I went, didn't take power until a year after the election, when Abdurrahman Wahid stepped down.)

"Some critics say Indonesia is the weakest link in the U.S.-led war on terror in Southeast Asia, partly because the government has concerns about cracking down on radical Muslim groups for fear of upsetting the vast moderate mainstream," according to Reuters, but with the tourist trade threatened, a crackdown seems likely. Expect it to be strong, but quiet.

Posted by John Tabin at October 12, 2002 08:11 PM