Yes, Jakarta has been in trouble in the past few days but we are fine.
We had no problems on Friday when the city, again, experienced more
problems and we left early Saturday morning for a four day river trip in
Kalimantan (Borneo). More about that trip later. We arrived home
tonight, safe and sound.
The real problems started on Friday. The MPR (People's Congress) had
been in session for three days, and the students were not happy about
the way things were proceeding. Tensions were mounting and the military
was showing a strong presence, guarding the MPR Assembly from the kids.
Many roads, including the main toll road through the city, were shut
down. Well, our office is located less than a mile from the Asseembly
Buildings, at the intersection of the main east-west toll road and the
main drag of Jakarta, The intersection was heavily guarded by the
military with armed troops, tents and tanks. Thursday evening there
were 4 or 5 killed around the intersection and water cannons were used
to disperse the crowds. The students basically headed toward Atma Jaya
University, directly across from our office, to assess the situation
and regroup for the next day. On Friday we closed the office at noon,
and around 4 in the afternoon, after the Muslim prayers, things broke
loose. The kids again made an attempt to make their way to the MPR
Buildings. For reasons we will never understand the military agaain
used live ammunition on the kids. In fact, they are alledged in the
newspapers to have been using the building where we are located as a
point for sniper action against the kids. The Saturday morning paper
referred to Friday the thirteenth as BLACK FRIDAY.
The students are supposedly in three days of mourning at the moment,
and there are indications of more problems to come. The kids are
looking for the president and the miliatry to take responsibility for
the killings. The government is out looking for other scapegoats. We
are fine and in no danger whatsoever. Where it goes from here is
anyone's guess, but I suspect that the students have gained the upper
hand again, and this thing will not calm down until this government also
goes down, and a group whom the people trust takes control of the
country and sets fair elections.
We'll keep you informed and believe us, in spite of what you see on
CNN, we are fine. A lot of the nighttime shooting scenes from CNN were
filmed directly in front of our office - not the neighborhood where we
Love to all, Malcolm & Sandra (We are considering a name change to Ted
and Andrea Koppell and keeping you up on the news from the
Dear Friends Again,
This was a truly exciting day for at least one reason - I got 11
replies to yesterday's e-mail. Thanks! It was great hearing from you
all. I get the impression that you all concluded (rightfully) that we
are fine since the general message seemed to be send more news as
opposed to keeping our heads down in the line of fire.
We do not have a TV here, so I am not totally aware of the current
situation, but it was looking a little bad around our office, which has
become battleground central, this afternoon. The kids had staged
another demonstration at the MPR (congressional) Buildings, managed to
shut down the main tollroad to the airport as well as the main east-west
road in the city. The military was amassing more troops and we decided
to evacuate the office at 5 PM - about 2 hours earlier than normal.
There were also reports that a large delegation of students was on its
way from a University about 6 miles from flashpoint. There was also a
large group of students assembling at the university across the street
from our building. (As an aside, with this many lowly paid people they
are able to immediately clean up the messes. As we went to the airport
on Saturday morning, the road looked pretty bad - Large potted plants
overturned, small palms recently planted uprooted, signs toppled, and
fences down. Within a day all was restored. The battleground in front
of the office looked like the calmest Main Street in America today where
there was blood on Friday.)
A group of us actually met with the American Ambassador at his
residence today. It is his opinion that this will calm down - the
students are not united - the money is staying strong - the military
does not have a major split as it did before - and the military was
quick to quell the rioting which started in the Chinatown area. I
believe that may all be true, but I still feel that the students will
keep up the pressure to hold Habibie and Wiranto, the Commander of the
Army and being considered previously as a presidential candidate,
accountable for the murders of the students. The military supposedly
sustained some casualties as well, but in a country where the populace
does not have guns those had to be from "friendly fire". Pro-government
thugs also suffered casualties. They were paid by god knows who to help
in the protection effort. Everyone knew that was suicidal, and a few
were beaten death when they could be singled out.
The ambassador said there was no good evidence that there were snipers
on buildings - damn that sounded like a good story!
The good news was picked up by a few of you in the Boston papers. Yes,
Stone & Webster is offering an early retirement plan. Sounds very
enticing, but we really do love it here. Sandra will be out shopping
even harder come tomorrow.