Officials in Indonesia say the bomb attack on a Buddhist temple in Jakarta in the last week of Ramadan was no way to express solidarity with Rohingya Muslims of Burma.
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali confirmed to reporters that one of the explosives placed at the Ekayana Buddhist Centre in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, on August 4th carried a message about the Rohingya.
"This is just cheap provocation, and no way to protect the Rohingya," he said. "This is negative. This is not the way to do it."
The Indonesian government is working to help resolve the conflict peacefully, and that is the correct way to show solidarity with other Muslims. "We have already done a lot," he said.
According to Boy Salamuddin, head of international relations division for the National Police, the message also shows misunderstanding of the current situation in Burma. Efforts to protect Rohingya and restore their rights are already under way, with international involvement, he said.
"Political and security developments in Burma are already conducive," Tempo quoted him as saying. "Looking at Burma right now, I have to ask, what is the relevance of this recent attack? … Do they [the perpetrators] really sympathise with Rohingya people?"
Prayer time attack
The blasts came Sunday evening, August 4th, just as Indonesia began a week-long holiday heading into Idul Fitri. Three people sustained minor injuries and the facility was damaged when two low-intensity bombs exploded. Police detonated a third a few hours later.
Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras captured images of a young, slender man with spectacles who calmly placed parcels in plastic bags, one just inside the sanctuary and another on a shoe rack immediately outside it, as people were coming and going for prayer.
"After disposing of the parcels, he got into line and joined the prayers," Aryamaitri Mahasthawira, head of the Ekayana Buddhist Centre, told an August 5th press conference. Not long after, the terrorist left by himself on a motorcycle.
Kurnia, a police officer posted about 100 metres from the temple, heard the explosions. He said he saw nothing suspicious ahead of time. "There was no panic. I thought it sounded like firecrackers," he told Khabar Southeast Asia.
Al Chaidar, a political science professor at Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, said the incident could be related to an apparent bomb plot foiled in May, when police arrested two men in South Jakarta. The suspects were carrying pipe bombs with them and were allegedly planning to attack the Burmese embassy the following day.
However, he added, the Ekayana attack was clearly carried out by amateurs.
"The bombs they used were relatively small and some failed to explode. These members were recently recruited. They are still learning," he said.
Safeguarding communal harmony
Officials said those targeting the Ekayana temple may have been hoping to stir up intercommunal tensions and erode Indonesia's tradition of interreligious tolerance.
"It is a possibility that the perpetrators are trying to provoke a conflict among Buddhists and Muslims in Indonesia, especially by using a moment during Ramadan," State Intelligence Agency (BIN) Chief Marciano Norman told Khabar.
"If they want to have sympathy, they obviously failed. Indonesia has agreed to reject any violence committed in the name of religion," he said. Muhammad Abidin, a cleric in West Jakarta, had similar thoughts about the likely motive.
"I agree; I think it is just a stupid terrorist attack wanting to challenge religious tolerance in Indonesia," he told Khabar. "I am glad it failed, and this is a reminder that everyone should get along regardless of their religion and beliefs."
Aryamaitri, head of the temple, urged Buddhists to remain calm and trust in police to handle the case. "We do not hate them," he said of the attackers. "Hopefully, God can open their hearts."
Assistance for Burmese Muslims
Indonesia has been actively involved in international efforts to help the Rohingya and ensure Muslim rights in reform-minded Burma.
"I will encourage Burma to manage the situation wisely and appropriately to prevent tension and violence. We in Indonesia are ready to give support to achieve these goals," SBY told a forum in Singapore just after the visit.
Indonesia is also pressing Burma to end intercommunal conflict by granting full rights to Rohingya Muslims, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.
"We have experience with this kind of conflict, and we would like to help in whatever way we can," Marty told Khabar.
"We will continue to push the Myanmar [Burma] government to fundamentally solve their internal problems and to give Rohingya legal rights that are similar to other Burmese citizens," he said.