Security concerns have given a new headache to organisers of the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang following a spate of terror attacks in a number of cities across Indonesia. The organisers plan to implement stringent security measures to ensure the safety of thousands of athletes turning up for the sporting event and those attending the Games.
Recently, the deputy chairman of the Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee, Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, said security of an international standard would be in place during the August 18 to Sepember 2 competition.
That means sports venues, vehicles carrying athletes and officials, athlete villages, the routes from the athlete villages to sports venues as well as the route of the torch relay will be under the watchful eyes of security personnel.
The organising committee, Sjafrie says, will show zero tolerance to anyone trying to compromise the rigid safety rules. Many complaints are expected about the inconvenience, such as limited access to athletes by fans or time-consuming security checks in sports arenas, but the organisers have no choice given the potential threat.
The organisers say they will add 25,000 security personnel to support the initial 36,000 officials safeguarding the Games in both Jakarta and Palembang. They include 20,000 police reinforcements to be deployed in Jakarta and 3,000 in Palembang.
Over the past weeks, the terrorist sleeper cells have raised their ugly heads just as Indonesia is about to host the Games, the first in 56 years, and the World Bank-International Monetary Fund meeting. The latter event will take place in October in Bali, where terrorists carried out suicide bombings in 2002 and 2005.
Nearly a dozen countries have issued travel advisories in the wake of the attacks, while the counterterrorism squad has launched a crackdown on terrorist cells across the archipelago.
We hope the countries lift the advisories soon, especially if they are participating in the Games. Their withdrawal, God forbid, will be a testament to the international community’s doubt over Indonesia’s ability to protect their citizens.
Whether Indonesia can regain international confidence will to some extent depend on the crackdown on the terrorist network. A number of arrests have been made with more to come, but to realise President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s order to uproot terrorism will require greater commitment from the whole nation.
The ongoing crackdown against the terrorists and precautionary security measures are the least we can hope for to make sure that the Games is safe. Indonesia has gone through these types of security jitters before and there is no doubt that we will get through them again.
Apart from the security concerns, another threat is looming particularly in Palembang. The Games will take place in the dry season, when forest fires are expected to escalate across Sumatra. Extra efforts are also needed to prevent an environmental disaster from playing havoc with the Games.