One Constable Standing Tall in Indonesia
By Michael Shari
Few in this region expected swift justice when terrorist bombs killed 202 people along a popular strip of bars and nightclubs on the Indonesian island of Bali October 12, 2002. The government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri -- then a year in office and still feeling its way -- showed no desire to offend powerful Islamic clerics, who rejected evidence that the bombings might have been the work of a local al Qaeda network. Even Indonesia's national police force initially claimed it found "no evidence" to act against Indonesian militants.
Yet, 29 men alleged to be the Bali bombing terrorists were arrested within weeks of the incident. They've been on trial in a Bali court since May 12, and their testimony has led to a massive crackdown on Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamic extremist group identified by Western intelligence as the Southeast Asia wing of al Qaeda.
BY THE BOOK.
The "Bali 29," as they've become known, have implicated 64-year-old Javanese schoolteacher Abu Bakar Basyir, who is concurrently on trial in Jakarta, as being Jemaah Islamiyah's emir, or leader. And in late June, Indonesian prosecutors presented long-distance testimony via video-teleconferencing from an alleged Jemaah Islamiyah member being held in Singapore, corroborating the evidence presented by the defendants. "There's a strong likelihood that they'll be convicted," says Sidney Jones, head of the Jakarta office of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
The Bali case never would have been this close to being sewn up if not for I Made Mangku Pastika, a Balinese Hindu who is the brigadier general in the national police force. Pastika took control of the investigation five days after the bombings, quickly restoring order. Then, he made the unprecedented step of giving free rein to 50 eager investigators from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Scotland Yard, the Australian Federal Police, and other foreign police agencies. It was a bold move in a country where some religious leaders still publicly blame the Bali bombings on foreigners, or even say it was the work of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. But Pastika's results so far speak for themselves.
In a recent interview, Pastika, 50, insisted that he simply followed standard police procedure he learned years ago at the Indonesian Police Science College. He also relied on his extensive experience in bureaucratic bargaining. First, he secured the permission of his superiors in Jakarta to allow foreign investigators to participate. "I told people they weren't investigating," he says. "They were 'assisting in the investigation of the police.'" Then he followed a trail marked by a set of documents turned up in the ancient city of Solo on Java, Indonesia's main island. The documents led investigators to the homes of alleged Bali bombmaker Amrozi and then to alleged bombing mastermind Imam Samudra. That led to the arrest and prosecution of the 27 others. "I just went by the book -- step by step, very slowly, very carefully," Pastika says.
Pastika has won respect among Western diplomats for his intellect and political acumen. Ralph L. Boyce, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, calls him a "professional cop" who is driven by a "desire to perform." Local business people admire him, too. "You don't feel anything about him that smells of business or corruption," says Renee Chew, co-founder of the Wakatobi Dive Resort on a remote island off of Bali. "He comes across as a clean man." Pastika points to his upbringing. "My father was my teacher," he recalls. "As a Balinese, he talked about karma: If you do good, you beget good. If you do bad..."
The lanky, crew-cut 50-year-old already had several major achievements under his belt before cracking the Bali case. In August, 1999, as police chief for the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur, bordering East Timor, he led an investigation into the murders of three U.N. officials by East Timorese militiamen backed by the Indonesian army. He subsequently directed the disarming of the entire militia.
In October, 2001, as police chief for the province of West Papua, he arrested 12 soldiers from the Indonesian army's feared Special Forces division in connection with the murder of Papuan independence movement leader Theys Eluay. He likes to boast that he arrested so many Indonesian bankers on fraud charges during the financial crisis of 1997-98 that his holding cell in Jakarta became known as "the bankers' club."
Pastika's service in the Bali probe won him a promotion in late October to deputy chief of criminal investigation in Jakarta. Since April, he has been investigating leads that still-undiscovered "sleeper cells" are waiting to carry out deadly attacks against U.S. targets in Indonesia. "People have been saying, 'This [the Bali bombing] must have been the work of the CIA,'" he says. "We're not listening. We just keep going." All in character for Pastika.
Shari is a BusinessWeek correspondent based in Singapore
Edited by Douglas Harbrecht