Sparse crowds at eateries, malls in Jakarta

Weekend crowds were thin in many parts of downtown Jakarta following the Jan 14 militant attacks.
Weekend crowds were thin in many parts of downtown Jakarta following the Jan 14 militant attacks. PHOTO: TRINNA LEONG

Even as Jakarta put on a brave front in the aftermath of Thursday's militant attack in the city, weekend crowds were thin in many parts of downtown yesterday.

The Sunday Timesfound several popular haunts across the city were either deserted or had remarkably lower footfall than usual on the first Saturday after the attack, despite the defiant message Indonesians were sending online with the hashtag #kitatidaktakut, or "we are not afraid".

Sogo department store in Plaza Senayan, with its storewide end-season sale of up to 70 per cent, had more staff than customers. "It should be full but it isn't. Maybe because of what happened at Sarinah," said a salesman who did not want to be named.

During lunch hour, many restaurants in Plaza Senayan saw more than half of their tables empty. Neighbouring restaurants had few or no customers.

But patrons said they did not feel threatened at malls after the attack outside the city's oldest shopping complex, Sarinah mall.

"I feel much safer now. They've stepped up security and are doing patrols more frequently inside the mall," said college student Dara Arifin, 20, who was in Plaza Senayan.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack, had relied on locally recruited and trained militants to launch simultaneous assaults at a Starbucks cafe and on streets in the vicinity. The attacks had left seven dead, of which five were the attackers.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Starbucks outlet at Menara Cakrawala remained closed and was undergoing renovation when The Sunday Times visited the scene.

Pacific Place was also eerily quiet. A cashier at a small eatery said office workers did not spend time in the mall after work hours on Friday.

It was more of the same over at Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia malls, located less than a kilometre from the site of the attack. Security, however, was tight. Instead of the usual cursory bag-checks, guards thoroughly searched the bags of those entering the premises. There were also additional patrols and barricades put up.

"Usually we are packed... and we will be controlling traffic like mad," said a security officer at Grand Indonesia, who asked not to be named.

In the streets, another sign that things have yet to resume normality - there have been no major traffic jams since Thursday, in the city that has been named as having the worst traffic congestion in the world.

"The jam is actually worse during weekends but today it took me half the time to get here," said Ms Dara.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2016, with the headline 'Sparse crowds at eateries, malls in Jakarta'. Print Edition | Subscribe