General Gatot Nurmantyo was doing the rounds of the site of the Jakarta terror attack almost exactly a year ago when I met him. As Indonesia’s top general he was decked out in his dress uniform, complete with a brass-tipped walking stick to review the unfolding show of force after gunmen struck at the country’s administrative and commercial heart not more than kilometer from the presidential palace. I I say “met” but that may be overselling it. He exchanged a few words with Indonesian reporters and because I was doing some work for the Economist on the attack I jumped in, just as the scrum was breaking up.
“General, if you’ll permit a question in English, are you surprised by today’s attack?” I ask. Okay, that was a little forthright but the guy’s a general, I thought. He has been put on the spot plenty of times before, right?
His response was to glare at me as if I said something impolite about members of his family while he was strapped to a gurney and couldn’t punch me. Then, in front of other Indonesian reporters, he spun on his heel and strode away without saying a word. So, sure, I met him in the way a diver meets a shark as it swims by.
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