After Bali: Waffling

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After the bombings in Bali, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri seemed finally to grasp the seriousness of the terrorism threat in her country. She rushed to the scene of the tragedy, pushed through a tough antiterror presidential decree and permitted the arrest of Abubakar Ba'asyir, the Muslim cleric suspected of being the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, which the U.S. has dubbed a terrorist organization.

Now, however, it seems Megawati has reverted to her former indecision. She has not addressed the nation to explain the direction in which she plans to take it. More crucially, she has failed to reach out for support to Indonesia's two largest Muslim organizations, her most obvious allies in reining in Islamic radicalism. Syafii Maarif, the chairman of one group, Muhammadiyah, initially backed the President's tough post-Bali line. Now he's backpedaling, particularly on the arrest of Ba'asyir. "I reject Ba'asyir's strategy to achieve his ideas and goals," Maarif told TIME. "But his arrest was not based on enough legal evidence. The police should not arrest people at will without strong evidence."

Part of the problem is that Megawati remains dependent on hard-line Muslims for her political survival. Such is their stature that her Vice President, Hamzah Haz, is a longtime defender of radical Islamic groups. Earlier this month, he told reporters that he planned to visit Ba'asyir in the hospital out of a feeling of "Muslim brotherhood." (Haz changed his mind at the last minute, sending a member of his staff in his place.) As for Ba'asyir, he adamantly resisted attempts by police to question him while receiving treatment for respiratory problems at a hospital in Jakarta. Despite being bedridden, he was hearty enough last week to give caustic interviews accusing Megawati of caving in to demands from Washington for his arrest.