That evening I met Fergus for dinner at the Meridien hotel where a meal costs as much as one week’s stay in the third class ward of the Red Cross hospital. The restaurant reminded me of a lounge on a luxury cruise liner.
"Elections coming up," said Fergus, as he began to cut up his omelette. "and that means you have to be a bit careful when there are street demonstrations."
"Would you advise staying off the main roads?" I said.
"When they’re all out parading, yes," said Fergus. "But if you do happen to get caught up in the middle of the green lot, remember to hold up one finger. That’s their sign. The yellows are two fingers and the reds three."
"I’ve seen lots of people holding up three fingers."
"And I’ve seen a few drivers holding up one finger," said Fergus.
"How democratic are these elections?"
"Well, let’s say that the President’s party, the yellows, always win."
"Things should be calmer than last year, when they had the Gulf War," I commented. "Lots of Indonesians seemed to be supporting Saddam."
"Which might seem odd," said Fergus, "because Saddam was put into power by the Americans and armed by the Americans. He was very much a CIA-Pentagon asset."
"I suppose that what’s changed is that Saddam’s now presenting himself as the champion of the Palestinians. That’s why he’s popular here, but not in the Pentagon."
"Coming back to the subject of Indonesia’s elections," said Fergus, "There’s no need to worry. Most Indonesians are pretty easygoing about life. They like to be hospitable to all visitors. But do avoid the street demonstrations."