Indonesia`s reputation and challenges in counter-terrorism

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesias success and reputation in counter-terrorism have long been recognized internationally. During the US-ASEAN Summit in Sunnylands, California, this week, this recognition is again underlined following US President Barack Obamas request to President Joko Widodo to lead a counter-terrorism meeting.

The forum for sharing knowledge and experience in handling terror threats and crimes against humanity at the summit, being held on American soil for the first time, is indispensable to the common interests of both the US and the 10 ASEAN member countries.

This is specially important, considering the fact that none of nations, including the superpower, is absolutely free of the very real threat of terrorism.

For the leaders of Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, discussing the issue of terrorism at the Sunnylands summit may have reminded them of what they had signed on November 5, 2001 in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New Yorks World Trade Center buildings.

On the day, the ASEAN leaders had adopted the 2001 ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism at their 7th Summit in the capital city of Brunei Darussalam, Bandar Sri Begawan, in which they cemented their strong commitment to fighting against terrorism because it was viewed as "a direct challenge to the attainment of peace, progress and prosperity."

Apart from their common commitment to countering, preventing and suppressing "all forms of terrorist acts in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other international law," they, however, rejected "any attempt to link terrorism with any religion or race."

For Indonesia, terrorism remains an endless challenge since a series of terrorist attacks, including the Philippines embassy and Christmas Eve bombings, rocked Jakarta in 2000. The most recent incident occurring in the Indonesian capital city on January 14, 2016 in the form of suicide bombing and shooting attack.

According to the National Police Chief, General Badrodin Haiti, 17 people were allegedly involved in the January 14 assault, which led to the death of eight people, including three innocent civilians, and caused injuries to more than 20 others. The attackers, he said, actually planned to launched their attack on the 2015 Christmas Eve but the police successfully managed to foil it.

For their deadly assault on a police post and Starbucks coffee shop near Central Jakartas Sarinah shopping mall, the January 14 attackers did not have sufficient budget for their plans, and had merely spent Rp900 thousand for making the explosives, Haiti said.

Despite the polices success in handling the Jakarta suicide bombing and shooting attack, terror threats loom large over the country as several terrorist groups still have contacts with Muhammad Bahrun Naim Anggih Tamtono.

Bahrun Naim, believed to be the mastermind behind the January 14 assault, is ready to transfer funds to terrorist groups that could launch attacks, said General Badrodin Haiti at a joint hearing of the government with the House of Representatives commissions overseeing defense and security issues, and legal affairs, here on Monday.

The prevalent real threats of terrorism inside Indonesia are also confirmed by numerous academic studies, including Joseph Chinyong Liows "ISIS reaches Indonesia: The terrorist groups prospects in Southeast Asia," and Susan Sim and Noor Huda Ismails "Predicting terrorist recidivism in Indonesias prisons" (Brookings Institution, 2016).

The governments efforts to combat all forms of terrorist acts and promote its de-radicalization campaign to curb terrorism in the country, however, are obviously threatened by the decrepit facilities of the National Polices antiterrorism squad, Densus 88, whose reputation and achievements in counter-terrorism have widely been recognized since its founding on August 26, 2004.

Realizing this reality, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan has sought the House of Representatives (DPRs) support to empower the Densus 88 counterterrorism unit, and to revise the Anti-Terrorism Law Number 15/2003.

"The national action plan on handling terrorism is important, but the Densus 88 squads facilities are decrepit," he stated at the joint hearing of the government with the Houses Commission I and Commission III here.

During the hearing, in which the representatives of the Attorney Generals Office, National Intelligence Agency (BIN), and Law and Human Rights Ministry also joined in, Pandjaitan noted that the polices antiterrorism squad could be empowered by offering support in the form of an additional budget, more personnel, as well as through the implementation of advanced technology and improved organizational structure.

Pandjaitan said he had even discussed matters related to the empowerment of the Densus 88 squads organizational structure and human resources with President Joko Widodo and General Badrodin Haiti. "The additional budget will be provided as we need to laud our National Police for its success in handling the January 14 terrorist attack. We seek the Houses support to upgrade the technology used by the antiterrorism squad," he emphasized.

Pandjaitan also elaborated on the revision of Anti-Terrorism Law Number 15/2003, urging the House to take immediate steps to follow up on this, taking into account its significant role in the governments preventive measures to deal with the threats and acts of terrorism.

By revising the antiterrorism law, the governments related agencies would be able to gain information to expose terrorist networks and conduct operations to detain suspects for a period of seven days. "This will help us minimize the possibility of terrorist groups launching their attacks. The police can work well with the BIN," he said.

The blunt message that Pandjaitan and Haiti sent to the legislators in Jakarta on Monday is expected to pave the way for Indonesia to build a stronger bilateral and multilateral cooperation with its friends inside and outside the ASEAN region. The counter-terrorism meeting of the US-ASEAN Summit that President Joko Widodo leads is also expected to strengthen a common commitment to combating terrorism without linking it to any faith.(*)

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