With militia engaged in a drawn out attack in the Philippines, the spectre of an ISIS front in Asia is mounting.
Just a stone’s throw away from the fighting in the Mindanao lies Indonesia, a nation of 250 million, struggling with the threat of rising radicalism.
Some Indonesians have joined militants fighting in the Philippines. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s capital Jakarta was struck by a suicide bomb attack – claimed by ISIS – just as the conflict in Marawi was beginning.
KBR’s Chief Editor, Citra Dyah Prastuti has this exclusive interview with President Joko Widodo, on Indonesia’s response to radicalism.
Citra started by asking the President what steps the government is taking to avoid a situation like that in Marawi, The Philippines.
“I think the most important thing is, we should not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Because if we are afraid it means that terrorism has won,” the President said.
“Like it or not, we must prepare a serious agenda to fight terrorism, and I have ordered the Police Chief to tackle them at their roots,” Widodo continued. “But in my opinion, the most important thing is that the Terrorism Bill should be completed soon. Because it will provide legal the legal foundation that when implemented will allow the security apparatus to move more easily.”
In January 2016, a terrorist attack in Jakarta killed 4 people, plus the militatnts involved. Following the attack, President Jokowi quickly moved to reform the country’s 2003 terrorism law, introducing measures aimed at pre-empting attacks.
“Now why can’t our security agencies move?” asked Widodo. “Because we cannot take action before something actually happens. We cannot take action when they have plans. It means that we can’t take any action until after an incident occurs, right? That’s very funny. So that’s why this Terrorism Bill addresses deradicalisation and prevention. It means prevention is the most important point. After that we can get a post-incident response.”
The President’s proposed changes to the terrorism law would broaden the definition of terrorism, and give the military a more active role in addressing terrorism. Preventative measures would allow suspects to be detained for up to six months, without trial.Suspected terrorists could also be stripped of their Indonesian citizenship.
“I think if we have a clear legal protection, the security apparatus will be easier, more solid, and stronger. And they will not hesitate in acting in the field,” the President stated. “I think that's important here. Because in other countries, anti terrorism laws are much stronger, allowing the security apparatus to freely carry out its work.”
The President’s message has drawn criticism from civil society and human rights groups, who have fought hard for democratic freedoms over the past 18 years. Since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship, civil society groups have pushed to reduce the role of the military, and are resisting a fresh encroachment in civil life.
We spoke to Ardi Manto Adiputra, of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor, Imparsial, who gave us another side to the story.
“First of all the process of amending the law on terrorism is already in process in the parliament. The government and the parliament wants to increase the power of law enforcement and the role of the military in controlling terrorism in Indonesia,” Adiputra said.
“We think that in the draft, there are still many potential abuses of human rights. And in involving the military the chance of violating human rights will be bigger than before. Today terrorism it is handled by the police, but in the future when the military is involved, with less safeguards, violation[s] of human rights will be bigger and more dangerous.”
Ardi is concerned that increased military power, and the ability to arrest and detain suspects without trial would be applied to activists, particularly Papuan independence activists.
He says that the police have been able to effectively handle the threat of terrorism over the last 5 years, preventing numerous planned attacks.
“So they don’t need the terrorism act, they can make the preemptive and preventive action based on the existing law,” Adiputra said.
He says that the rights of both victims and perpetrators should be protected. The role of the military must also be clarified. If a conflict like that in Marawi, The Philippines broke out, Adiputra says “the military will be involved automatically because it is there in the military law, number 34, 2004. But when the situation can be handled by the police the military should not be involved at all, including the area of preemptive and preventative. The military doesn’t need to be involved in this area.”