No talks on counterterrorism during Indonesia’s presidential debate

06-Feb-2019 Intellasia | The Independent | 6:00 AM Print This Post

There were no talks on how to combat terrorism during the first presidential debate on January 17, contradictory to the viewers’ expectations that the candidates would tackle counterterrorism policy.

Last year, Indonesia experienced a series of terror attacks perpetrated by pro-Islamic networks.

Suicide bombings and armed attacks on churches and police posts in East Java and Sumatra claimed dozens of lives.

The aftermath of the attacks led to the ratification of a revised Anti-Terrorism Law by the House of Representatives. The new law gave police sweeping powers of arrest and the ability to detain suspects for up to six months. Also, it is an offense for Indonesians to travel abroad in a bid to join terrorist groups.

The legislation added offenses such as taking part in military training at home or abroad, communicating about conducting terrorist acts and joining or recruiting for a declared terrorist organisation. Authorities would also be given the power to strip convicted terrorists of their passports and citizenship.

At the end of 2018, Indonesian National Police had arrested 372 terrorist suspects. Terrorism still remains a significant threat to public security this year.

As the general elections in Indonesia are drawing closer, a rematch is going to happen again on April 17 this year. Incumbent President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, will run for re-election with senior Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate. Former general Prabowo Subianto and former Jakarta deputy governor Sandiaga Uno sought to win this time for the five-year term between 2019 and 2024.

The campaign missions of Jokowi and Amin underscored their vision to improve integrated effort to prevent terrorism.

For the two, it is important to touch on national ideology to prevent terrorism. They also highlighted the development of the education system and empowering law enforcement.

During the presidential debate, Amin reaffirmed in their efforts to prevent and to prosecute terrorism and its related activities.

In order to carry out all of these efforts, there is a need for strong coordination and cooperation between relevant stakeholders. But the issue on agencies competing for credibility posed to be one of the challenges barring an effective one.

One very important key player in counterterrorism is the National Agency for Combating Terrorism (BNPT). Unfortunately, it is poorly coordinated with experienced civil society organisations (CSOs).

By virtue of the new law, BNPT should map out and make accessible existing stakeholder activities and update them periodically to allow better coordination.

Ma’ruf Amin, chair of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), has contradicted the perception of ideology as the determining factor in radicalisation. The issuance of fatwa ruling that terrorism is not a jihad and that it is haram (forbidden) reinforced MUIs stand.

In order to understand and tackle terrorism, according to Amin, a multifaceted approach including religious, social, economic and cultural aspectsshould be utilised.

Ideal it may seem, but the MUI fatwa does not reach terrorist networks. As ISIS is increasing its clout around the world, the government should explore other measures to address the radicalisation. The role of Islamic clerics is instrumental; providing counselling training can be one.

On the other side of the political spectrum, opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and running mate Sandiaga Uno’s counterterrorism vision focuses on carrying out security sector reform, empowering law enforcement, launching a socio-cultural campaign and enhancing synergies between the defense and security apparatuses.

Apparently, there are no significant differences between the JokowiAmin and SubiantoUno visions on counterterrorism.

During the debate, no constructive discussion on the issue was done. Instead of discussing strategies to combat terrorism, both candidates have similar visions of countering radicalism through empowering law enforcement and developing the education system.

Similarly, there was no weight given to long-standing problems in coordinating counterterrorism policy stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Subianto argued that terrorism is the result of social injustice and subversive infiltration by foreign actors. This is in relation to the problem on homegrown terrorism and that terrorism is a conspiracy propagated by foreign powers such as the United States. Slamet Maarif of 212 Movement argued that terrorism is a means to institutionalise Islamophobia.

Apart from the counterterrorism strategies, there were other issues not sufficiently tackled during the debate. These include prison management and strategy for sustainable reintegration and aftercare programmes.

Local police station detention cells are seen as incapable of managing terrorist detainees. The Indonesian National Police is currently struggling to accommodate hundreds of terrorist suspects.

There is also a need to reintegrate former inmates in order to prevent them from returning to their old networks. Local governments hand in hand with civil society should enforce this.

Only then the constituents-voters can fully understand this situation when it comes to putting up a fight against terrorism. The new anti-terrorism law is just one thing.


Category: Indonesia

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