Tue, 14 May 2002

Antiterrorism deal needs time to be effective

Yogita Tahilramani The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The tripartite antiterrorism agreement signed recently by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia will not take effect immediately as the three neighboring countries still need a substantial amount of time to design their legal frameworks and communication centers, says a government official.

Marty Natalegawa, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Monday that the agreement would take effect only after the three countries had notified they had readied their own institutions to simultaneously enforce it.

"Each of the three countries is required to set up a liaison center that will be in charge of operations. The center will have members from all government institutions that are in charge of security, defense and law enforcement," Marty told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The three-way agreement, inked by the three countries' foreign ministers in Kuala Lumpur on May 7, is scheduled to help enforcement agencies to monitor potential security threats effectively through a more rigorous exchange of information. Apart from targeting potential terrorist threats, the pact will look at ways of tackling other transnational crimes, such as smuggling, drug trafficking, hijacking, illegal trafficking of women and children and piracy.

Marty added that once the liaison center and the legal technicalities were established, only then would the pact come into effect.

When asked if it could take up to two years for the legal technicalities and the setting up of the communications center to be completed, Marty said quickly that it would "not necessarily take that long," and that preparations were already under way.

The pact allows for the exchange of airline passenger lists and the carrying out of joint training and exercises against terrorism and other transnational crimes, but extradition matters are not covered in the pact, which has made it somewhat vague.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo Macapagal earlier ordered the release of two of three Indonesians detained in mid-March by Philippine authorities at the Ninoy Aquino international airport in Manila, for alleged possession of explosives components.

Agus Dwikarna, the only one still detained in the Philippines, has his pretrial hearing scheduled for May 16. According to recent media reports in the Philippines, intelligence officials have identified Agus as leader of a militant group that helped train Al-Qaeda operatives.

Agus is a senior official of the Laskar Jundullah militia.

Foreign media reports have stated that Laskar Jundullah had set up a secret paramilitary training camp near the riot-torn city of Poso in Central Sulawesi, in late 2000. The camp, allegedly located near Poso, had reportedly attracted at least two dozen militants from the Philippines, several from Malaysia and scores from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Marty said on Monday that Indonesia would not rely on such reports as the foreign ministry had yet to receive any confirmation on these reports via official communications from the Philippines. "We will rely solely on official communications ... short of that, we will not be arriving at any conclusions," Marty said.