Tue, 21 Jan 2003

Doubts remain about ASEAN's resolve to fight terrorism

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Police chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) started an antiterrorism workshop here on Monday amid serious doubts over the region's resolve to crack down on terrorist networks.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri, in her opening speech, underlined the urgency of establishing more effective cooperation among ASEAN member countries.

"Only through close cooperation will we be able to effectively combat it in our individual countries and jointly secure our region from terrorism, and address in all its forms and manifestations," Megawati said.

But the absence of extradition treaties among member countries would likely undermine efforts to join forces in dealing with "the common enemy".

Still reeling from the deadly Bali bombing on Oct. 12, Indonesia is intent on prosecuting those responsible for the massacre, but neighboring Singapore and Malaysia have hinted that they were not willing to send witnesses or other suspects to Indonesia for trial here.

Malaysia, for example, has refused to extradite its citizen Wan Min bin Wan Mat to Indonesia for trial despite the fact that Wan Min had been declared a suspect in the Bali bombing that killed over 190 people and injured some 300 others, mostly foreigners. Wan Min is believed to be the financier of the terrorist attacks.

Malaysian Police chief Insp. Gen. Tan Sri Norian Mai said on Monday that it would be better for Indonesian detectives to question the suspect in Malaysia rather than to extradite Wan Min to Indonesia.

He also said that Indonesia had not requested Wan Min's extradition.

"So far there has been no request from the Indonesian National Police to send Wan Min to Jakarta. If there is such a request, we will think about it," he said.

Singapore has also been reluctant to send to Indonesia witnesses about the alleged terrorist activities of Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who is going to be brought to trial in the not so distant future.

Singapore has arrested dozens of members of Jamaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist network that strives to create a Muslim country in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has no extradition treaty with Singapore.

Singapore and Malaysia's refusal to send witnesses and suspected terrorists to Indonesia raises serious questions on how far ASEAN members countries are willing to cooperate in fighting against terrorism.

Many, if not all, witnesses and terrorist suspects in Singapore and Malaysia are detained under the two countries' respective Internal Security Acts (ISA), under which the authorities may detain suspects for as long as two years without trial.

Both countries have displayed no intention of prosecuting terrorist suspects in the near future.

Megawati said the three-day meeting should adopt concrete forms, ways and means, as well as procedures for more effective cooperation.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said Monday that Indonesia was willing to share its experiences in handling a post-terrorist attack situation as well as sharing information on terrorist networks in Indonesia.