Wed, 06 Aug 2003

Govt not doing enough to fight terror

M. Taufiqurrahman and A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An analyst and legislator blamed the government on Tuesday for the deadly blast in front of the lobby of the JW Marriott Hotel, which killed at least 13 people and injured 149 others, saying that it had not taken sufficient preemptive measures to counter the threat of terrorism.

Hermawan Sulistyo, an expert on terrorism from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that despite the enactment of the antiterrorism law, the government lacked initiative in taking concrete measures.

Following the deadly Bali bombings in October 2002, the government issued antiterrorism regulations that were later enacted into law.

Hermawan said the government had not made concerted efforts to deal with the terror threat.

"As far as the counterterrorism task force under the National Police is concerned, I don't see that the government has provided enough resources for it," Hermawan told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He said the antiterrorism team set up by the police was short on funding and skilled personnel.

Furthermore, the antiterrorism desk at the Office of the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, and the antiterrorism law would not be able to help much in the fight against terrorism, he said.

Hermawan added, however, that even with the existence of a professional antiterror team, the terrorist threat would still loom large until the government uprooted the real causes of terrorism.

"The government must in the first place deal with the problems of religious fanaticism, acute economic inequalities and hostility to the American presence here," Hermawan said.

Legislator Ibrahim Ambong, meanwhile, said the National Police were powerless to prevent terrorist attacks in the country.

"They don't have enough personnel to confront the terrorist threat," he told the Post.

The car bomb that exploded and ripped through the front of the JW Marriot hotel in Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta, is the latest terrorist outrage to hit Indonesia.

The blast comes just weeks after police in Central Java discovered thousands of rounds of live ammunition and arrested several members of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), a regional terrorist network blamed for the Bali bombings. There were also unconfirmed reports that large quantities of explosives were being transported to Jakarta by terrorists.

Police have arrested over 30 alleged JI members for their roles in terrorism, and some of these are currently standing trial at the Denpasar District Court. The verdict against one of the key suspects in the Bali bombings, Amrozi, is due on Thursday. He may face the death sentence if found guilty.

The trial of the alleged spiritual leader of JI, cleric Abu Bakar Ba'ashir, is also underway.

Last month, Indonesian JI member and expert bombmaker, Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, escaped from jail in the Philippines.

A number of blasts have rocked the capital over the past year. The first came on Feb. 3 at a public assembly hall at National Police Headquarters in south Jakarta. No one was injured.

The second blast caused slight damage near the UN mission in Central Jakarta on April 25. Again there were no casualties.

Three days later another bomb exploded in a restaurant at Jakarta's Sukarno-Hatta international airport, injuring two people.

A low explosive device damaged part of the national legislative building early on July 14, but once again there were no casualties. The legislature was on recess ahead of the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), which began last Friday.

The capital has been rocked by at least 21 bomb blasts since January 1998, which have killed 21 people and injuring some 250 others.

The most serious attack -- until Monday's hotel explosion -- claimed 10 lives and injured 90 others when a bomb exploded in an underground parking lot of the Jakarta Stock Exchange building on September 13, 2000.