Tue, 19 Aug 2003

Gus Dur, activist reject Antiterorism Law revision

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A former Indonesian president and human rights activists expressed opposition on Saturday to government plans to revise the antiterrorism law, saying the move, which would allow the Indonesian military (TNI) greater power to curb terrorism, was prone to human rights abuses.

"Law No. 15/2003 on terrorism is already adequate to tackle the threats of terrorism. Security agencies, including police and TNI intelligence should improve their performance, not change the law," said former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, also the former chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim organization with over 40 million members.

Gus Dur was speaking to reporters after addressing a discussion organized by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, Education, and Information.

His comments were made after Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced last Thursday that the government was planning to revise the antiterrorism law.

Susilo, a retired Army general, said the law needed revision on the grounds that it had hampered security agencies from taking preemptive measures against terrorist attacks.

The government has been criticized for its failure to detect and prevent the JW Marriot Hotel terrorist attack, which left at least 12 people dead and another 147 injured early this month.

The National Intelligence Agency (BIN), which is in charge of coordinating the country's antiterror campaign, had said that it knew that attacks were planned but was powerless to act as existing laws did not allow it to take preemptive measures.

The government wanted to revise the law to allow the TNI to play a greater role in fighting terror. The TNI, which dominated the country's political scene for more than three decades under the authoritarian leadership of former president Soeharto, is generally believed to have the best intelligence in the country.

Separately, human rights activist Hendardi said the planned revision was merely a government trick to divert attention from the fact that security authorities had failed to prevent terrorist attacks in the country.

"The government must admit that security authorities have failed to anticipate the terrorist attacks. Instead of covering up the fact, the government should move ahead to enhance the ability of security agencies to help tackle the threats of terrorism."

Hendardi told The Jakarta Post that aside from poor equipment and poor professionalism, security agencies lacked coordination among themselves.

"The intelligence and police force have poor team work. Even worse, intelligence, spearheaded by the TNI, is often caught in covert competition with the police force, making their counter- terrorism work largely ineffective," he said.

Hendardi said the lack of coordination should be addressed, not the existing law.

Gus Dur said police and intelligence agents must involve the public in tackling the threats of terrorism.

Separately, human rights activist Asmara Nababan expressed concern over the possible inclusion of draconian articles in any revised antiterrorism law.