Sat, 23 Aug 2003

Indonesia must clean up terrorism

Amien Rais, Speaker People's Consultative Assembly, Jakarta

The recent JW Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta did not only leave a deep scar on those who lost their loved ones, but moreover a majority of Indonesians. The public's shock has yet to wane, and it will take some time for this wound to heal and bring life back to its normal pace again.

Indonesian Muslims are generally peaceful, tolerant and well- motivated; the suspected actions of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) and any other extremist factions are therefore rejected by the Indonesian people and its leadership. I am convinced that 99 percent of Indonesians condemned these cowardly attacks, which were obviously targeted at Westerners, but resulted in the death of Indonesians: Taxi drivers, security guards and innocent bystanders.

If these terrorists were aiming to make a statement and rally public support behind their cause, the bombing attack achieved just the opposite. Our determination to combat terrorism has become greater then ever. I personally took a very strong stand on these matters at the time of the Bali bombing, which has been proved correct by the passage of time and events.

Following the attacks, a senior official foreshadowed the need for an Internal Security Act similar to those in Singapore and Malaysia.

Although supported by a number of other government officials, I have my doubts that this idea will ever become law. The heart of the problem does not lie in the incompleteness of a regulatory framework, but in the capacity of the Indonesian security and intelligence authorities to prepare for and prevent similar attacks from reoccurring. Adding new laws will not stop a new breed of Amrozi's and Hambali's to start aiming for new targets; but having the police force and national intelligence step up its capabilities to detect underground terrorist activities certainly will.

We have made the right steps by admitting our lack of technical skill in dealing with terrorism and have requested the cooperation of foreign institutions, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Australian Federal Police, Scotland Yard and others. It is important to establish a stronger and continuous relationship with these police agencies, for as long as it takes to train our police force to meet the public's highest expectations.

The Indonesian public is united in the fight against all forms of terrorism. The Jakarta bombing tragedy, as painful as it may be to most of us, has given Indonesians a stronger incentive to eradicate terrorism from our country. I trust the international community does not believe that JI somehow speaks for Indonesia and Indonesians.

Finally, the government needs to "act" and not "react" to detect terrorist activity before and not after the event. If the Bali bombing of last year was a "wake up call" for the Jakarta government, the Marriott bombing was indeed a slap in the face of our security apparatus. Another incident of this nature will not be slap but a serious body blow. We have to prevent this grim scenario at all costs. The above views are personnal.