Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Opposition grows to government-proposed draconian security law

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Analysts, politicians and top government officials have joined the chorus of opposition on Tuesday to reject the proposed adoption of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) as a measure to preempt terrorist attacks.

Kusnanto Anggoro, a political analyst with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said the adoption of a draconian Singaporean- or Malaysian-style ISA was not the right way to wipe out terrorism in the country.

"I think the problem is not whether we have an ISA or not, but the fact that we don't have a comprehensive counterterrorism policy," he said on the sidelines of a seminar on human rights protection.

He cited the lack of coordination among state agencies as constituting the main shortcoming in the fight against terrorism. "Strengthening the cooperation between the Indonesian Military and the National Police is more important than the enactment of an ISA," he said.

Analyst Ichlasul Amal from state-run Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta concurred with Kusnanto, saying the enactment of an ISA would not help much in the fight against terrorism.

"There is no guarantee that the adoption of an ISA will eliminate the terror threat," he said.

He expressed his deep concern that the adoption of an ISA would instead lead to human rights violations.

The best possible way to anticipate and prevent terrorist attacks was improved intelligence and the drawing up of policies that would deter the emergence of militant groups, he said.

"Militant and extreme groups should be given a greater say in the country's political system," he said.

Last week, Minister of Defense Matori Abdul Djalil floated the idea to adopt an ISA to combat the intensifying terror attacks, following the devastating bombing at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, which killed at least 12 people and injured 147 others.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto lent their support to the controversial proposal.

Chairman Roy B.B. Janis of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) faction at the House of Representatives underlined that there was no need to produce another antiterrorism regulation.

"We don't need a new regulation; optimize the implementation of the existing law," he said after a party meeting here.

He also cited the lack of coordination among security agencies as one of the major factors that have contributed to the increase in terrorist attacks.

"What they need to do is to beef up coordination and rigidly enforce the Antiterrorism Law, which we believe is enough to facilitate preventive measures against terrorism," Roy said.

Although the government has not yet announced its official stance on the issue, Vice President Hamzah Haz shared Roy's view, saying that it would be better for the government to maximize the implementation of the existing regulation and mend its shortcomings.

"If there are still weaknesses, then we can think about other options, such as the adoption of an ISA," Hamzah told reporters.

He said the option to adopt an ISA should be studied thoroughly, as the drafting of a new law might not immediately solve the problem.

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra also expressed his personal objection to the idea, saying that enacting the draconian law could mean that the government was going too far.

"I suggest that the government should, if needed, 'improve' the Antiterrorism Law instead of adopting an ISA. As far as I know, Minister Susilo was the champion of the idea in the recent informal talks among government officials," he said.

Yusril did not spell out what he meant by improving the Antiterrorism Law. However, he admitted that an ISA was indeed too much and, if enacted, could spark further controversies among the people.

The Cabinet is expected to hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue, after which it will make public the government's official stance on the much-criticized ISA.