Sat, 15 May 2004

Terrorism challenge for next president, U.S. envoy says

Moch. N. Kurniawan, Jakarta

The United States hopes that the future Indonesian president will have a clear policy to combat terrorism, its envoy Ralph L. Boyce said on Friday. Neighboring Australia's former envoy Richard Woolcott and an advisor to Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo raised similar hopes at a two-day seminar here on presidential candidates.

"The president elected in the July 5 election or in September will need to formulate foreign security policy including a policy to combat terrorism," Woolcott said.

Boyce noted that while the National Police have arrested more than 110 suspects in terrorist attacks since the Oct. 12 2002 bombing in Bali, there were still challenges ahead.

The security condition has improved a lot, he said, yet "Some important terrorist suspects, whose names we all know, are still out there." He added that this increased the risk of another serious incident.

Among those still at large are Azahari, a main suspect in the bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta last August.

Addressing the discussion held by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Boyce noted that Indonesia now recognizes the threat of terrorism.

"I think it is no longer a case that people think it is a threat to foreign interests, but in fact the safety and prosperity of Indonesia itself is very much in the balance," he added.

Woolcott added that while political Islam was on the rise in Indonesia, he hoped that Indonesia would continue as a moderate Islamic and constructive nation.

He said that all countries in the region hoped Indonesia would have a successful election, and produce a stable, moderate and effective government that would strengthen confidence in its economy.

Other concerns of the U.S., Boyce indicated, were the next president's ability to address the rule of law, confusing regulations, the "uncompetitive" labor law and declining infrastructure. "When the new government will be installed in October, the world will be watching who is selected for key positions...," he said.

Also addressing the talks were Jusuf Wanandi of CSIS, political analyst Dewi Fortuna Anwar, and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's advisor for military reform, Carolina G. Hernandez.

Hernandez said that given Indonesia's location "at the regional center of terrorist activities", its role in combating terrorist activities was important.

Indonesia has actually regained its role as informal leader in Asia after it suffered setbacks due to the economic crisis in 1997, and it has also led the establishment of the ASEAN Security Community (ASC) to strengthen security in the region, she said.

In what seemed to be one of the early warnings for Indonesia of terrorist activities, Philippine envoy Leonides T. Caday was seriously injured when a car bomb exploded near his car as he was entering his residence in Jakarta on Aug. 1 2000.

Presidential candidate Gen. (ret) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told the seminar that if elected, he would protect national sovereignty, promote an active foreign policy, and ensure that Indonesia would be in the frontline in the fight against terrorism.

Another presidential candidate, Gen. (ret) Wiranto, had addressed the talks on Thursday.