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Jakarta Post

Jokowi'€™s priorities in addressing terrorism

  • Solahudin

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta.   /   Thu, September 18, 2014   /  03:02 pm
Jokowi'€™s priorities in addressing terrorism

Banned: Police officers probe a suspected supporter of the Islamic State (IS) organization,Firman H.Silalahi, at the Depok regional police station in West Java in August. The organization, which calls for a pan-Islamic caliphate and which has killed thousands in Iraq and Syria, has been banned in Indonesia.

The more difficult work will be the '€˜soft'€™ approach, through deradicalization programs and counter-radicalization.

Terrorism is a major issue to be faced by the new government under Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo and Jusuf Kalla.

Even though hundreds of terrorists have been captured, the threat to the nation remains. Several prominent terrorists have been shot dead, such as Azahari Husin, Noordin M. Top, Dulmatin and others. During 2010-2013 more than 300 suspected terrorists were arrested yet there were still 90 terrorist acts. So why has terrorism continued despite all these arrests? What is lacking in the government'€™s handling of terrorism in Indonesia?

So far the government has applied two approaches to combating terrorism. The first is law enforcement, or the '€œhard'€ approach. The second is the '€œsoft'€ approach, through deradicalization and counter-radicalization. Let'€™s evaluate each of these approaches.

We should appreciate that the law enforcement approach is far from easy, with each step requiring hard evidence. The approach shows we are a law-abiding nation respecting human rights. No one can be arbitrarily arrested without adequate grounds.

Not surprisingly, the police have released more than 70 suspected terrorists for lack of evidence; unlike Singapore, which has the Internal Security Act, under which suspected terrorists can be arrested without all the required evidence.

High appreciation must go to the police, who have uncovered almost all terrorism cases in the country and have also managed to arrest almost all the actors. From 2002 to 2013, the police have captured more than 900 suspected terrorists.           

But we need improvements to make law enforcement a bigger success in relation to terrorism. For instance, Law No. 15/2003 on counter terrorism is heavily oriented toward dealing with terrorist acts rather than preventing terrorism.

This is understandable given the fact that the 2003 law originated from a Government Regulation in lieu of law, Perpu No. 1/2002, which was issued days after the 2002 Bali bombings, amid domestic and international outrage to arrest and prosecute the bombers. The law seemed to be issued in haste '€” and today we feel the effects of terrorism-related issues that remain untouched by this law.

For instance, the police were recently in a bind following pressure to arrest clerics calling for their supporters to join the Islamic State (IS) organization, which is also known as ISIL. Nothing in the law itself could be used to charge the clerics. Therefore, one piece of homework for the Jokowi-Kalla government is to amend the law so we have a strong legal regime regarding terrorism.

It is also urgent to improve the law enforcers who handle cases of terrorism. Our criminal justice system involves the police, the prosecutor'€™s offices, the courts and the prisons.

In addition, it involves the Densus 88 counterterrorism unit, the special task force for terrorism, the prosecutors and the inter-country task force on terrorism, also with their special prosecutors.

However, the courts lack such a special task force, which is important as terrorism is an extraordinary crime. The prisons have just begun setting up such a counterterrorism task force.

Another priority for Jokowi should therefore be the appointment of judges specially equipped to handle terrorism cases in the courts, and assist in the forming of anti-terrorism task forces in the detention centers.

Task forces in prisons and courts will also need to be complemented by increasing the capacities of their members. Prison wardens across the country, for instance, have never had the luxury of being prepared before coming into contact with terrorist convicts. Increasing their capabilities is therefore key to overcoming terrorism, among other issues.

 Lessons can be drawn from Densus 88, and how their capabilities increased drastically after their members were trained in scientific crime investigation, intelligence, and other skills and knowledge.

No less crucial is the incentive system that must be clear to members of all task forces combating terrorism. They are entitled to such incentives as the crimes they handle are extraordinary crimes carrying high risks.

It is an open secret that Densus officers are now the targets of terrorists.

An article titled Kupinang Engkau Bidadari Dengan Kepala Densus 88 (I wed you, angel, with the head of the Densus 88 chief) has long circulated among terrorists groups, which calls for revenge to be taken against Densus officers who are considered to have captured and killed their colleagues.

Incentives for officers could take the form of promotions, improved salaries and others. Their pay needs to be seen as much better than average police officers to generate interest in joining the task force given its high risks. The resignations of a number of Densus personnel were reportedly related to issues of pay.

The last issue related to law enforcement is the vital improvement of infrastructure. Many detention centers across the country lack specific blocks for terrorist convicts '€” leading regular criminals to mix with terrorists and to the radicalization of non-terrorist criminals. The effect was clear in a number of terrorist incidents such as the planning of terrorist acts in Bali in March 2012, which involved former criminals recruited by terrorists while they served their prison sentences.

The more difficult work for the Jokowi-Kalla government will be the '€œsoft'€ approach, through for instance deradicalization programs and counter-radicalization. The crucial issue here is that strategies based on law enforcement tend to be reactive and responsive to terrorist acts.

Such a '€œfire brigade'€ approach only deals with the iceberg above the water'€™s surface, without being able to reach its root, or the root of terrorism, in a comprehensive way.

This is why the terrorism network continues to develop and grow, even resulting in younger generations of recruits. While the root of the problem remains unresolved, the campaign of radicalism continues to thrive through social media or preachers. This radicalism campaign has seen relative success through fairly large support for the IS organization. Since last July, more than 2,000 people from various cities have pledged loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the figure claimed to be the chief of the so-called IS caliphate.

With continued radicalization and the unresolved addressing of the roots of terrorism, it is clear why the capture of terrorist suspects continues, while terrorism continues to occur. One solution is the '€œsoft'€ approach.

The Indonesian government has already realized the importance of addressing the roots of terrorism, through the establishment of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) on June 16 2010. One of the main tasks of the BNPT is executing programs on deradicalization and counterterrorism.

While deradicalization is aimed at people exposed to terrorist beliefs, so that they can shed such beliefs, counter-radicalization is about protecting people from extreme beliefs. Many of these programs must be improved, a main flaw in them is regarding research on the roots of terrorism itself.

The weakness is evident in the '€œDeradicalization Blueprint'€ issued by the BNPT in 2013. It was written based on studies of literature on terrorism, rather than in-depth research, and without involving interviews with former terrorists who have abandoned their previous beliefs '€” while such research is both vital and fairly simple.

It is simple because so many former terrorists are available to be interviewed. It is vital because by interviewing the figures who have changed, we can more easily understand why people transform into terrorists, and why and how they reach moderate ways of thinking. Only if we understand this process can we determine effective intervention programs in an attempt to curb terrorism.

For that purpose, the Jokowi-Kalla government should help strengthen the BNPT, which is only four-years-old. One way is to improve the soft strategy to enable a sharpened focus to resolve the roots of terrorism. This can be done by ensuring that all BNPT deradicalization and counter-radicalization programs are based on in-depth research. We cannot create a program based on assumptions for such an important issue such as terrorism. This would be dangerous, like treating a sick person without knowing the proper diagnosis, leading to the failure of recovery or worse.

All activities related to the prevention of terrorism and deradicalization must not be tantamount to treating a cardiac disease with cancer medication.

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