A Good Law for Indonesia: Editorial, Straits Times Indonesia
There is little doubt that Indonesia is shaping up as one of South-east Asia’s success stories. A measure of that success is seen in its membership of the Group of 20 major advanced and emerging economies. There has been discussion, too, of Indonesia as a potential member of Brics, a grouping of market economies — consisting at present of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — that is expected to enjoy considerable clout in the coming decades.
Contrary to fears that post-Suharto Indonesia would unravel politically or even disintegrate, democracy and decentralization have accorded stability to the vast archipelagic nation. This is good news for Asean, whose largest member Indonesia is.
But the persistence of terrorism in the country, the cutting edge of religious extremism, is a serious area of concern. This is not for want of trying. The Indonesian security forces have demonstrated their willingness and ability to take on dreaded terror groups. The problem has been the absence of a legal framework that is strong enough to put these groups out of action before they can create mischief.
That is why the passage this week of the Intelligence Bill will be greeted by those who believe that Indonesians deserve the strongest laws that can contain this scourge. The Bill sets out new rules on what constitutes a threat to the state. From tapping telephones to tracking the flow of funds to gathering information, it places in the hand of the state considerable resources in dealing with those who engage in terrorism, separatism, espionage or sabotage.
Critics of the legislation warn of the possibilities of its misuse. At the back of their minds is the danger of Indonesia slipping back, ever so imperceptibly, to an authoritarian era scarred by human rights abuses.
However, the Bill does not give the National Intelligence Agency carte blanche. For example, wiretapping would require prior court permission, and that, too, after intelligence agents had gathered sufficient initial evidence.
The larger point is that the law secures Indonesia against those emboldened by the softer nature of the post-Suharto state to kill, maim and destroy in the name of religion. Prevention being the best cure, it is to be hoped that the Indonesian authorities will use their new powers effectively; implementation will be key here. Terrorism must be stopped from subverting the achievements of the Indonesian state. Religious pluralism has strengthened the state; now, the state must protect pluralism.
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