Prevention on Top of Government’s New Anti-Terrorism Agenda
Arientha Primanita & Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Prevention and de-radicalization are at the heart of a new effort spearheaded by Vice President Boediono to combat terrorism as threats of violence persist despite nearly a decade of intensive police attention.
Boediono on Monday oversaw the first meeting on ministers and anti-terrorism experts to develop and implement a new plan. He said even though the meeting came soon after several significant threats of terror, its convening was not a reactionary move but had been high on the agenda of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) for some time.
The vice president said he would coordinate with 24 government ministries and agencies to produce a terror prevention and de-radicalization plan to be implemented next year.
He said the fight against terror and radical ideas had been waged sporadically, with too much emphasis on repressive actions and not enough on preventative and de-radicalization efforts. Worse, he decried a lack of coordination among different agencies, creating the impression that the government was always late in responding to terrorism.
“This de-radicalization blueprint will be comprehensive and will really serve the purpose,” Boediono said after the meeting.
Late on Monday, BNPT chief Ansyaad Mbai announced that multiple terror cells uncovered recently were linked to Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, which he called “the reincarnation of Darul Islam,” a subversive religious movement outlawed in the 1950s.
“Their enemies are the four pillars of our Indonesian nationhood, namely the state ideology Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, the philosophy of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika [Unity in Diversity], and NKRI [the Unitary Republic of Indonesia],” he said.
“They want to establish a caliphate and their leader is provoking them even from jail to continue the struggle.”
He did not mention names, but speculation has swirled that recent allusions to a jailed leader refer to imprisoned cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, whose Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Central Java, is where some recent terror suspects and other long-jailed convicts were educated.
His son Abdurrahman now leads the JAT and has repeatedly rejected police assertions that the organization is involved in terrorism. Abdurrahman maintains the organization is an Islamic propaganda forum of good intentions.
As the debate has escalated, National University sociologist Nia Elvina and BNPT director of de-radicalization Irfan Idris have proposed that Muslim clerics be certified to ensure their nationalism and public acceptability. The idea was met with anger by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and even Nahdlatul Ulama — the largest mass organization in the country.
FPI leader Muhammad Rizieq rejected BNPT’s proposal, saying it amounted to a humiliation of Islam.
The chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Said Aqil Siradj, said the government did not have any right to certify Islamic clerics, calling such an action “too far an intervention” into religion, well beyond the government’s authority.
Boediono insisted the government would draw up a comprehensive plan acceptable to all parties. He said the government would not reinstate dictatorial remedies of the past and would instead make sure the goal of de-radicalization and terror prevention was attained without creating unnecessary societal upheaval.
Meanwhile, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto said Ansyaad would be assisted by four deputies handling prevention and de-radicalization, response to terror, coordination and international cooperation.
Djoko added that the vice president would involve various organizations, including the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah, the Lazuardi Biru de-radicalization foundation, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), universities, the National Police, Indonesian Military (TNI), and the ministries of education, religious affairs, youth and sports, and social affairs.
Finalization of the blueprint will involve the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) and the Ministry of Finance before it is presented to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for approval by year’s end.
Yudhoyono has said that terrorism took root in Indonesia long before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, whose 11-year anniversary falls today. He has blamed three major factors — radicalization on the international front, incorrect interpretation of religious doctrines and socioeconomic factors such as poor education and poverty, though he was quick to acknowledge that in some cases terrorists were well-educated people.
Ansyaad said that any efforts by the vice president’s team would have to be supplemented by another law on terrorism funding and radical behavior.
In March, he said, authorities arrested 11 hackers who stole at least Rp 8 billion ($835,000) online, and used the money to buy weapons and finance terrorist training in Poso, Central Sulawesi, as well as produce bombs to be blown up in churches.
Ansyaad also threw his support behind a law regulating the behavior of members of the clergy “in order to prevent the spread of hatred and enmity in society.”
“We need a legal tool with which to take action against those who constantly spread hatred and enmity. This has not only become the breeding ground of terrorism but that of violence also,” he said.
But Mahfudz Siddiq, the chairman of House of Representatives Commission I which oversees defense affairs, expressed concern that terrorism was being “preserved as a project” in order to justify the disbursement of state funds to the agencies concerned. He said the relevant agencies should cooperate to tackle terrorism once and for all, and not preserve the threat as a way of maintaining operational funding.
“[Counterterrorism unit] Densus 88 feels proud of its heroic actions and has a reason to ask for a bigger operational budget. But everybody knows that their repressive acts have only fertilized terrorism,” said Mahfudz, from the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).