Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wrong Answer for Indonesian Terror

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Jamie Morgan. The views expressed are her own.

Indonesian officials announced a plan to tighten anti-terrorist laws, which would allow the government to detain suspects for up to two years. The government claims this will allow them to get more in line with the laws of Western nations. (Are two year detention allowances standard in Western nations now?) Additionally, several of the senior-level government Ministers are seeking an amendment to a terrorism investigation law that would allow non-police forces, including the Indonesian Military (TNI), to conduct anti-terror investigations.

All of this is disconcerting for two reasons. First, we are talking about a country that just emerged from a brutal dictatorship 11 years ago. The military was the major instrument of former President Suharto to control the population during his rule, and expanding the military’s powers such a short time after his fall does not send a good message to the population, nor is it a good idea for the fledgling democracy.

Second, and possibly more importantly for the rest of the world, expanding the amount of time the Indonesian government can legally hold terrorism suspects without charge is not going to do anything for its fight against Noordin M. Top’s terrorist group. It actually might harm it. The government needs to focus on identifying the root causes of support for Top’s group among certain areas of the Indonesian population, rather than inflame public opinion against it. The International Crisis Group reports that support among the local population, and even among the less militant terrorist group Jemmah Islamiyah (JI), is not high for Top’s extremist faction. However, if Top’s faction is allowed to continue to infiltrate Islamic boarding schools, it will continue to find the few supporters it needs to plan operations like the July 17 hotel bombing in Jakarta.

Recent revelations connecting Top’s group and various extremist groups in the Middle East and South Asia make all of this even more alarming. Unfortunately, given the lack of general media attention on this issue, I am not hopeful for improvement anytime soon.

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