Island still a safe destination, say Batam police

Riau Islands police chief Brigadier-General Sam Budigusdian.
Riau Islands police chief Brigadier-General Sam Budigusdian.
Mr Helmy says security forces in Batam are keeping a low profile so as not to alarm the people and that plainclothes personnel have been deployed in strategic locations.
Mr Helmy says security forces in Batam are keeping a low profile so as not to alarm the people and that plainclothes personnel have been deployed in strategic locations.

Police in Batam have assured Singaporeans and tourists that it is safe to travel to the holiday island.

Since the arrests of the Batam militants on Aug 5, the authorities have stepped up security.

The presence of security forces may not be prominent so as not to alarm the people, but intelligence personnel in plainclothes have been deployed to guard strategic locations and stay alert, Riau Islands police chief Brigadier-General Sam Budigusdian told The Sunday Times.

 

"Uniformed personnel may deter potential criminals from coming, but too much of that only causes fear," he said. "And the aim of terrorists is to spread fear," he said.

Batam district police chief Senior Commissioner Helmy Santika also said that Singaporeans, who form the bulk of tourists to Batam, have been on the alert since the arrests.

TOO MUCH SECURITY CAUSES FEAR

Uniformed personnel may deter potential criminals from coming, but too much of that only causes fear. And the aim of terrorists is to spread fear.

RIAU ISLANDS POLICE CHIEF BRIGADIER-GENERAL SAM BUDIGUSDIAN

"People who want to work cannot do so, those who want to go there for business cannot do that. When day-to-day life activities are affected and cause losses to the economy and everybody, that can't be good," he said.

Batam resident Siti, 45, who travels regularly to Singapore to buy used clothes and goods to resell in Batam, told The Sunday Times that a few of her friends were turned away by Singapore immigration in the past week.

"The Singapore immigration officers did not tell them why but simply rejected their entry.

"So my friends tell me not to travel to Singapore now as security is very tight. We blame the rocket gang for affecting our livelihood," she said of the Katibah GR cell that was behind the foiled terror plan.

Police officers have been holding conferences and visiting neighbourhoods to explain radicalism and extremism to residents and encourage them to report any suspicious activities they see.

Police are also working with religious leaders to help spread the word that violence is not tolerated.

"We work with community leaders to identify people coming here, not only from other countries but also Indonesians living farther away, to make sure they report their arrival to neighbourhood leaders," said Mr Helmy.

 

He added that besides the six official harbours, there are nearly 200 traditional ports around Batam, a majority of which lack security features such as surveillance cameras.

Being so close to countries in the region, criminals - from traffickers to pirates to extremists - have taken advantage of this weakness for their criminal activities, he added.

Brig-Gen Sam Budigusdian said he had met the Singapore authorities, who he said had thanked the Riau Islands police and the Indonesian government for their efforts to maintain security on the island.

"We agreed that Singapore and Indonesia, particularly in the Riau Islands, have very good relations in terms of economy and culture," he said. "We can guarantee that Batam is safe."

Batam community leader Najmi, 40, said the anti-terror raids lasted only a few hours.

"Of course, everyone was shocked by the raids, but police have handled it very well and the operation was over quickly," he said.

"We want everyone to know that we in Batam reject and condemn all radical activities."

Arlina Arshad

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 14, 2016, with the headline 'Island still a safe destination, say Batam police'. Print Edition | Subscribe