'Need to re-examine efforts to tackle militancy'

Indonesian soldiers stand guard at Ngurah Rai international airport in Bali, Indonesia, on Jan 20, 2016.
Indonesian soldiers stand guard at Ngurah Rai international airport in Bali, Indonesia, on Jan 20, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

Indonesia needs to re-examine its efforts at stemming Islamic militancy, a terror expert said yesterday, noting that the majority of its citizens heading out to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were women and children.

Ms Sidney Jones, from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, said at an international deradicalisation conference that out of 215 Indonesians deported from Turkey before they could travel to Syria, 60 per cent were women or children aged 15 or younger.

"Understanding the motivations of the women is particularly important, because in several cases, women have driven the departure of their families," she said in a presentation that largely questioned the idea that most ISIS supporters were focused on taking up arms.

Speaking to reporters later, she said Indonesian recruits' motivations were likely similar to those of other recruits, that is, wanting to help other Muslims for humanitarian reasons, a belief in the end-times prophecy and a desire for their children to grow up under an Islamic government.

Of a known 400 Indonesians who have joined ISIS, Ms Jones said, 45 per cent were women and children.

Indonesia is in the midst of tightening preventive measures after the deadly Jan 14 attacks in Jakarta.

Ms Jones also pointed to loose security at detention centres, where convicted terrorists have been able to smuggle in individuals, including their wives, for several days. She said Indonesia should make better use of biographical data, having convicted more than 800 terrorists, as "the foundation on which prevention strategies are built".

While Malaysia's legal framework includes several laws allowing preventive detention, Indonesia is only now looking into outlawing membership or support of ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the Jakarta attack.

Malaysia also yesterday shared details of its deradicalisation programme, which it says has a 95 per cent success rate. Police and prison officials described a two-year Integrated Rehabilitation Module in use since 1948, when the authorities began battling a communist insurgency.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in October that the rehabilitation scheme will be shared across Asean, given its low 5 per cent relapse rate.

Under the programme, detainees are evaluated by police and prison departments, as well as the Home Ministry, before a decision is made on whether they are released, or retained under supervision. The evaluation includes a digital voice stress analysis, which works like a lie detector test.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline ''Need to re-examine efforts to tackle militancy''. Print Edition | Subscribe