Jokowi seeks larger role for armed forces in terror fight

Indonesian Presidential Palace shows Indonesian President Joko Widodo (second from right) visiting one of the injured policemen after a suicide bombing near a Jakarta bus station on Thursday (May 25). PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA • President Joko Widodo said the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) needs to have a larger role in combating terrorism, following last week's twin suicide bombings in East Jakarta that killed three policemen and injured a dozen people.

Pushing for lawmakers to quickly approve a Bill to strengthen anti- terrorism laws, Mr Joko on Monday for the first time raised the issue of the involvement of the TNI in the fight against terrorists.

"The (law) is urgently needed to ensure that our law enforcers have the legal umbrella to carry out their jobs in the field. The TNI should have a role in the law," Mr Joko said before a Cabinet meeting in Bogor, West Java.

The President made his appeal amid fears that an ongoing clash between the Philippine military and Muslim militants in Marawi City on Mindanao Island could increase security threats faced by Indonesia, especially in North Sulawesi province that borders the Philippines.

If the proposal is approved, the TNI could have the same powers as the Densus 88 counter-terrorism squad, The Jakarta Post reported. This would mean allowing the military to arrest and interrogate suspected terrorists without presidential approval, as required under current TNI rules.

Indonesia's House of Representatives is deliberating revisions to the 2003 anti-terrorism law and has yet to approve a number of crucial proposals in the Bill, including granting greater power to the TNI in counter-terrorism.

Human rights campaigners have criticised the proposal, arguing that assigning the TNI to take part in the war on terror would lead to abuse, and would therefore be harmful to Indonesian democracy.

In addition to empowering the TNI, the government is also seeking to expand the Indonesian police's authority to arrest, detain and question suspected terrorists without prior investigation.

Security issues during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan topped the agenda for Monday's Cabinet plenary meeting led by Mr Joko.

During the meeting, he ordered several ministries to intensify lobbying efforts to convince lawmakers to swiftly pass the revision of the 2003 anti-terrorism law. This would secure the TNI's active involvement in Indonesia's fight against terror.

Mr Joko also asked National Counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT) head Suhardi Alius to intensify efforts in countering the dissemination of radical ideology that could lead to terrorism.

"We must increase prevention strategies against [HARD-LINE]teachings at schools and places of worship, as well as in penitentiaries and in social media. Such efforts would help reduce acts of terror," he said.

Regarding militancy in the southern Philippines, the BNPT said that many Indonesian extremists have tried to cross into Mindanao after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group declared the region its South-east Asian "province" last year.

Separately, BNPT deputy for international affairs Hamidin, who goes by one name, said that the Philippine authorities have identified three Indonesian militants who were killed by local security forces during the clashes in Marawi City.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline Jokowi seeks larger role for armed forces in terror fight. Subscribe