Jokowi vows to push through tougher anti-terror laws

President Joko Widodo (second from right) visiting the scene of a suicide blast outside the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church.
President Joko Widodo (second from right) visiting the scene of a suicide blast outside the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

President Joko Widodo has condemned the suicide bombings in Surabaya, and said he will push through new anti-terror laws if Parliament continues to drag its feet on proposed legislative revisions.

"If Parliament by June does not complete deliberation of the draft anti-terror law that my administration proposed in February 2016, I will issue a perppu," he said.

A perppu is an emergency presidential decree that the head of state may issue in lieu of law. The warning comes after the House has been delaying deliberations to the government's proposals to review the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2003.

Mr Joko was speaking at a press conference shortly after the attack on a local police station yesterday, where he called the bombings at three churches on Sunday and the Surabaya headquarters yesterday "a cowardly act".

"They have no dignity, they are barbaric," he said, referring to the perpetrators without naming them. "I need to reaffirm that we will fight terrorism, extinguish its roots."

The government had proposed tougher anti-terror laws that give the police powers to take pre-emptive measures in fighting terrorism.

The current law requires police to have ample evidence or wait until a terrorist attack is launched before they can make arrests.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto also said that the police, backed by the military, would step up security across the country: "The President has commanded that police, helped by the TNI (the armed forces), exert all power to secure the nation."

The retired army general also said law enforcement officials in Indonesia are now "handcuffed" when dealing with terrorists, and that must change.

He added that under the government's proposals, the police can act fast not just because they "have guns, but also ample authority and confidence to act".

"When there is early indication (of a threat), they can make their move," he said.

Other revisions tabled by the government include having the TNI, which has more than 475,000 active front-line troops and about 400,000 in its reserve force, supporting the police in counter-terrorism efforts.

Amendments to the Bill also include allowing the TNI to act on terror threats against foreign embassies, special economic zones, commercial vessels and aircraft, as well as terror cells in jungles or mountainous areas in Indonesia.

These amendments were first tabled after Indonesian militants loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria mounted a brazen suicide attack in Jakarta in 2016.

The military also actively lobbied for a role in fighting terrorism.

Yesterday, General Wiranto dismissed worries that there was scope for the authorities to misuse the stronger anti-terror laws for political purposes.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2018, with the headline Jokowi vows to push through tougher anti-terror laws. Subscribe