Indonesia on right track in tackling terrorism threat with 'soft and hard approches': Minister

Mr Ng (left) and Mr Luhut giving a joint interview in Singapore on Jan 25, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Indonesia's chief security minister Luhut Pandjaitan (centre) visits the site of an attack in central Jakarta. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Indonesia is on the right track in tackling the terrorism threat with a decisive strategy comprising "hard and soft approaches", said its coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

Aside from its security forces, Indonesia also taps its religious leaders to prevent self-radicalisation and misinformation about Islam, said Mr Luhut.

The retired general also emphasised the need to cut off financial support to the terrorists' activities from other countries, revealing that the Indonesian authorities have uncovered funds coming from terrorist-related networks in Syria and Australia.

Mr Luhut was speaking on Monday (Jan 25) at the fourth Fullerton Forum: The Shangri-La Dialogue Sherpa Meeting, which is aimed at laying the groundwork for top defence officials and military brass attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in June. He is the first foreign dignitary to deliver the keynote address at the annual meeting.

His speech to about 60 security and defence officials comes in the wake of the Jan 14 Jakarta blasts that left eight dead, including the four attackers.

Noting that the jihadist movement aims to disrupt everyday life, destabilise a country and demoralise its population, Mr Luhut said it has not worked in Indonesia because the government is clear that it does not negotiate with any terrorist that attacks the country.

"We are going to retaliate immediately... for us, we want to bring stability to the people of Indonesia," said Mr Luhut, pointing out that Indonesian crack units gunned down two of the attackers. The other two blew themselves up in the coordinated bomb attacks, for which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility.

While security forces continue to hone their firepower and intelligence capabilities to pre-empt terrorist attacks and dismantle the cells, Mr Luhut said the government is also working with its religious leaders to make people understand that "ISIS is not Islam" and promote religious tolerance.

This is important because Indonesia, with 230 million Muslims, has the world's biggest Muslim population.

In order to minimise the ISIS threat, countries in the region must also work together, said Mr Luhut, noting that no country can "declare (that) they are immune from this kind of threat".

One instance was how Indonesia immediately contacted and alerted its neighbours like Singapore, Malaysia and Australia to share information after the Jakarta blasts.

"We can assure you that we are going to take any decisive actions against any terrorist attacks in this region," Mr Luhut told reporters after his 30-minute speech.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who was also present on Monday, said: "Since ISIS has become coordinated, we need to also become coordinated. No country will be able to minimise this risk alone."

"The more we cooperate and collaborate, the stronger we become. This is a fight that may last many decades and we need many many partners in this," he added.

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