Friday, August 21, 2009
  Power Plays?

I closed a recent post with the following: One must hope, pray even, that we are not about to see a return to authoritarian rule by a former general.

Thanks to society's obsession with so-called celebrities, the recent hotel bombings will have served mastermind Noordin Top's agenda very well. After all, he is Public Enemy No.1 and the live action and constant replays of the failed attempt to capture him, has given him a heightened cachet among indoctrinated Islamic youths and those who prey on their ignorance.

The police are doing a sterling job in gathering intelligence about the disparate groups of publicity seeking groups of Islamists opposed to a secular and pluralist Indonesia but they do need the support of society at large.

However, is it necessary to adopt the line taken by the Jakarta Post in a recent editorial?

Given the events witnessed recently, it is clear that all people are needed to prevent any terrorist acts from reoccurring. Keep an eye on your new neighbors or visitors. Spy on them if necessary.

How easy would that be?

A resident told a TV station he was intrigued by the behavior of a teenager - whom he later discovered was the JW Marriott Hotel bomber - who often ordered four bowls of porridge without knowing who the other bowls of food were for. Unfortunately, the resident went on with his day-to-day life, without reporting anything to the local authorities.

Do you know who your neighbours are? Personally, I don't and don't necessarily want to. The only times I get involved with them, apart from the regular street activities, is when they disrupt my privacy with loud bangings, motorcycles revving, incessant playing of dangdut music or trampling on our roof whilst fixing their own. That last episode was sorted out with the neighbourhood chief (RT) as arbitrator - the neighbours paid to fix our roof.

So, surely, the onus to "spy" on newcomers remains with the RT, with whom we are all, including guests staying for longer that 24 hours, supposed to be registered.

However, there are now calls to introduce tougher laws which will enable detention without trial.

National police spokesman Insp. Gen. Nanan Soekarna said that Indonesia should have regulations that authorize security officials to apprehend and detain anyone who has colluded in any way with terrorist groups.

Although current laws allow the police to detain terror suspects for up to seven days without an arrest warrant, police are frustrated as they can not arrest clerics like Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, leader of the Ngruki boarding school, who police said has clearly incited violence.

Nana then cited the fact that neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore, which have such strong laws, have managed to eradicate terrorism.

Yes, but at what cost to dissenting opinions?

The legislature is currently completing deliberations on a new State Secrecy Bill. Although Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono says the public need not worry about it, citing democratic progress, too much information will not be transparent, including data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). What else will be hidden from public purview and thus limit democratisation?

Being inherently a pacifist, I am by no means an expert on military matters and if I had been called upon to do national service, a compulsory period of military training, then I'd have opted to be a conscientious objector. Luckily, in my then opinion, I was too young to be conscripted when in 1960 national service was abandoned in the UK. If I hadn't been, I'd have probably been willing to do community service in a hospital, as I later did for pay to supplement my student grants.

That said, I am, perforce, an observer of security matters here and there are a number of 'straws in the wind' which indicate that Indonesia's army, rather than the navy or air force, is manoevering to regain some of its power lost on April 1st 1999 when the police were brought under civilian rule and charged with handling domestic security.

Before that, throughout Suharto's regime, the three branches of the military plus the police operated what was known as dwifungsi, or dual function, a doctrine of their own evolution, under which they undertook a double role as both defenders of the nation and as a social-political force in national development.

The foundation of his regime, namely, the belief that economic and social development was the nation's first priority and that social and political stability was absolutely essential if that goal were to be achieved. The primary mission of the armed forces has therefore been to maintain internal stability. The maintenance of internal security was considered an integral part of national defense itself. Indonesian doctrine considers national defense within the broader context of "national resilience", a concept that stresses the importance of the ideological, political, economic, social, and military strength of the nation.

In 2001, when he was Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs, SBY questioned the separation of the concept of security and defense, and lamented the oversimplification of the concept which innately assumes that the military (TNI) [had] no role in security matters.

SBY noted that there remained ambiguous areas in which the military was interjected and often prescribed to function in a police-like role while they should be adopting a more combative stance due to the strength of the threat they faced.

"On the other hand, the police have to face combat situations which they are not trained for. Is it fair for us to place such a heavy burden on the police whereby they have to face armed threats?

"We have to position this in the correct manner, the deployment and employment of our police and military including what kind of arrangements we develop," he said.

The raid on Noordin's supposed hideout was conducted by Detachment 88 (Densus 88), the counterterrorism force which, judging by subsequent statements by the National Police chief, comes under his domain. That the army had little input is verified by TNI Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso issuing the following statement: "On behalf of all TNI officers, I would like to congratulate the police for their achievement on anti-terror operation."

However, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has instructed the military, regional heads and intelligence bodies to take part in the effort to eradicate terrorism, which could be deemed to be a return to its 'internal security' role during the dwifungsi era.

A more recent editorial in the Post takes a more enlightened view, particularly in light of the Indonesian Military (TNI) plan – channeled through the Army headquarters – to reactivate intelligence units at military command posts (Korem) nationwide.

It is true that an all-out battle against terrorism is a necessity. However, this proposal and plan need to be carefully examined so as to avoid repeating past mistakes, such as violating the human rights of people allegedly implicated in terrorist activities, or suspected of supporting terrorists. Do we really want to go back to the days when our guaranteed freedoms and rights were sidelined for the sake of security and economic development? Where have all those noble principles of presumption of innocence and equality before the law disappeared to?

This move also faces strong opposition from human rights NGOs.

Coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Usman Hamid, said that without proper regulations and clear instructions, the military's involvement could turn ugly.

"We don't want the military to spy on anyone they deem suspicious, it would be like the old times."

He further argued that the military and the police had different approaches to handling terrorism suspects.

"TNI personnel are allowed to detain anyone they find suspicious without a warrant or even informing the person's family; the police can't do that."

One wonders, therefore, what actions the TNI will take against the illegal miners at an illegal mining site on Mt. Merapi, Central Java. Supposedly they will be preventing more damage to the environment, a worthy cause, although in so doing they will be depriving some 3,000 local miners of their livelihoods. And surely, if the miners are breaking the law, then this is a police matter.

If the TNI is worried about idiots killing themselves and innocent bystanders, their time could just as well be spent doing something about the horrendous death toll on Indonesia's roads, which saw 642 killed in the first six months of this year - in Jakarta alone. The traffic police seem to be singularly incapable of enforcing road (and sidewalk) discipline and could do with some assistance.
Further reading
Inside Indonesia on the troubled relationship between the police and the military.



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