Tough anti-terrorism laws are expected to pass the Indonesian Parliament today, handing the military direct involvement in counter-terrorism operations approved by the President. Critics say the laws are unnecessary and could enflame tensions between the Indonesian military (TNI) and police. “I think it’s highly problematic to involve the army and to involve the Indonesian military more generally in the counter-terrorism effort,” Sidney Jones from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, told the ABC.
“It’s likely to result in a big duplication of effort, particularly on intelligence grounds. It will also probably increase the rivalry between the police and the military.” Lieutenant-General (Ret) Agus Wijoyo does not see a problem with the TNI’s involvement. Mr Agus now chairs a government think tank and points out, under the laws, the military can only be deployed by the President after a specific request from an elected public official, like a governor or mayor.
“[They] will decide if the [security] situation can be handled by police or if it’s getting beyond the capacity of the police … and based on that request the President will deploy the military.” After sitting idle in parliament since 2016, the bill was fast-tracked in the wake of a spate of suicide bombings in the city of Surabaya last week. The laws would also allow police to detain suspects for 21 days without charge. After being charged, suspects could be held for another 200 days to give police time to gather evidence before handing the case to prosecutors.
Politicians are split on the definition of terrorism under the law. Some want the definition to include an “ideological motive, political motive or disruption of security” but security forces say that’s too restrictive. It comes as the man accused of leading the group blamed for last week’s bombings in Surabaya prepares to face court for a separate attack in Jakarta in 2016.
Aman Abdurrahman has been charged over attacks on a Starbucks cafe and a police post, which led to the deaths of eight people. Last week, prosecutors demanded he face the firing squad, telling the court he’s “dangerous for humanity”. Today, he’s expected to make a plea and mount his defence. Aman is believed to have established Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which has been blamed for the Surabaya bombings. He was already behind bars when the attacks happened.