I ndonesian President Joko Widodo asked for a review of the country’s anti-terrorism laws at a meeting on Tuesday with top security officials, in response to deadly attacks in Jakarta last week claimed by Islamic State (IS). The proposed changes would make it easier for the authorities to arrest anyone they have a “strong indication” might be planning a terrorist attack, according to the minister in charge of security, Luhut Panjaitan. Security forces would also be permitted to hold suspects for longer without charge and it would be made illegal for any Indonesian to fight for IS, in an effort to quell fears that those returning could plan further attacks after being radicalised.
However, the planned laws have faced opposition from human rights organisations, some political figures and Islamic groups who argue that they are too authoritarian in nature and would mark a step back towards the powers that the police held under the brutal dictatorship of General Suharto. All of the major parties, however, have expressed at least some support for the measures, meaning they will most likely be approved by the Indonesian parliament.
Eight people died in last week’s attacks in the Indonesian capital. The family of the suspected mastermind, Bahrun Naim, who is thought to be with IS in Syria, has requested that the authorities “show mercy” on him.
Even before the Jakarta attacks, officials were discussing the possibility of changing the anti-terrorism laws to give the security forces more powers to deal with the problem of IS, which has attracted an estimated 200 Indonesians to fight for it. At present, the government lacks the power to detain those returning from fighting with IS in Syria and Iraq.
Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla said it was not necessary for the law to be revised, a statement which was supported by the speaker of the upper house, Zulkifli Hasan, from the Islamic National Moderate Party. However, another Islamic party, the Prosperous Justice Party, said they would support the proposals under the condition that appropriate checks and balances were put in place.
Extending the powers of the security forces is a sensitive issue in Indonesia due to the repression many suffered under General Suharto’s 32-year long dictatorship, which ended in 1998.
The Malay Mail, a Malaysia-based website which covers regional affairs, reports on the proposed anti-terror laws.
The Conversation, a leading site for academic comment, analyses the extent of the threat that IS poses in South East Asia.
Reuters looks at the problem of radicalisation in Indonesian prisons.