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Living with terror
Publication Date : 11-09-2012
Indonesia's Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto was stating the obvious when he maintained that the security apparatus, including intelligence units, could not work alone to eradicate acts of terrorism, which have appeared to thrive in the country over the past few weeks.
But he has a point in urging society to cooperate with law enforcers in preventing terror attacks. It is public unawareness, if not ignorance, that the nation is lacking in its fight against terror as in the case of the weekend bomb blast in Depok, West Java as well as in other incidents.
That terror suspects allegedly assembled bombs inside a rented house, which was made to look like an orphanage, in such a densely populated area like Beji district, Depok, or that they stacked explosive materials unnoticed in Jakarta’s most crowded residential area of Tambora, only confirms Djoko’s concerns.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has joined the push for better implementation of community monitoring after receiving reports from home that the mechanism did not work in the case of the Depok bomb blast.
During police questioning held shortly after the explosion, several witnesses, including the local neighbourhood unit head, said they did not know who had rented the house. A resident living opposite to the house said he was curious about the absence of orphans inside the building, but he failed to report the irregularity to the neighbourhood unit chief or the police.
In most, if not all cases of terrorist acts plaguing the country, society’s role has largely been absent in preventing attacks. Only when a bomb explodes and claims lives does community monitoring intensify through the likes of identity card checks. But these measures are short-lived until the next bomb blast comes around.
There have been countless initiatives from the government aimed at improving community engagement for the prevention of acts of terrorism even at the international level, but inconsistent implementation remains the challenge that we have been unable to address and, hence, the loophole that terrorists have benefitted from.
Like it or not, Indonesia has been living with terror even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US precisely 11 years ago, as evident in the Christmas Eve bombings in 2000 and previous acts of terrorism aimed at undermining the Indonesian state’s ideology.
In the case of Indonesia, terrorism has emerged as a latent security threat thanks in part to the presence of groups who justify the use of violence to realise their dream of forming an Islamic state here. While freedom of expression gives nobody the right to curtail their belief, the state and civil society equally share the responsibility to prove democracy is the best way.
And for the sake of democracy, this nation can’t afford to blindly rely on security and intelligence personnel in combating terrorism, not because of their small in number but merely because it will pull Indonesia back to a dark past, when repression and human rights abuses were justified to prevent security threats.
We cannot hope that terror suspects, many of whom are young new recruits, commit mistakes while practising bomb assembling or surrender themselves out of their longing for their families. History shows there were intervals of one year or more before terrorists finally detonated the bombs that claimed many innocent lives.
While police are hunting for members of terror networks as part of law enforcement, the community should remain at the vanguard of the fight against terrorism.