Policemen stand guard following a suicide bombing at the Surabaya Police headquarters in East Java on Monday (14/05). (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Gov't, Lawmakers Rush to Pass Terrorism Bill After Attacks in East Java


MAY 14, 2018

Jakarta. In the wake of suicide attacks in Surabaya, East Java, pressure is mounting on the House of Representatives and the government to finalize the revision of a law granting the security forces more power to prevent acts of terrorism.

The government submitted the bill to the House in February 2016, following a deadly Islamic State-inspired attack in central Jakarta.

Under current law, counterterrorism officials cannot act on intelligence tips and arrest suspected terrorists, unless they commit criminal offences.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Monday (14/05) that he would issue a regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) if lawmakers fail to enact the law by June.

"I requested that the House and ministries finalize the revision of the Anti-Terrorism Law as soon as possible, at the next plenary meeting on May 18," Jokowi told reporters.

"This is an important legal umbrella for our security forces, for the police, in terms of prevention and taking action. If by June the law is not passed, I will issue the Perppu," Jokowi said.

The president's promise comes after a series of suicide bombings have shaken Surabaya in the past 48 hours. Surabaya is Indonesia's second most populous city.

The attacks, which targeted three churches on Sunday and the city's police headquarters on Monday, claimed 25 lives and wounded 47 people.

The police said that members of three families, including children as young as nine years, blew themselves up following an instruction from Islamic State militants. This was the first time women and children carried out suicide attacks in Indonesia, replicating Islamic State's modus operandi in the Middle East, to evade the watchfulness of security officers.

The attackers were among 1,200 persons on a police list of Indonesians who either returned from Syria or have been suspected of links with Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a local terrorist group affiliated with the Islamic State.

In accordance with the current law, they could not be arrested, despite well-grounded suspicions, the National Police's head of public relations, Ins. Gen. Setyo Wasisto, said on Sunday.

Dita Oepriarto, the father who led the attacks on churches, was a polite and friendly person who frequented the local mosque with his sons, the family's neighbors said. His wife, two sons and two daughters died in the attacks.

"Our current antiterrorism law is responsive. One can only be arrested if he or she is affiliated with a certain group that engages in terrorism," Setyo said.

Human rights activists and opposition parties, such as the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Great Indonesia Party (Gerindra), have voiced concerns that the new law would grant too much power to the security forces, allowing them to tap and detain suspects, which could lead to abuse. Also, the law is silent on compensation for the falsely accused.

Lawmakers have, in fact, resolved most of the draft's problematic issues, but the government itself requested to delay the enacting to have its security bodies to word one definition of terrorism. Critics say that if the definition is vague, it could be used to silence political opponents.

"The government did not agree to include motives and goals [in the definition]. In other words, the government wants to decide who is a terrorist and who is not. It cannot be like that, [Indonesia] is a state of law," said chairman of the House's special committee for the revision, Gerindra lawmaker Muhammad Syafii, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Chief Security Minister Wiranto said after a meeting with leaders of all political parties on Monday that the government is ready to resolve the issues and have the revised law ready before the presidential deadline.

"We have agreed that all members of society, not only the government and security forces, have to be involved in the fight against terrorism," Wiranto said.