The first Islamic State-linked attack on the world’s most populous Muslim nation puts more pressure on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to give the military a bigger role and add legal heft to anti-terrorism efforts, Bloomberg News said.
Unlike some countries facing threats from Islamic State, authorities in Indonesia lack laws to arrest returnees from Syria and Iraq.
Giving security forces greater leeway to lock up Islamists is a sensitive issue in the Southeast Asian nation, which until 1998 was a military dictatorship.
Last week’s attack on central Jakarta, which killed four civilians, showed the risks of Asians going to fight in the Middle East and then returning skilled and more radicalized, Bloomberg said.
While Widodo, better known as Jokowi, has urged countries to “wage war” against terrorism, he has not moved to bolster laws to tackle the threat.
“All that is needed is political support, but that is difficult in Indonesia,” said Ansyaad Mbai, a former head of the country’s anti-terror agency. “At the highest level people are afraid of being accused of being anti-Islam.“
On Friday, Police-General Badrodin Haiti said he wanted to be able to revoke the citizenship of Indonesians fighting with IS abroad.
National intelligence agency chief Sutiyoso said laws were not sufficient to arrest and track extremists.
He said Malaysian authorities can attach electronic tracking devices to suspects, while the United States and France were able to strike a balance between human rights and the need for firm action.
“Those countries respect human rights and freedom,” he told reporters.
“But when national security is threatened by terrorism, they can prioritize the intelligence process.“
The police chief on Saturday called for anti-terrorism laws to be strengthened to allow preventative detention.
“We can detect a terrorist network but we can’t act before they have committed a crime,” he said. “That is the weakness of our laws.”
Revising the law requires getting it through parliament, a slow-moving body where the opposition has significant clout and which includes Islamic parties that could oppose giving police more powers.
Since taking office in October 2014, Jokowi has largely stuck to a campaign pledge to focus on everyday issues like the economy, health and jobs.
The brazen gun and bomb attack less than two kilometers from his office could change that.
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