Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

PF Journey is a Webdiary columnist: his archives are here and here. His previous articles include Examination Question 99 from Macquarie University, Peace like a river and A branch without leaves: the Taiwan riddle. PF came to Australia some 40 years ago. He is of Chinese Indonesian background and has maintained extensive contacts, personally, professionally and business wise, throughout the Asian region. He also takes a keen interest in Asia's historical and current affairs and, in particular, Australia's interactions with Asia.


One of my favourite newspapers from Indonesia is Media Indonesia Online, especially its editorials. It is often hard hitting and pulls no punches in its criticism of Indonesian social, economic and political value systems that have led Indonesia to its current predicaments. Monday's editorial is titled "Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia". The original in Bahasa Indonesia is Tiga Alasan Teroris Memilih Indonesia. I thought it would be of interest to the Webdiarists to see the Indonesian perspective. In addition, this editorial has brought up a number of very important and relevant issues, in particular in relation to the Australian Anti-Terrorism (No. 2) Bill 2005 currently being debated. These are:

  1. Both Singapore and Malaysia have a very repressive Internal Security Act (ISA) and so far have avoided terrorist attacks on their soil.
  2. Is anti-terrorism and democracy mutually exclusive? Can we have it both ways?
  3. Is Australia on the road to its own ISA? In particular the sedition aspect of its Anti-Terrorism (No. 2) Bill 2005.
  4. What would Australia prefer? A democratic Indonesia with its inability and instability to combat terrorism or back to the future with the New Order type repressive regime that guarantees 'stability' so the Aussies can reclaim Kuta once again.
  5. The editorial also highlights the simmering tension between Indonesia and its ASEAN neighbour Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore for its harbouring of corruption money and corrupt business people. Malaysia for its plundering of Indonesian rain forest resources through illegal logging. Indonesia is the richest in terms of natural resources, yet it is the poorest economically.
  6. The editorial does not see 'terrorism' as a direct religious issue.

Below is my translation of the editorial by Media Indonesia Online, 14th Nov 2005.

Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia.

This is the title of Media Indonesia Sunday (13/11/05) Edition's feature news. This represents the aggregate opinion of the intelligent analysts as to why the two key criminals, namely Dr Azahari and  Noordin M Top from Malaysia, have chosen Indonesia to conduct their criminal activities. These are:

  1. The weakness of the Indonesian's legal umbrella
  2. Low level of education in Indonesia
  3. The widespread poverty in Indonesia

If we follow the common logic, we are entitled to be very emotional about the criminality of terrorism in this country. Because the key terrorist figures have chosen Indonesia and not their own country (Malaysia) to conduct their criminality. Indonesia has already been entangled by so many of its own problems, it has been made to suffer further by the criminal acts masterminded by these two Malaysian nationals.

We admit that Dr Azahari and Noordin M Top can only operate in Indonesia unimpeded because a number of "easiness". These "easiness" must become the lessons for our Elites in the re-building Indonesia for the future.

We can debate long and hard about the validity of the three causes above. Nevertheless, they are not very far off the mark.

Low levels of education and high levels of poverty - they are fertile fields for anyone who wants to sell real or fantasy ideology.

Then there is the question of the law. However much we want to debate, the facts show that since the abolition of the 1963 Subversion Law *, Indonesia has become soft targets for the Terrorists.

Since the Christmas bombing in 2000, the bombings have not stopped to the horror of this country. Among them, Bali I (2002), Marriott Hotel (2004) and Bali II (2005).

Now the 1963 Subversion Law has been replaced by the 2003 Anti-Terrorism Law. However, this 2003 Anti-Terrorism Law that was put in place during Megawati Presidency is still being regarded as toothless tiger.

It is true that we have not get over the traumas caused by the New Order's 1963 Anti Subversion Law. It is also regrettable that we have not fully embraced the 2003 Anti-Terrorism Law either.

Our people have agreed that we will not let the 1963 Subversion Law live again and we will not imitate the very repressive Internal Security Act (ISA) of Malaysia and Singapore. The scope of ISA encompasses security, legalities and politics to the point where Dr Azahari and Noordin M Top have no space to operate in their own country.

The consequences are obvious, those two countries are the most stable in Southeast Asia. Those two countries enjoy the good fortune of economic growth in the midst of the instabilities of countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Today Indonesia should forcefully say "NO" to continue to be just a spectator in the Malaysia and Singapore's wealth display. Is it not a fact that these two countries become wealthy because of Indonesia?

It is due to the stupidity of Indonesia that allows Malaysia and Singapore to move forward.

* My note: The 1963 Anti-Subversion Law of the Suharto regime was used to imprison hundreds of political, economic, social, and religious dissent. It was said to have given Indonesia "stability" during Suharto's New Order era of 32 years. It was abolished in April 1999 by the Indonesian Parliament during the Habibie Presidency. It is not uncommon to hear many people in Indonesia expressing their longing for such stability.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

This article certainly does raise some good points. I note particularly the assertion that lack of education and poverty are causes of terrorism. Not lack of work, as some would posit. While it is true that lack of work leads to poverty, creating underpaid work with poor working conditions will not make us immune to 'terrorism'.

The reason why the idea of participating in a riot such as in France, is alien to us is because for the main part we do live fairly comfortable lifestyles. If the opposite were true however, it may be an entirely different story altogether.

The editorial also poses the question "What would Australia prefer? A democratic Indonesia with its inability and instability to combat terrorism or back to the future with the New Order type repressive regime that guarantees 'stability' so the Aussies can reclaim Kuta once again"

I know what Howard would want. He cares little about social justice.

The thing is I personally do not want to live in a police state despite the threat of an attack.

We were told that the terrorist hate our freedom by George Bush, a view shared by Howard.

Isn't it appeasing the terrorists to remove our freedoms, and thus give them what Bush and Howard say they want?

Where pray tell is the logic in that?

Or maybe their is some truth in the arguement that their is more to the "War on Terror" than the facile reasons given by this troika of warmongers.

And maybe the 'terrorists' Howard wants to protect us from *are* us...after his socially irresponsible IR reforms do their work.

Like Bush in the US, with each passing day more and more Australians become aware of just how deep the deceit of this Government goes.

Regime change in Australia can't be too far away...

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

So what is less worse - terror by the state or terror by the malevolent few?

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

PF Journey, I thought that Suharto came to power after the 1965 counter-coup. Would that not make the 1963 Anti-Subversion Law the responsibility of Sukarno?

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

PF, does the phrase "corrupt business people" conceal a reference to ethnicity?

Is there a sentiment that could be subheaded "Penthouse billionaires take revenge for PP 10/1959"?

I would have thought, in terms of 'governability', Singapore and Indonesia are at opposite ends of the scale. Otherwise, they have a lot in common. Is there any possibility of a shared concept of regionality, between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, such that all three could agree on ways to minimise the risks of creating conditions that allow terrorists to thrive in the region?

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

Anne Brookes, re your TerroristsAreUs observation:

In those idle moments when one tries to put all the pieces together, one awful scenario that pops up, is what level of chaos control would be needed after a significant biological or dirty bomb attack?

Governments that are perceived to have created or exacerbated the situation and ethnic groups that are perceived to have been involved would both need some serious protection.

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

While this article from our delphinine PF alludes to poverty as cause to be subject to terrorism, Webdiary readers interested on the idea of poverty causing terrorism - or not, as it apparently turns out - might be interested in this
article by Ralf Dahrendorf. The article is part of the fabulous Project Syndicate organised by Margo.

In short, it says the greater cause for terrorism is not poverty as such when brought upon people, but the thwarting of ambition. It's an interesting distinction, and one of relevance to several debates currently in Webdiary.

That is to say, terrorists are created when the state thwarts an achievement or attainmnent the people otherwise expected or wished for. Poverty, instead, tends not to have this wish or expectation for achievement or attainment. Hence, terrorists can be created from a non-poor people.

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

Hi Greg, yes, you are partially correct. The original was a Presidential Decree No: 11 issued by Pres Sukarno in 1963. It was amended to be more draconian and made into law by Pres. Suharto in 1969. It became Law No:5, 1969 and used as a great repressive tool during the 32 years of Suharto regime.

Sukarno did use it but was not for long. As you pointed out, he was kicked out in the still very mysterious 30th September 1965 event/coup. So it has always been referred to as the 1963 Anti-subversion Law and associated with the Suharto regime.

There is a lesson to be learned here too in the current Australian context. What guarantee is there that the current Anti-Terrorism (No. 2) Bill 2005 will not be used by future regime as a basis for a more draconian law?

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

From the Financial Times: Prominent Indonesia terror expert barred again
By Shawn Donnan in Jakarta
Published: November 25 2005 04:27


Indonesia has withdrawn the visa of a prominent American terrorism expert, barring her from the country just days after the US lifted a six-year-old arms embargo in part because of Jakarta's progress in its fight against terrorism.

Sidney Jones, a high-profile Jakarta-based analyst for the International Crisis Group think-tank, is widely considered to be the world's leading expert on Jemaah Islamiyah. The al-Qaeda affiliate has been blamed for the Bali bombings both in 2002 and last month and other major attacks in Indonesia in the past three years.

Ms Jones was expelled from Indonesia last year by the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri after some of her writings reportedly upset senior officials in Jakarta. A long-term watcher of Indonesia and fluent speaker of Indonesian, she was allowed to return this past July by the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and granted both work and residence permits.

But she told the Financial Times on Friday that she had been barred from entering the country on Thursday as she returned from a Time magazine awards dinner in Taipei, where the ICG was honored for its work in Asia. The reason for the ban, she said, remained unclear.

re: Three reasons why the terrorists choose Indonesia

US, UK, Spain, Jordan and now Australia. Odd how those waging the "War On Terror" are losing the battle yet being rewarded politically. How convenient that restrictive new laws should be enacted that will completely control the flow of information.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago