Friday, May 27, 2011

Indonesia: A republic of fear, again?

What do the two shooting incidents in Central Sulawesi and the bomb threat at the Surabaya airport on Wednesday mean to the Indonesian people? Will the bloody civil war in Central Sulawesi begin again? What about the bomb hoax in Surabaya? What should the police – as the country’s sole domestic security guarantor – do in response?

Three separate incidents – the bomb threat at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, and the shooting incidents in Central Sulawesi’s capital Palu and in Poso regency – shocked the country at a time when the nation was being assured of the country’s effective security management after the foiled bomb attacks in Tangerang, Banten, and the subsequent arrest of suspects in several Indonesian cities last month.

As the bomb threat at Juanda was neutralized, the shooting incident in Palu, where two helmeted gunmen on two motorcycles fired at three police officers who were guarding BCA Bank office, took the lives of two officers and wounded another. The shooting in Poso was not deadly, as the two gunmen just fired their guns into the air.

The three incidents, plus the recent disturbing issues surrounding the revival of the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) movement, have undoubtedly given the impression to the general public that the arrest of bombing suspects last year and the death of leading al-Qaeda-related bombing suspects Azahari and Noordin M. Top in previous years had not completely put a stop to terror in the country. The latest incidents should serve as a wake-up call for the police to take immediate measures to regain control of the country’s security and strive to anticipate and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

As the police are still collecting evidence about the bomb threat at Juanda airport, they have yet to discover the motives or if there is any relationship between the shooting incidents in Sulawesi, including any potential motives for terror. They also have yet to identify whether the incidents in Palu and Poso have any links with the armed robbery at a CIMB Niaga Bank in Medan, North Sumatra, in August of last year and the attack on the Hamparan Perak Police station in North Sumatra’s Deli Serdang regency in September, also last year.

Still, the police deserve praise, as their hunt for the perpetrators in the Palu incident immediately bore fruit as they arrested the two motorcycle riders and confiscated three rifles from them in a police raid at the province’s intercity road early Thursday morning. As of Thursday afternoon, the police were still in pursuit of the two Poso suspects, who reportedly fled into the jungle.

The police’s rapid responses to the latest incidents are surely expected. Still, they are considered fire extinguishing measures. What is more important and badly needed are anticipatory measures by the police so as to prevent such incidents from happening in the future, and systematic efforts involving all parts of the nation to tackle the root causes of terror and violence, which have repeatedly haunted the country.

No one expects that fear will haunt our republic again.
Editorial Jakarta Post

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