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«Securitizing Terrorism in Southeast Asia Accounting for the Varying Responses of Singapore and Indonesia A B S T R AC T This article explains the ...»

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F E B R I CA / S E C u R I T I Z I N G T E R R O R I S M • 5 7 9 1954 by Lee Kuan Yew; members then aligned themselves with the socialist labor movement to gain popular support. After the party gained political power in 1959, internal divisions arose between Lee’s faction of English-educated non-communist middle class persons and the more left wing socialist faction of Chinese-educated workers and students. This led to a formal party split in 1961 and the formation of a rival political party, the Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front).41 The PAP’s success in retaining its executive power gave it a strategic advantage. During the 1960s, the PAP government used its monopoly of state power to repress oppositional forces and organized militant labor groups.42 Afterward, the government promoted the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) to consolidate the union movement.43 The second political alliance, namely, the growth alliance, developed because of the overlapping interests of Singapore’s government and foreign capital. Christopher Tremewan finds that political alignment with foreign capital had its roots in the colonial period. In 1819, Stamford Raffles of the East India Company established Singapore as a free port for the British to conduct regional trade. This pattern of trade underpinned Singapore’s economic growth throughout the colonial era. Following independence, Singapore promoted itself as a “convenient productive location for international capital.”44 The state improved the country’s infrastructure, established several new public enterprises, and bolstered the existing ones engaged in the provision of utilities, communications, banking, and shipping.

In the current “war on terror,” the populist and growth coalitions are inextricably tied to each other through the government’s “total defense” strategy.

The notion of total defense has been repeatedly articulated in various political leaders’ speeches and statements since September 11. This is shown by Defense Minister Tan’s warning of a possible deadly biological attack by a rogue scientist against small, densely populated countries such as Singapore. Tan has cited this scenario in calling for Interpol’s assistance to tackle cyber-terrorism

41. Means, “The Internet and Political Control in Singapore,” p. 65.

42. Beng-Huat Chua, Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 16.

43. M. Ramesh, “Economic Globalization and Policy Choices: Singapore,” Governance: An International Journal of Policy and Administration 8:2 (April 1995), p. 247.

44. Bae Gyoon Park, “Where Do Tigers Sleep at Night?” p. 282; Christopher Tremewan, The Political Economy of Social Control in Singapore (London: Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1994), p. 6;

Ramesh, “Economic Globalization,” p. 247.

580 • A S I A N S u R v E Y 5 0 : 3 and the threat of a JI attack.45 The total defense paradigm incorporates not only the conventional conception of military defense. It extends to economic defense to maintain economic strength that “will not break down so easily in times of the war or crisis” and also to civil defense to sustain the functioning of society in times of emergency.46 It also comprises the aspect of “social defense” to maintain racial and religious harmony, as well as “psychological defense” to unite citizens’ loyalty and commitment to the nation.

To attract foreign capital, the Singapore government needs to preserve a favorable investment climate. Aware of the impact on the Singapore economy of the September 11 attacks, Prime Minister Goh on October 14, 2001, pointed out that his country “will be hit harder than most other countries” because of its greater dependence on exports.47 The external demand that constitutes 70% of the island state’s total demand is deemed to be a source of this national vulnerability. As a consequence, the Singapore government took decisive security measures to preserve the country’s reputation as a “safe” destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) and as a hub for security or intelligence exchange in Southeast Asia. For this purpose, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, total defense began to focus more on an antiterrorism strategy.

To ensure political support from the popular alliance, the “total defense” strategy aims to sensitize all Singaporean citizens to being vigilant.48 This strategy has produced a crisis mentality among Singaporeans. In turn, the government construction of a “crisis of survival” has revived a legitimizing basis for its policies in the “war on terror.” Efforts to mobilize support from the popular sector are also assisted by government control over the labor movement. Because the government exercises a substantial degree of political dominion over the trade unions, the NTUC articulates the government stance on Singapore’s security campaign against terrorism. This is exemplified

45. Jonathan Woodier, “Securing Singapore/Managing Perceptions: From Shooting the Messenger to Dodging the Question,” Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies 23 (2006), p. 75.

46. Singapore Ministry of Defense, “Social Defense,” http://www.totaldefence.sg/imindef/ mindef_websites/topics/totaldefence/about_td/sd.html, accessed July 16, 2008; Jones and Smith, “From Konfrontasi to Disintegrasi,” p. 348.

47. “Speech by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong at the Dialogue Session with Union Leaders/ Members and Employers.”





48. D. M. Jones and David Brown, “Singapore and the Myth of the Liberalizing Middle Class,” Pacific Review 7:1 (1994); Andrew Tan, “Singapore: Recent Developments in Terrorism and Japan’s Role,” p. 78.

F E B R I CA / S E C u R I T I Z I N G T E R R O R I S M • 5 8 1 by the statement of Heng Chee How, NTUC deputy secretary-general, that “JI actions have pushed jobs out of the economy” so that the main concern now is to exhaustively “expose the JI plot and let Singaporeans see through [its] ploy, which would make it harder for the terrorists to achieve” their goals.49

I N D O N E S I A : R E L u C TA N T Au D I E N C E

In the case of Indonesia, both official government policy and political rhetoric were carefully designed to distance the state’s fight against terrorism from the American “global war on terror”—despite a series of terrorist attacks in the archipelago. This included two suicide bomb attacks in Bali, in 2002 and 2005; a bomb attack against the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003; a car bomb outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004; and, most recently, simultaneous bomb attacks at the Marriott and the Ritz Carlton Hotels in

2009. This phenomenon raises a puzzling question: why has the U.S. securitization move met with strong resistance in Indonesia? To address this question, we will examine the domestic context that underpins how the “war on terror” is practiced in Indonesia, starting from the era of President Megawati Sukarnoputri to the current administration.

Responding to September 11, Megawati firmly “condemned the barbaric and indiscriminate acts carried out against innocent civilians” and pledged to cooperate with the international community in combating terrorism.50 In her visit to the U.S., on September 19, 2001, she affirmed the intention to broaden bilateral cooperation in this regard.

Nevertheless, as the U.S. carried out the war against Afghanistan, the Megawati administration appeared to distance the “war on terror” in Indonesia from the U.S.-led initiative. Megawati strongly criticized the U.S. government for the use of brute force in Afghanistan and was critical of the invasion of Iraq.

In addition, with Megawati’s change of tone in responding to the terrorist threat, Indonesian government officials said that separatism was a more pressing threat to national security than terrorism. The terrorist Bali bombing in October 2002 killed 202 people and spotlighted the JI network operation in the region. Subsequently, over 80 jihadi were captured and put in Indonesian

49. NTUC, “Stand Together to Fight Terror,” http://www.ntuc.org.sg/ntucunions/news/ news_240103m.asp, accessed July 14, 2008.

50. Capie, “Between a Hegemon and a Hard Place,” p. 227.

582 • A S I A N S u R v E Y 5 0 : 3 jails. Nonetheless, a disagreement between Indonesia and the U.S. on the nature of this threat remained.51 The discrepancy between the U.S. and Indonesia on what actually constitutes “terrorism” was reflected in Indonesia’s skepticism over the existence of a JI network there. A high government official characterized the threat to Indonesia of terrorism: he pointed to separatism as being “the most pressing security threat, not terrorism.”52 As a consequence, there has been a widespread perception of Indonesia’s lack of seriousness in the war against terrorism. In February 2002, Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew went further, labeling Indonesia a “terrorist nest” in an interview with CNN. He claimed that Singapore would be at risk of terrorist attacks as long as leaders of regional extremist cells remained free in Indonesia and suggested that Indonesia was reluctant to act against suspected terrorists.53 Indonesia, particularly after the 2002 Bali bombing, has adopted numerous counterterrorism measures. But in the view of a high government official, these have been “based on its own terms, not on the insistence of the U.S. or neighboring countries, including Singapore” and “should not be directly aligned to the so-called war on terror” announced by President Bush.54 As with Singapore, Indonesia’s efforts in the war against terrorism comprises two important dimensions, fighting domestic terrorism and supporting the global “war on terror.” In the domestic realm, following the Bali bombing Jakarta promulgated a Presidential Emergency Decree on the Prevention of Terrorism, and implemented a new anti-terrorism law. Although the legislation does not empower the Indonesian central government to the same degree as Singapore’s Internal Security Act, it enables security personnel to detain suspected terrorists for 20 days, which can be extended for another six months based on preliminary evidence reported by intelligence services.55 Jakarta also established an

51. Anthony L. Smith, “The Politics of Negotiating the Terrorist Problem in Indonesia,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 28:33 (January 2005), pp. 33, 36; see also Bilveer Singh, “The Challenge of Militant Islam and Terrorism in Indonesia,” Australian Journal of International Affairs 58:1 (2004), p. 47.

52. Interview with Indonesian high government official, Jakarta, May 14, 2008.

53. “Lee Kuan Yew Interview with Talk Asia on CNN,” February 9, 2002, http://www.singapore-window.org/sw02/020209c1.htm, accessed August 20, 2008; Emmers, “Securitization,” pp.

116, 429.

54. Interview with Indonesian high government official, Jakarta, June 20, 2008.

55. See Seng Tan and Kumar Ramakrishna, “Interstate and Intrastate Dynamics in Southeast Asia’s War on Terror,” School of Advanced International Studies Review 24:1 (2004), p. 96.

F E B R I CA / S E C u R I T I Z I N G T E R R O R I S M • 5 8 3 Anti-terrorism Task Force that comprised the Ministries of Justice, Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Finance as well as the Attorney General’s Office, the Armed Forces, and the National Intelligence Agency. The government has been seeking actively to unravel terrorist activities. By June 2008, 300 suspects in the Bali bombing and reputed members of JI had been arrested.56 The national police also uncovered terror networks behind the July 17, 2009, hotel attacks.

In general, unlike in neighboring states in Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s domestic “war on terror” campaign has been low key and largely focused on intelligence and police operations.57 Indonesian officials have vigorously opposed any notion of giving in to foreign demands. Responding to Singapore’s allegation that Indonesia provides a safe haven for terrorists, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda issued a statement that “Indonesia would not accept foreign intervention in dealing with terrorism.”58 Recently, a high government official echoed this stance: “Independence is more important than relying on external factors. It’s better to be unsuccessful in the short term but successful in the long term, [rather] than successful in the short term because of the U.S.’s support but fail in the long-term.”59 Despite Indonesia’s lack of aggressiveness in adopting counterterrorism measures, it has made a positive contribution to the U.S. effort. A leap forward for the Indonesian government was the arrest of senior al-Qaida operative Omar al-Faruq in June 2002.60 Within three days of the arrest, Indonesian authorities handed over al-Faruq to the U.S. At present, Indonesia is seeking to sign a new, strategic Comprehensive Partnership Agreement with the U.S., an event scheduled for President Barack Obama’s visit to Indonesia in June

2010.61 Indonesian military spokesman Rear Marshal Sagoem Tamboen has asserted that Indonesia has “cooperated closely on counterterrorism efforts”

56. June 20, 2008, interview with Indonesian high government official.

57. “Government Seeks Public Support in the War on Terror,” Jakarta Post, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2002/09/30/govt-seeks-public-support-war-terror.html, accessed August 15, 2008.

58. Chow, “ASEAN Counterterrorism Cooperation,” p. 309.

59. June 20, 2008, interview with Indonesian high government official.

60. Smith, “The Politics of Negotiating the Terrorist Problem in Indonesia”; “Confessions of an al-Qaeda Terrorist,” Time, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,351169,00.html, accessed February 22, 2010.

61. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs, “Obama Reschedules Asia-Pacific Trip to June,” http://www.america.gov/st/peacesecenglish/2010/March/ 20100318151318dmslahrellek0.6535456.html, accessed May 20, 2010.



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