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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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584 • A S I A N S u R v E Y 5 0 : 3 with the U.S. and expects that the partnership agreement will facilitate joint counterterrorism drills.62 To contextualize the dynamics of the securitization of terrorism and the nature of audience in Indonesia, this article here surveys the state’s domestic politics, as well as its consequences for foreign and security policy, particularly in regard to government anti-terrorism policy. When the U.S. government embarked upon the “war on terror” campaign, Indonesia was still a fledgling democracy. In May 1998, the resignation of Indonesia’s second president, Suharto, ended the authoritarian political system that had lasted for more than 30 years.

Indonesia’s transition from authoritarian regime to a more democratic participatory political system and society created problems for the government in foreign and security policy: the “floodgates to expressions of public opinion on foreign and security policies” had been opened by democratization and decentralization.63 Democratization made it harder for the political elites to implement unpopular policies such as cracking down on radical Islamic militants or cooperating with the U.S.: almost 90% of Indonesia’s 210 million people are Muslims.64 The government has to respond to insecurities caused by the threat of terrorist attack—without antagonizing Islamic interests.

Public opinion ran strongly against the U.S. “war on terror.” President Megawati quickly withdrew her pledge of cooperation with America after anti-American demonstrations broke out on the streets of Jakarta following her meeting with President Bush on September 19, 2001.65 A Gallup poll published in December and in January 2002 found that large majorities of Indonesians (89%) shared the view that the U.S. military attacks on Afghanistan were morally unjustified.66 Thus, the Indonesian government has had to

62. Lilian Budianto, “RI, U.S. to Sign Comprehensive Partnership This Year,” Jakarta Post, January 30, 2010, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/01/30/ri-us-sign-comprehensivepartnership-year.html, accessed February 22, 2010.

63. Chow, “ASEAN Counterterrorism Cooperation,” p. 310; R. William Liddle, “Regime: The New Order,” in Indonesia Beyond Suharto: Polity, Economy, Society Transition, ed. Donald K. Emmerson (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1999), p. 39.

64. Jusuf Wanandi, “Indonesia: A Failed State?” Washington Quarterly (Summer 2002), p. 136;

Leonard C. Sebastian, “Indonesian State Responses to September 11, the Bali Bombings, and the War in Iraq: Sowing the Seeds for an Accommodationist Islamic Framework?” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 16:3 (October 2003), p. 432.

65. Brian L. Job, “A Distracted and Preoccupied America: Implications for U.S. Policy toward Southeast Asia,” presented in the 21st Asia Pacific Roundtable, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 5, 2007.

66. Capie, “Between a Hegemon and a Hard Place,” p. 228.

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 5 mediate between its policy in the “war on terror” and Indonesian public perception. The public’s favorable view of the U.S. declined sharply from 65% in 2002 to less than 30% in 2007.67 Too close an alignment with the U.S. would be keenly opposed by Indonesian Muslim citizens and would threaten the government’s legitimacy. Moreover, in the context of the Iraq war, anti-Americanism runs deeper than ever in Indonesia, and the positive image of the U.S. plummeted from 61% in 2002 to 15% in 2003.68 On March 20, the Indonesia government came out with the same stance as the Indonesian people in opposing the U.S. military campaign in Iraq.

The Megawati Government: 2001–2004

Faced with a state suffering from economic and political disorder since the 1997–98 Asian economic crisis, Megawati sought to provide more favorable economic conditions and restore stability. This compelled her to maintain the delicate balance among various factions encompassing the military, Islamic parties, business interests, and others.69 Megawati’s weak and heterogeneous political coalition hindered her administration from taking aggressive measures against terrorism. To grasp the effect of domestic coalitions on national counterterrorism policy, it is helpful to further explore the discourse of terrorism from both mainstream and radical sources.

Megawati’s conciliatory and sympathetic remarks to the U.S. in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks were met with anti-American demonstrations at home. When the American military operation in Afghanistan began, a small number of radical groups in Indonesia such as the Islamic Defenders Front called on the government to freeze or sever diplomatic ties with the U.S. Members of these groups threatened to expel American citizens and their allies from Indonesia if Jakarta declined their demands.70 The most forceful opposition to Megawati’s anti-terrorism stance was reflected by her own vice president’s counterpoint. Vice President Hamzah

67. Pew Global Attitudes Survey, “America’s Image Slips: America’s Image and U.S. Foreign Policy,” http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=252, accessed August 1, 2008.

68. The National Interest Online, “All the World’s a Stage,” http://www.nationalinterest.org/ Article.aspx?id=17502, accessed August 1, 2008.

69. Chow, “ASEAN Counterterrorism Cooperation,” p. 307; Etel Solingen, “ASEAN Cooperation: The Legacy of the Economic Crisis,” International Relations of the Asia Pacific 5:1 (April 2005), p. 9.

70. Chow, “ASEAN Counterterrorism Cooperation,” p. 307.

586 • A S I A N S u R v E Y 5 0 : 3 Haz—who also headed the largest Islamic party, the United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, PPP)—articulated his condolences at the U.S. loss of life in the September 11 attacks; however, he also stated that “the terrorist attack may help the U.S. atone for its sin.”71 As Sebastian suggests, Haz may have been referring to U.S. policy in the Middle East.72 Leaders of Indonesia’s two mainstream Muslim groups Nahdlatul Ulama (NU, literally, “Awakening of the Ulama,” a relatively traditionalist organization focusing on Islamic schooling comprising 35 million members) and Muhammadiyah (“the Followers of Muhammad,” a reformist group comprising 30 million members) joined more-radical factions in condemning the U.S.

invasion of Afghanistan, although they refrained from calling for radical action.73 Indonesia’s Islamic authority, the Indonesian Ulemas Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, MUI) also strongly denounced what it labeled as aggression toward Afghanistan, and “called on Muslims all over the world to wage a jihad should the U.S. and its allies go ahead with their planned aggression toward Afghanistan.”74 The council urged the Indonesian government not to support the U.S. war in Afghanistan in any form, including providing access to Indonesian territory or airspace for U.S. naval ships or military airplanes.

A similar tone emerged when the U.S. embarked on the war in Iraq. As Amien Rais, the former chairman of Muhammadiyah and the founder of the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional, PAN) asserted, “The issue on Terror is orchestrated by the West to clobber Islam as it is impossible to attack [the Muslim world] directly as in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq..

.”75 Similarly, Hasyim Muzadi, NU chairman and Megawati’s running mate put it: “The international community seemed to judge them [Muslims] as terrorist.... In Indonesia, that arbitrary allegation seemed... heightened when the 12th October 2002 tragedy in Bali was said to have been carried out by an Islamic radical group.”76

71. Sebastian, “Indonesian State Responses to September 11,” p. 432.

72. Ibid.

73. Ibid.

74. “MUI Slams Attacks on U.S., Planned Afghanistan Strike,” Jakarta Post, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2001/09/25/mui-slams-attacks-us-planned-afghanistan-strike.html, accessed August 1, 2008.

75. Bahtiar Effendy, “Putting All Cards on the Table: Trust as a Factor in the War against Terror,” presented in the 21st Asia Pacific Roundtable.

76. Smith, “The Politics of Negotiating,” p. 37.

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 7

Yudhoyono Government: 2004 to Present

During the tenure of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as before, the delicate status of the government was a major challenge to coping with the terrorist threat. President Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla won the 2004 election with 61% of the vote. However, this strong popular support was not reflected in the House of Representatives, where Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party gained only 8% of the vote in the election.77 This weak parliamentary representation required Yudhoyono to carefully select a coalition cabinet that mirrored the delicate political coalitions. In contrast, in the 2009 legislative elections, the Democratic Party prevailed as the largest party in Parliament, with 20.85% of the vote.78 Although this figure indicated a sharp increase in party support, Yudhoyono, to win the presidential election in a single round, had to garner support from coalition partners that also included Islamic parties. With the support from his coalition partners, Yudhoyono gained 60.8% of the total vote, compared with his key rivals, former President Megawati, who won 26.8% and Vice President Kalla, who gained 12.4%.79 As a consequence, in fighting homegrown terrorism, Yudhoyono needs to maintain the balance between cracking down on terror networks and cooperating with foreign countries—without going against the will of other members of the coalition.

A key feature of the “war on terror” in the Yudhoyono era (as with previous presidents) has been the official refusal to declare JI a terrorist organization, despite its listing by the U.N. as a component of the “global terrorist network.” As some observers see it, for fear of offending Muslim leaders, government officials are willing to condemn certain terrorist actions in



77. Anies Rasyid Baswedan, “Indonesian Politics in 2007: The Presidency, Local Elections, and the Future of Democracy,” Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies 43:2 (2007), p. 325; Geoffrey Hainsworth, “Rule of Law, Anti-Corruption, Anti-Terrorism, and Militant Islam: Coping with

Threats to Democratic Pluralism and National Unity in Indonesia,” Asia Pacific Viewpoint 48:1

(April 2007), p. 128.

78. BBC, “Demokrat Raih Suara Terbesar” [Democrat gained majority vote] http://www.bbc.

co.uk/indonesian/news/story/2009/05/090509_manualcounting.shtml, accessed February 23, 2010;

Jusuf Wanandi, “Insight: SBY Gains Wider Support: What Will Happen Next?” April 16, 2009, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/04/16/insight-sby-gains-wider-support-what-willhappen-next.html accessed February 23, 2010.

79. CNN, “Indonesia President Wins Second Term,” http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/ asiapcf/07/24/indonesia.elections/index.html#cnnSTCText, July 24, 2009, accessed February 23, 2010.

588 • A S I A N S u R v E Y 5 0 : 3 without explicitly mentioning JI as the organization they hold responsible.80 The term JI denotes “Islamic Community” and according to Geoffrey Hainsworth, “[M]any Muslims have viewed it as a legitimate political movement.”81 Indonesia’s government, in waging its war against terrorism, has deemed it necessary to distance its anti-terrorist campaign from the U.S.-led “global war on terror.” In their cooperation, President Yudhoyono has felt it “necessary to qualify Indonesia’s relationship with America carefully as that of a friend and equal partner, not an ally.”82 Recently, an Indonesian high government official substantiated this view, asserting that the U.S. by definition is omnipresent because it’s too powerful economically, politically, and militarily. The real issue is to calibrate the relationship in a way that is not insistent, not intrusive.... If we are always being told what to do by foreigners, the government’s legitimacy is reduced.83 Even following the hotel bombings in July 2009 and the police uncovering of a terrorist assassination plot against Yudhoyono in August, Indonesia’s counterterrorism attempts remained low key and focused primarily on deradicalization programs. According to national security officials, the deradicalization program was created to correct misconceived radical Islamic teachings adhered to by terrorists. It was designed to involve well-known religious figures, Islamic scholars, and Islamic boarding schools. Nevertheless, this program has not produced an optimum result and has been difficult to implement.

The 2009 bombings of the Marriott and Ritz Carlton Hotels in Jakarta prompted growing discussion about possibly monitoring Islamic preachers in mosques and pesantrens (Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia); however, this has generated public controversy. After the July bombings, the Indonesian police started an operation named “Condition Creation Operation” that incorporated a plan to monitor preaching and eradicate preaching practice that might provoke terrorist actions. Because of growing public uneasiness about

80. Capie, “Between a Hegemon and a Hard Place,” p. 228; Hainsworth, “Rule of Law,” p. 133;

“Southeast Asia-Elections and New Governments,” East Asian Strategic Review 2005 (Tokyo:

National Institute for Defense Studies, 2005), p. 134.

81. Hainsworth, “Rule of Law,” p. 134.

82. Job, “A Distracted and Preoccupied America”; “Southeast Asia and Terrorism-Terrorist Networks Revealed,” East Asian Strategic Review 2003 (Tokyo: National Institute for Defense Studies, 2003), p. 53.

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

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