Keep the Soldier Away
Seemingly at odds with the existing laws, the government regulation on the involvement of the military in dealing with terrorism has sparked criticism. Terrorism should be a criminal offense, not a political, yet alone an ideological, crime.
THE involvement of the Indonesian Military (TNI) in the eradication of terrorism is a betrayal of the principle of civil supremacy. More than just a threat to the authority of the Constitution, an erosion of the integrity of national laws and a danger to public freedoms, the involvement of the military in terrorism investigations would ‘promote’ terrorists from the criminal offenses they commit. In the hands of the military, terrorism would become a political and ideological crime.
The draft of the presidential regulation on the involvement of the TNI in the handling of terrorism was sent by Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yasonna H. Laoly to the House of Representatives (DPR) on May 4. The swiftness with which this was done made people suspicious that the government was sneaking this draft through, taking advantage of the fact that the public is distracted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The government may well use the excuse that the issuing of this government regulation on the involvement of the TNI in the handling of terrorism is mandated by Article 43 paragraph 3 of Law No. 5/2018 on the eradication of terrorism, but this does not mean that the deliberations of it must happen in a rush ignoring public participation.
Furthermore, the proposed presidential regulation appears to be at odds with Law No. 34/2004 on the TNI. Article 7 paragraph 2 of this law states that the TNI can be involved in military operations beside war after a national political decision. A national political decision means a presidential decision after consultations with the DPR. Under this proposed presidential regulation, the military could be deployed simply on an order from the president.
Of course, we cannot close our eyes to the way that the police have occasionally use excessive force when dealing with terrorism. Apart from the many successes they have had in preventing terrorism, a number of black marks have been reported by human rights organizations. The 2016 death of Klaten resident Siyono, which seems to have been a result of a wrongful arrest by the National Police Special Anti-Terror Detachment 88 is one example. Besides this, there are frequent rumors that Detachment 88 personnel are used by particular senior police officials for personal interests and in relation to internal conflicts in the organization.
The government should learn from the dark days of the New Order regime when dealing with terrorism. At that time, the military failed to seek out the roots of the terrorist problem. The involvement of TNI intelligence officers made matters more complicated. A number of terrorist acts were subsequently discovered to have been carried out by individuals who had long been ‘educated’ by the military.
President Joko Widodo should not hesitate to withdraw this draft presidential regulation that he has sent to the DPR. Return the handling of terrorism to the police and the National Counterterrorism Agency. The latter institution should focus on dealing with individuals who have been indoctrinated while seeking preventative solutions. If there are any police officers who have broken the rules, the National Police professional and security division should not hesitate to take action against them.