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Indonesia Seeks New Anti-Terror Laws - 2003-08-13


Indonesia's top security minister says there is no longer any question that Indonesia has a problem with terrorism. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also said the government will go to parliament with proposals to strengthen Indonesia's anti-terror legislation, which he says is not doing the job.

Security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says the presence of terrorism in Indonesia, which some had been reluctant to acknowledge, is now beyond debate. He said there is no point in Indonesians debating whether Indonesia is home to terrorism or not, or whether it is a foreign conspiracy. The important thing, he said, is to take concrete and effective steps to stop the attacks.

Alternating between Indonesian and English, Mr. Yudhoyono told a news conference that the cabinet would meet Thursday to come up with proposals to improve existing anti-terror legislation. The current legislation was passed in the wake of last year's terrorist bombing on the island of Bali.

Mr. Yudhoyono said the fatal bombing last week at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta proves that the laws need to be strengthened. But he said any new legislation would still respect human rights, and would not be a duplicate of the controversial Internal Security Acts used in Malaysia and Singapore. Those laws, also referred to as ISAs, allow for detention of suspects without trial.

"The ongoing debate is whether Indonesia will apply, will adopt the ISA that is practiced in Singapore and Malaysia. The answer is no, we will not ... copy those two ISAs, but we will develop our own," said Mr. Yudhoyono. "We need [the] legal framework, we need a law that is effectively used to prevent, to deter and to defeat the act of terrorism."

Mr. Yudhoyono would not specify the changes to the law that the government would like to see. The August 5 car bombing of the Marriott hotel killed 12 people and wounded scores of others. It was the worst terrorist act since last October's bombing on the resort island of Bali, which killed 202. Indonesia's defense minister has said that like the Bali attack, the hotel bombing was the work of the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah. But Mr. Yudhoyono refused to confirm the group carried out the hotel bombing. Indonesian, Australian, and U.S. authorities are warning people to remain vigilant against the possibility of more terrorist attacks in Indonesia.

American Ambassador Ralph Boyce warned that with increased security in many large buildings, terrorists may choose "soft" targets, such as clubs, restaurants, shopping centers, and schools. Australia warns that other international hotels like the Marriot also remain possible targets.

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