Indonesia is launching ‘Operation Candlelight’ on December 23 for 11 days, as part of the country’s resolve and commitment to tackle terrorism.
According to Jakarta police spokesman Ketut Untung Yoga Ana, Operation Candlelight will witness some 18,000 police and troops guarding churches and mosques, as well as strategic public and commercial venues in Jakarta over Christmas and New Year.
Indonesian authorities also increased security in Poso, on Sulawesi Island, which has been the flashpoint of violence between Christians and Muslims in recent years, and especially since the execution of three Christian militants in September this year.
Such vigilance has come about in the light of three considerations: key Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member Noordin Mohammad Top being out on the loose, the US embassy terrorist attack warning issued on December 18, and the memory of bomb attacks targeting 38 churches or priests on Christmas Eve 2000 in which 19 people died, and JI had been held responsible for.
But apart from the above considerations, Indonesia’s watchful monitoring of year-end festivities is also indicative of current strong political will to curb any terrorist attacks or avoid general security threats, especially in the wake of smooth election proceedings in Aceh, reinforcing the country’s image of achieving a successful democratic transition.
Indonesia’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, as Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in his recent visit to the United Kingdom, opined that the “struggle against terrorism and the extremist ideology [has] made progress.” In particular, he noted that “support for violent extremism is falling in Indonesia.” Describing the situation in Indonesia, Downer added that it is now an agenda of “a minority of ambitious reactionaries” while the general population is rejecting a “nihilistic ideology and its gruesome methods”.
Yet challenges remain for Indonesia as the overturn of Abu Bakar Bashir’s conviction by the Indonesian court on 21 Dec attests to. Bashir, the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has been accused of bring involved in the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people. He had recently been released after serving a 2-year jail term for his role in the bombing.
Whatever prompted this Supreme court ruling and what would the implications are still unclear, but one thing is certain, Australia who has just praised Indonesia for its anti-terror fights is not going to be pleased. A majority of those who died in the Bali bombing were Australians.
Downer urges engagement with Islam (Australian Associated Press, 16 December 2006)
Indonesia increases security as US warns of holiday attacks (Channel News Asia, 19 December 2006)
Police to guard churches during Christmas period (AP/Reuters/The Straits Times, 19 December 2006)
Conservative voices help our war on ideology (The Advertiser, 19 December 2006)
Jakarta overturns terror conviction against Abu Bakar Bashir (Straits Times Interactive, 21 December 2006)