Jakarta – Australia, which has been urging Indonesia to take tough measures against Muslim militants in the country, will be helping Indonesia to reform its anti-terrorism laws, said visiting Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Canberra will be sending its experts to share with their Indonesian counterparts their experience in reforming counter-terrorism laws, said Mr Downer after meeting Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirayuda on Oct 12.
Australia last month decided to implement a tough anti-terror law, in which a terror suspect can be detained without charge for up to 14 days. The law will be reviewed after five years.
Mr Downer said the experts will also discuss legal as well as institutional reforms with regard to counter-terror measures.
However, lest the move be interpreted as an attempt by Australia to meddle in Indonesia's internal affairs, Mr Downer said Canberra would not intervene inIndonesia's justice system. "Indonesia makes its own laws and its own decisions about what laws to consider. But I think it is important for our two countries to talk about how we're handling the legal framework for counter-terrorism."
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan welcomed Australia's initiative. He said the Cabinet had already started to discuss plans to improve Indonesia's counter-terror capabilities during a meeting in August.
"The Oct 1 bombings in Bali give us the momentum to seriously study the institutional and legal framework of counter-terrorism."
Mr Hassan said the legal issues discussed with Mr Downer included the detention of terror suspects without charge and criminal charges for those who help facilitate terrorism and for people who incite hatred.
"We are open to studying and comparing our experiences with other countries. We welcome their initiative to share their experiences. But we do not feel obliged to approve these things," Mr Hassan added.
Indonesia enacted its anti-terrorism laws shortly after the 2002 Bali bombings. But critics say the laws lack the teeth to crack down on terrorist networks and need to be reformed.
Australia has also been urging Indonesia to ban the militant network Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and exclude its jailed spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, from a remissions programme open to most prisoners. Bashir was jailed for 30 months for his role in the Bali bombings in March but his sentence was cut by 135 days onIndonesia’s Independence Day.
* Australia offers help on anti-terror law reform (The Jakarta Post, Oct 13)
* Canberra to help with anti-terror laws (The Straits Times, Oct 13)