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Bali bombings reflect sorry state of intelligence apparatus

Updated On: Oct 04, 2005

Jakarta - Several hours after Bali was hit by terrorists bombs again, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised that his government would take all the necessary steps to "arrest the perpetrators and put them on trial so that just punishment could be meted out".  But with poor intelligence being blamed for the terrorists' success in striking Bali twice within three years, Mr Yudhoyono may have problems fulfilling his pledge.  

     In an editorial, The Jakarta Post said: "This latest attack lays bare the ineffectiveness of our intelligence institutions and our police. For a nation that has unfortunately experienced numerous terrorist strikes over the last few years, such a security and intelligence lapse is unacceptable."  
     One reason for Indonesia's dismal state of intelligence is that the country lacks a dedicated counter-terrorism set-up where all the information flows from bottom to top and some dedicated officials sit together and decipher the information coming through, said Singapore-based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna.  
      Political and social considerations also make it tough for the Indonesian government to crack down on certain militant groups.  The Jemaah Islamiah (JI), for example, is not banned in Muslim-majority Indonesia because the government fears a backlash from its Muslim community. As such, the group can continue to recruit and train new members - something that it is believed to have been doing in the past few months. 
     Western governments have also expressed frustration that Indonesia's national pride has hampered cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies. The Australians, Europeans and Americans have made countless offers of help, not only in exchanging information, but in reforming the Indonesian security services in order to make them more efficient. A few of these offers have been taken up by Jakarta, but many have been ignored.
     One British diplomat told The Straits Times: "We recognise Indonesia's difficulties and admire what it has done. Nevertheless, it is a fact that its intelligence services could do much more if they were better organised and if they accepted some of the foreign help which was repeatedly offered to them."    
      The Post said it is time "someone should be held accountable for this latest intelligence lapse". It suggested that the "job security" of National Police chief General Sutanto and Symasir Siregar, head of the National Intelligence Agency, should be tied to their handling of terrorism, and more specifically to the arrests of two ofIndonesia's most-wanted men, Malaysian bomb-makers Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohamed Top.
     "If Sutanto and Syamsir are not up to their jobs, they should be replaced. The President, and his security advisers, must do more to ensure that this is the last terrorist outrage in this country."

* Terrorists among us (The Jakarta Post, Oct 3)

* Security experts blame poor intelligence (The Straits Times, Oct 3)

* Government pledges to act fast to nab bomb suspects (Media Indonesia, Oct 2)