Rendi A. Witular, Jakarta – Officials from the National Antiterrorism Agency (BNPT), the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police have agreed that the TNI must take the initiative domestically to curb religious radicals.
"We have demanded the TNI's participation through their vast network of territorial commands to persuade individuals or groups to abandon radical teachings," BNPT chief Ansyaad Mbai.
"For example, the TNI might visit a cleric who spreads hate speech and radicalism during Friday prayers, and persuade him to deliver more peaceful sermons."
The TNI, Ansyaad said, could also enlist the Babinsa, non-commissioned officers assigned to villages to promote development, to counter radicals.
The decision to involve the TNI was emphasized during an inaugural BNPT coordination meeting on Tuesday that was attended by all 151 of the TNI's military district (Kodim) commanders and around 350 district police chiefs.
The meeting was also attended by Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto, TNI chief Adm. Agus Suhartono, Army chief Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo and National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo.
Despite the fall of the Soeharto's authoritarian New Order in 1998, the TNI's leaders continue to believe that internal threats to the nation's stability are greater than external threats.
The belief is reflected in the TNI's command structure. The Army continues to maintain bases at the district, regency, municipal and provincial levels that were previously used to gather intelligence, oppress Soeharto's political opponents, and quash religious radicalism and communists.
While the TNI no longer functions malevolently as it did previously, most officers and soldiers stationed at TNI bases currently stand idle. There are currently more than 400,000 active duty TNI personnel 470,000 National Police officers.
The BNPT's deputy for prevention and de-radicalization, Maj. Gen. Agus SB, said at the meeting that the TNI already had the legal and command infrastructure in place to carry out the job.
"From now on, don't let the Babinsa and the Kodam chiefs stand idly by doing nothing. They should take the initiative to map out radicals in their territory," Agus said.
Agus dismissed concerns of human rights activists that an increased role for the TNI in quashing radicalism might augur a return to the repressive and violent methods used during the New Order. "We don't use guns as a weapon when we approach a cleric as in the old days. Our smile is now our weapon in persuasion efforts," Agus SD said.
Ansyaad emphasized that the TNI would not have the authority to detain people, which was the sole remit of the National Police as the enforcers of security.
"Don't get me wrong. The TNI is not authorized to detain people, but they can grab hold of somebody who might harm others and then transfer him or her to the police for prosecution," Ansyaad said.
Army chief Pramono said he instructed all Army officers to cooperate with police to fight radicalism and terrorism. "The focus is on prevention. For that reason, the TNI and the police can take the initiative simultaneously and share intelligence."
Indonesia, with the world's largest Muslim-majority population, has seen five major terrorist attacks in the past eight years, including the first Bali bombing in 2002, which killed more than 200 people, most of whom were foreign tourists.
The nation has not seen a major attack since the bombing of the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in 2009.